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I Attended a Segregation Academy

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

Last week, the Archdiocese of New York announced that twelve Catholic schools in its domain—which includes three New York City boroughs and seven suburban counties to the north—will close at the end of this school year.

That does not surprise me. The Catholic school I attended, in the neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn, closed in 2004. Three years ago, two dozen schools in the Diocese shut their doors forever. Today, there are roughly half as many Catholic schools and Catholic school pupils as there were in the mid-1960s, when both counts reached their peaks in New York and the United States.

Diocesan leaders and students of such trends cite several factors, which were accelerated by the COVID epidemic and sex abuse revelations. One is cost. When I entered Catholic school, right around the aforementioned peak, a parent, usually the father, could work a few hours’ overtime, or the other parent, usually the mother, could take on part-time work to pay their kids’ tuition. (Notice that I used the plural for children. It was not unusual to find multiple siblings in the same school, or even the same classroom.)  Although Catholic schools still aren’t nearly as pricey as secular private schools, today a working- or middle-class parent’s entire salary could go to the cost of sending one child to a Catholic school.

Another factor blamed for the decline in the number of Catholic schools and their enrollments is the changing demographics of their mostly-urban locations. The closure of my old school is practically a “poster child” of this trend. When I was growing up, my neighborhood was overwhelmingly Catholic with a small, mostly secular, Jewish minority. Today nearly all of the Catholics are gone; now my old neighborhood is part of the largest Hasidic Jewish communities in the United States. 

While it is true that nearly every New York City—and urban American—neighborhood has changed its racial and ethnic composition since the 1960s, many people who moved into those neighborhoods are also Catholic. I am thinking in particular, of course, of Hispanics, but in neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Crown Heights and East Flatbush, there are large communities of Haitian, Jamaican, and African Catholics. Having come to know some, I can safely say that many are at least as devout—and would want a Catholic education for their children as much– as parents of my community.

Of course, one reason why they don’t enroll their children is the aforementioned cost. While some immigrants are, or become, middle-class professionals, others are working multiple menial jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food in their kids’ mouths. And it must be said that some who could afford to pay the tuition don’t see the point of doing so when, in contrast to the nuns who taught me and my old schoolmates, most of today’s Catholic school teachers are secular, just like the ones who teach in public school. “How Catholic is their education?” an acquaintance of mine wondered about her grandchildren whose single mother, from what I could tell, could afford the tuition only because of the child support payments and a couple of side jobs that augmented her main salary.

There is, however, a related story that no official in the Archdiocese of New York, or anywhere else in the Church, is mentioning. Most of the Catholic school kids of my generation, while working- or lower middle-class, were White. During the 1960s and ‘70s, many of their families moved. One reason is that they needed larger quarters for their growing families — it wasn’t called the Baby Boom for nothing — and houses outside the cities were more affordable. Or, as in the case of my family, the main breadwinner’s job moved outside the city.

Some of those families continued to enroll their kids in Catholic schools. But most, like my family, sent their kids to the public school in their new locale. As my mother would say, my brothers and I didn’t attend Catholic school because it was Catholic. Rather, she and my father, like other parents in the neighborhood, felt more confident in the education the Catholic school provided. Some of that, I suspect, had to do with the fact that my mother also attended Catholic schools.

But other families moved out of their urban enclaves for the same reason they enrolled their kids in Catholic schools while they were living in those neighborhoods. While some schools date to the beginning of large-scale Catholic immigration—first from Germany and later from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and other European countries—others, like the one I attended, didn’t open until the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the school I attended opened only a year before I entered.

That was also the same time Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and other conservative Christian churches were opening private schools, mainly in the South and Midwest. Ostensibly, the founders of these schools feared that “moral values” were being erased from public school curricula—and from the nation’s laws and value systems. They cited the end of prayer and the diversification of reading lists (and other things, one of which I’ll mention) in those public schools.

And what was being “diversified?” Well, for one thing, points of view: history and other classes were being revised to include the stories of people who had been left out.  But, most troubling to the founders of those “Christian” academies was the new variation in color among the student bodies that resulted from Brown v Board of Education in 1954.

A few school boards and elected officials—most notably Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus—openly defied orders to desegregate.  But more people, including church leaders, subverted that order through the IRS tax code, which allowed “religious” schools to claim tax exemption, and through exemptions provided in the civil-rights laws themselves for private institutions. 

Those schools are now commonly called “segregation academies.” While few, if any, openly barred students of color (mainly Black), they adopted policies that had the same effect. One was, of course, tuition that most Black families couldn’t afford. Another was professions of faith that may have run counter to the families’ beliefs. And some simply made nonwhite kids and families feel unwelcome.

Such was the case in my Catholic school.  I can recall no non-White students; nearly all of us came from the same few European backgrounds I’ve mentioned. (This, I believe, is part of what some of my old classmates mean by the “good old days” they pine for on their Facebook pages.) School and church officials would claim that the school’s demographics reflected that of the neighborhood, which was mostly true.  But, when I was growing up, a few of my schoolmates actually told me that their parents sent them to that school because there were “too many (N-words)” in the local public school.  And, as I recall, at least some of their parents were furious that “trouble”—a code word for Black kids—was being bused into the school and neighborhood.

In short, I can’t help but to think something that leaders of the New York Archdiocese, Diocese of Brooklyn and the church can’t or won’t acknowledge: some of their schools, like the one I attended, were essentially Northern segregation academies. The irony is, of course, that in some neighborhoods, the very people those parents, and sometimes school and church officials, tried to keep out are now the neighborhood that can’t or won’t support the Catholic schools that are, or are in danger of, closing. 


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Our Church Stories

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

I hadn’t heard from “Ivette” in decades. So, when I saw her name in the subject line, I hesitated.  But my curiosity got the better of me, and I opened the email.

“Dear MJ.” She opened with my current, not my “dead,” name. A pleasant surprise, but was it a prelude to something less respectful, let alone affirming? 

I can’t remember our last encounter, but I know it took place in—or in the context of—the Evangelical church where she was a volunteer who did, basically, anything deemed not important enough for male members. In all honesty, she could have done a better job than I did of leading a Bible study and editing the church’s newsletter. She knew it as well as I did, but if she had any resentment, she didn’t express it, I suspect, as much out of the deference expected of her as to her emotional grace, which she possessed to a much greater degree than I ever have. 

So why was she writing to me after so many years? Did she want to bring me back to Jesus—and the name, gender, and life I left with him, with the God who was him and his father and his ghost?  Or would she, like someone else I knew from those days, berate me because I am not, and could never be, a “real woman: because I have never menstruated, married a man, given birth, or had any of the other experiences by which they define themselves?

Fortunately, her email contained no attempts to return me to her faith—which, I would soon learn, was as much a part of her past as my life as a boy and man was part of mine. She did, however, ask if we could talk. I replied in the affirmative and she sent me her number.

Turns out, she’s been living on the other side of the country almost since the last time I saw her. Ostensibly, she moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast for graduate school and a job. She could, however, have done those things, at least in the field of her study and work, almost anywhere, including the New Jersey town in which our old church was located. 

By now, you might have guessed that she wanted to move as far as she could from that church and anything related to it. The reason did not surprise me—it was something I’d suspected all of those years ago when we were in the church—but it appalled me nonetheless.

“He raped me.”  I knew exactly who she was talking about: a deacon, twice her age or close to it. Sometimes I felt guilty because as a “good Christian,” I believed I should have made more of an effort to engage with him. But I just couldn’t: a sense not granted to me by the Holy Spirit guided me away from him. Throughout all of the time I was part of that church, we were the proverbial ships passing in the night. 

Oddly enough, our pastor, who encouraged us—well, most of us—to get to know each other so that we could serve the Lord “as a body in the spirit,” as he liked to say, made no effort to bring us together even though our avoidance of each other—actually, more mine of him—created a few awkward scenes. I believe that the pastor may have thought I was trying to short-circuit an illicit attraction, which I didn’t have for the deacon and I don’t believe he had for me, even though, given the right circumstances, he might have used me as he used Ivette. Although many more years would pass before I would come to terms with the sexual abuse a priest inflicted on me in the Catholic church where I served as an altar boy, I understood that the deacon was purely and simply a sexual predator, although I, like most people, wasn’t using that kind of terminology to describe people like him.

One striking parallel between Ivette’s story and mine is that each of us clung to our belief or, more precisely, our desire to believe, after experiencing sexual trauma from trusted leaders in the church. That, of course, led me to the church where each of us experienced another kind of trauma. Hers, of course, was brutal and physical. Mine, on the other hand, was psychological, though I didn’t understand it until much later.

People who haven’t been “tokenized” don’t understand the damage it can do. Although my sexual orientation, let alone my gender identity, were never openly discussed, I am sure there were whispers. I was lauded for “sublimating” my desires, which were not named, in service of the Lord. In other words, without saying as much, I was held up as an example that Jesus “loves the sinner but hates the sin” and will therefore guide said sinner away from sin, if only the sinner allows Him in.

Having been sexually abused by “men of God,” I mention my mental distress, not to minimize Ivette’s experience of sexual exploitation, but to mention another way in which she was harmed. Ivette was the only non-White person in the congregation. She is bi-racial:  Her southern Black father married an Englishwoman he met while stationed with the US Air Force. While her identity or appearance—she had a café au lait complexion and nappy black hair—were never pointed out publicly, she was told, privately, that God was “using” her to show that he “loves all of his creations.”

That she wanted anything to do with any church after that, or after being raped, is perhaps a testament to a desire for faith even stronger than mine. She had been studying the Bible diligently and reading theologians, if only the ones who confirmed the beliefs we had at the time. And she continued to study, and read even more broadly, even after she moved and commenced graduate school in a nearly unrelated field. Eventually, she told me, she cycled through a number of churches and even decided, for a time, that Judaism was the “true faith.” She never seriously considered any belief system outside the Judeo-Christian orbit, so once her dedication to Judaism waned, she started to lose all belief.

Oh, and she got into a relationship—which continues to this day—with a Filipina woman she met at a seminar.

We have continued to email each other and have talked on the phone a few times. She revealed something else: a mutual friend in the church, whom I’ll call Emmanuel, committed suicide about fifteen years ago. While that grieved me, it also didn’t surprise me: After a couple of stays in psychiatric hospitals and seemingly endless rounds of drugs, he appealed to Jesus to “heal” him. I don’t know as much about his religious or other history as I do of Ivette’s. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if he sought, and clung to, faith as an antidote to troubles that the church (or whatever faith institution) in which he was born and raised, or sought solace, caused. Such is the psychological damage that too many churches cause.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

Does God Care About Us?

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Guest Post by John

Depending on what religion you come from, and what flavor within that religion, this question can be confusing to answer. Each religion believes that God has a favorite group of people and most of the time, the followers of that religion happen to be in his favorite group. What a coincidence!

As far as the Christian God goes, there are many verses throughout the Bible that talk about God’s mercy, favor, protection, intervention, kindness, etc. But there are other verses that talk about His jealousy, wrath, sorrow, anger, etc. Like the time where He killed 99.9% of all humans and animals on the planet because He didn’t like the way the humans He made turned out. Or all the times He told the Israelites to kill whole groups of people because they didn’t believe in the right God. And there was that time where He killed all the firstborn sons in Egypt to soften the heart of Pharaoh, after He hardened his heart to start with.

I hear Christians talk about how God helped them find their lost keys, or get a good parking spot at the store. They (and I used to do the same!) talk about how God kept them or loved ones out of accidents, healed them of some illness (always curable), helped them get a raise at work, and other wonderful things. But at the same time, 25,000 people around the world die every day from hunger or hunger-related issues. Just a day ago, earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed more than 20,000 people. Recently, a pastor and his staff were flying from Memphis to Texas and the plane crashed, killing the staff. Since April 1999, there have been 23 fatal Christian church shootings. I hear people all the time saying that issues in schools are because we “removed God” from our schools. Ok, what about all these church shootings? It reminds me of George Carlin’s talk about religion being bullshit. Here is a small segment from that routine: “So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.”

Video Link

I’ve had a few instances where I narrowly escaped what probably would have been a bad event: a car accident that didn’t happen, a tornado that missed my house, a tree branch that fell and missed my car by inches. And in the past, I attributed these things to God watching out for me. But what about the countless Christians or Muslims or Hindus or whatever faith who weren’t so fortunate? Are they depending on the wrong God? Did they have a lapse in faith that took away the protection or favor of their God? Is their God testing them? Or, maybe their God doesn’t exist. Maybe no God exists? If there is a “God,” I tend to believe that it’s the type of God that Alan Watts and many others describe as, everything is a manifestation of God. This link explains it a bit:

But in my day-to-day life, I no longer believe that there is a God who cares about us. There is just too much evidence to the contrary. And people who try to explain away the mountains of evidence to the contrary have to go through so many mental gymnastics that it just gets silly. Good things happen. Bad things happen; often in seemingly unfair ways, and sometimes in what we would think of as fair ways. Karma; reaping what you sow — however you want to label it. Life happens. If we believe there is some sort of divine being who should be looking out for us and caring for us and doing things for us that we judge as good, life gets very confusing. I think if we can accept life as it is, the good and the bad, it takes a lot of the confusion, anger, and frustration out of life; not all of it, but a lot of it.

To clear up something that people might question, just because I no longer believe that there is a God who cares about us doesn’t mean I have a negative outlook on life. I actually have a better outlook on life now than I had when I was an Evangelical Christian. I like who I am and where I am in my beliefs about the world. I wasn’t able to say that as a Christian, for various reasons. It’s really nice and liberating to like who I am and who I am becoming.

I hope you and yours are doing as well as can be. Peace.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

Suffer the Little Children

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Guest Post by Neil Robinson who blogs at Rejecting Jesus

I’ve been reading a recent post on Gary Matson’s Escaping Christian Fundamentalism blog: ‘God Is So Good! He Allowed Ten Thousand Children to Starve to Death Today in which Gary asks where God is when this staggering number of children die of hunger every day.

Gary has his very own ‘Doctor Tee‘ — all atheist/agnostic bloggers have them, though admittedly Bruce seems to have more than most — and ‘Swordmanjr’ leapt to God’s defence. The Almighty Creator-Of-All-Things, you see, needs fallible, flawed human beings to do this for him. Swordmanjr accused Gary of scapegoating God who, apparently, is not really responsible for suffering, nor indeed anything horrible.

I guess God could be being scapegoated if it weren’t for the fact his Son, God Incarnate according to some, tells us he cares for human beings much more than he cares for sparrows (which is, admittedly, not much at all), that he is concerned to the extent that he numbers each and every hair on individuals’ heads (Matthew 10:29-30). This must be before he allows so many of them to die of starvation and in natural disasters.

The evidence is that God does not care. He doesn’t care if you’re a child born into poverty who then dies a slow, miserable, painful death through malnutrition. He doesn’t care if you’re caught up in a natural disaster like the recent earthquake in Turkey (which, according to some Christian nutjob, was God’s response to Sam Smith’s satanic performance at the Grammy’s) in which your entire community and you yourself are wiped out. He doesn’t care if you die of a nasty virus, which ultimately he’s responsible for, as millions, including Christians, did during the pandemic. He doesn’t care that you die, when, or how horribly. He – just – doesn’t – care, period.

Jesus, as he was about so much, was plain wrong about his Father’s caring. The real world does not and will not match up with this early Christian fantasy.

Believers who leap to God’s defence invariably do it by launching vitriolic ad hominem attacks on non-theists who dare to criticise his shoddy performance. In doing so, they demonstrate yet another of Christianity’s disconnects: its promise that it makes new creatures of people, filled with love and compassion (2 Corinthians 5:17).

‘By their fruits shall ye know them,’ proclaims Jesus in Matthew 7:15-20. If the Christians who lurk around atheist blogs are anything to go by, those fruits are often pretty rotten: spiteful, vitriolic, hateful . . . ‘evil,’ Jesus calls it. These Christians frequently end their comments with a threat: one day the atheist will stand before God’s judgement throne and then they’ll be sorry; Hell awaits!

God is not there in this kind of behavior. He’s not there when humans suffer and die, frequently horribly. He’s not there in the Bible verses that promise he is there in such circumstances. God is not there.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

The Bible and Self-Esteem — Part Two

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Part One

Part Two

Guest Post by Merle Hertzler who blogs at The Mind Set Free

Love as You Love Yourself

How can one look at the Bible and promote high self-esteem? Many Christians turn to verses such as the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. They say that is telling us to love both our neighbor and ourselves.

Actually, the verse is not a command to love yourself. It assumes you already love yourself. How can it assume that? Simple. It is talking about how we treat people. It assumes that all people are nice to themselves. It tells us to also be nice to others.

As Rom 13:9 puts it, the command to love neighbors is simply summing up all the other commandments, such as the one forbidding murder and the one against stealing. It is telling us to treat others nicely, just as we already try to treat ourselves nicely.

So no, the command to love our neighbor is not primarily about respect. And no, this verse does not tell us to respect ourselves more. It is about treating people nicely. It assumes we are already nice to ourselves and should also be nice to others.

Made in God’s Image

Ah, but you might tell me that God made us in his image and that this is something to feel good about. And how do you know that? You read it in a book that I think is often mistaken.

Yes, you may have read that God made you in his image, but reality tells a different story. We are close to the image of a chimpanzee, sharing much of its DNA and body structure. Yes, we are significantly different from other apes. There was a series of evolutionary pressures that gave us an enormous concentration of brain power and enhanced abilities to cooperate with others, but inwardly, much of our structure is like that of the ape; a grand and glorious ape that can engineer the Internet, build great civilizations, and create wonderful works of art. But still, biologically we are apes, made in the image of apes–utterly amazing apes.

But even if it is true that God made us in his image, the Bible does not stop there. It proceeds to tell us of a fall into sin for which our ancestors were cursed and removed from the garden. A few chapters later, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) There is not much room there for feeling positive about being human.

Again, we need our self-esteem to be realistic. I find it easy to have high self-esteem based on the reality found by science. We are mammals that have special abilities that make our species truly worth loving.

A New Nature

Many will argue that they are “in Christ,” and so have become a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). They call this process regeneration. They say it gives them a new nature that makes them want to do good. Does this give them something to feel good about?

My first response is to ask, “How do you know this is true”? Many Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and others also live moral lives. And many, if not all, Christians fail to live up to Biblical standards. So, if you really have a “new” nature that makes you better than me, where is the evidence?

Even Paul admits that his life is far from this new standard. He argues that he actually has two natures, the flesh and the spirit (Gal 5:17). The word translated flesh literally means the body. So Paul is saying he has a body that wants to do bad things, but he also has a new spirit inside him that wants to do good. And he sees that the two natures are constantly fighting each other. He writes:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin. For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:14-24

So yes, Paul claimed to have a new nature, but in this moment of honesty, he admits that it really is not making that big of a difference. His flesh, his body, his natural self still does what it wants.

Paul talks about a spirit inside, but it doesn’t really seem to be working. If this new creation that he has become is really not winning out, how could he rightfully claim that his new, regenerated self gives him a reason for self-worth? And can he really claim that the regenerated person is so much better that he can feel real self-worth, but that others cannot?

Paul ended his confession above on a most dismal note: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” That is depressing.

But wait, don’t stop there. Read on. He answers this rhetorical question: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) So now we find it actually works and ends with triumph in Jesus Christ.

Or does it? Read on. “So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Paul could have ended on the first sentence of v25, declaring victory in Christ, and the whole thing would have a positive tone. But he doesn’t. He can’t help himself. In a moment of honesty, the truth comes out. Yes, he does include that note of triumph in Christ, but he immediately goes back to despair: “with my flesh I am serving the law of sin. In reality, that new life he claims does not really work that well.”

Realizing that the flesh — the body — keeps on wanting to do things he considers wrong, Pau has a constant answer: Don’t listen to the flesh. (Rom 8:13, Rom 13:14, 2Co 7:1, Gal 5:16, Gal 5:24) Crucify it! But as he himself admits in Romans 7, this strategy does not work well.

By way of comparison, the Noom weight loss program also speaks of two natures, a “rider” and an “elephant.” The elephant is the part of you that wants to eat anything in sight. The rider is the part that wants to lose weight.

If somebody is actually riding a real elephant, the goal is to get the elephant to go where the rider wants. To do that, the elephant needs to know there is something in it for him; that when the elephant reaches the end of the journey he will be fed and cared for. If we have trained the elephant to know this, the elephant will go where the rider wants.

But what happens if you hop on an elephant when there is nothing in it for the elephant? The elephant then has no desire to cooperate. It will do what it wants. And you then, like the Apostle Paul, might cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?!”

In the Noom program, the idea is for the metaphorical rider to get the metaphorical elephant to cooperate. To do that, we need to be nice to our “elephant” — our inner bodily desire for many food calories — with the understanding that the elephant must in turn allow us to control the overall ride. The rider must bargain with the elephant.

Paul’s reaction to his flesh is nothing like Noom’s. Paul makes no room for finding ways to please fleshly desires. No, what the flesh wants is wrong. So, the flesh must be crucified. There must be a firm, “No!” But, in reality, as Paul admits in Romans 7, his plan simply does not work.

We all have fleshly desires that may want us to do socially undesirable things. And we all have an inner desire to do moral, socially acceptable things. Christians and non-Christians share this. When one claims that only Christians have a good nature, one is making a claim that the evidence simply does not support.

And when one assumes that the fleshly desires are all bad, and the “spirit” is all good, one simply is not being realistic. For we cannot channel all our desires for either good or bad. We are a mixture of conflicting thoughts and emotions. They are the natural result of being human. The best course of action is to rationally think through all of this and find ways that best meet all our desires in ways that are morally acceptable.

But Paul and his immediate followers were against finding rational ways to please the flesh. In fact, they even opposed all efforts to approach life from a rational, scientific viewpoint. (See  1 Corinthians 2:6-13, Colossians 2:8, and A Primer on Christian Anti-Intellectualism)

I find that the assertion that believers have a spirit in addition to the flesh, but unbelievers have only the flesh, is wrong. And in practice, following this two-natures approach is not realistic. If we want our self-esteem to be based on reality, then telling ourselves that Christians have these two natures is not realistic. And it is not practical.

If our self-esteem depends on this theory of transforming grace, and that grace doesn’t seem to work in reality the way it is claimed, we are setting ourselves up for discouragement. If our self-esteem is not rooted in reality, we are asking for trouble. The human mind does not like to hear that it must ignore reality.

God Loves Me

Others have told me that God loves them, and this gives them self-esteem. Bill Cooke describes this method of building self-esteem:

Many accounts of pious converts tell of suffering low self-esteem that was then resolved by being told that they did indeed matter; that despite being one biped among millions on one planet among millions, the creator of this entire universe is interested in their welfare. The success of religious conversions and apologetic arguments consist of religion’s ability to inject people with such quantities of anthropocentric conceit that it almost becomes plausible. Religion’s Anthropocentric Conceit by Bill Cooke

The first problem with basing self-esteem on God’s love is that it is unrealistic. If there is indeed a Creator of the universe, I see no reason to believe he takes a special interest in us.

A second problem with using this as your basis for self-esteem is that this is nothing more than an argument from authority. It says somebody says I have worth; therefore I must have worth. Couldn’t you just figure that out for yourself? Many humanists have long seen the worth and value of being human, without needing somebody to tell us we have worth.

It is like a teenage girl saying that she has worth because her boyfriend loves her. It would be better if she recognized that she had worth because there is within her a core of human goodness. Then she would not be dependent on some authority telling her she is good. If the teenager knows she has worth because of the goodness she sees within herself, she will find it easier to escape an abusive relationship.

If, on the other hand, her only reason for valuing herself is because her boyfriend loves her, abandoning that relationship would remove her source of self-esteem. The need for positive self-esteem is so strong it can drive people to do anything to keep that self-esteem up. She might hesitate to give up her only hope.

Likewise, if the only reason one has for feeling good about herself is that God says she has worth, she might be less likely to explore if this is really the case. Too much relies on it being true. So, she avoids questions about her faith. But, if we cannot explore and ask questions, we are not really free.

And besides, if we base our self-esteem on what the Bible says about us, it is not very complimentary.

All flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off. 1Pe 1:24 (See also Romans 3:11-19, Isaiah 64:6)

As a humanist, I readily see the worth and value of all humans, including myself. I do not need an external authority to tell me I have worth. I can see it in myself.


I conclude that many of the problems that Christians report with self-esteem may well be rooted in the Christian religion itself. The Christian view that we are naturally sinful and depraved is degrading. Attempts to balance this teaching with the teaching of a transforming grace needlessly complicate the efforts to reach a healthy self-image. Those attempts succeed only in the proportion that the resulting self-image approximates reality. But if a self-image based on reality is our goal, should we not start our search with science?

There is a better way. In humanism and naturalistic science, you can simply look at the facts — at the intrinsic value of all humans including yourself — and then you can feel good. You can then move on and start living.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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The Bible and Self-Esteem — Part One

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Part One

Part Two

Guest Post by Merle Hertzler who blogs at The Mind Set Free

Self-esteem is important. We need our self-esteem to be positive; else, we might become depressed. We also need our self-esteem to be realistic; else we could make bad decisions based on our misunderstandings. Sometimes those goals are conflicting. But I find it possible to achieve both.

My self-image is based on naturalism and humanism. This I find to be both realistic and positive.

You may have found other ways to build your self-esteem. Is your way realistic? Is your way positive? These are important questions to ask.

Many value the Bible as their basis for self-esteem. This has been confusing to me. The Bible never specifically mentions self-esteem. It often has a low view of human nature and strongly condemns pride. The Bible even praises Job for abhorring himself (Job 42:6) and speaks in favor of people loathing themselves (Ezekiel 20:43). So, how can you turn to the Bible as your source for self-esteem?

I came from a religious background that shared the Calvinist view known as “total depravity.” When it comes to our inner self, this view offers little to feel good about. This view tells us we are innately bad.

Years later, I met Christians who had a much higher view of human nature. They also based their views on the Bible. Who was right? Struggles over this issue led me to study the Bible and self-esteem. Eventually, this was one of the keys to my deconversion. I tell the story here.

In the first chapter of his online book, Beyond Born Again, Robert Price documents these two contrasting Christian views on solving life’s psychological problems. First, there is a hardline, traditional view that sees the Bible alone as our source for human living. It has little need for psychology. Proponents such as Jay Adams and Martin Bobgan often take a negative view of the value of self-esteem. They see humans as justly deserving Hell because of who we are. Our problems are essentially spiritual. Christ is the answer.

By contrast, other sites such as this one rely heavily on psychology. Advocates of this view seek cures such as promoting self-esteem. They adopt opinions that are often consistent with humanism. They have many proof texts, but are they really learning this from the Bible? I contend they are often drawing from secular humanism and science, not the Bible.

If you trust the Bible, should you adopt the hard-line view or the soft-line view? Or is there, perhaps, a better way, one that is built honestly on a secular foundation?

I contend that the hardline, anti-psychology view is neither realistic nor positive. The soft-line, pro-psychology Christian view is positive but also often unrealistic. I contend that humanism and science point to the best way.

Are We Evil?

Let’s begin with a simple question. In a moral sense, are we humans good, or are we evil? Many Christians say we are innately bad. If so, then how could we possibly have a positive image of the self?

Christian doctrinal statements have generally seen us humans as evil. For instance, the Westminster (Presbyterian) confession of faith says:

They [Adam and Eve] being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity…

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil…

Every sin…does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. Westminster Confession of Faith

We find we are descended from corrupted people and that we now have a corrupted nature. In fact, we read here that we are “opposite of all good,” “wholly inclined to all evil,” and properly deserving of God’s wrath. Why is God angry with us? According to this document, it is because we deserve it.

Similarly, the London Baptist Confession says we have all become, “dead in Sin, and wholly defiled, in all the faculties, and parts, of soul, and body.”

The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church says, “man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.”

Those statements leave little room to feel positive about ourselves.

John Calvin not only agreed with this low view of humanity but went so far as to call self-love a noxious pest that engenders all sorts of foul behavior. He said the only way to live a good life is to leave off all thoughts of yourself. He wrote:

This is that self-denial that Christ so strongly enforces on His disciples from the very outset (Mat 16:24), which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self love (2Ti 3:2-5). On the contrary, wherever it does not reign, the foulest vices are indulged in without shame…

There is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most noxious pests, self-love, and love of victory. This the doctrine of Scripture does…

How difficult it is to perform the duty of seeking the good of our neighbor (Mat 12:33; Luk 10:29-36)! Unless you leave off all thoughts of yourself and in a manner cease to be yourself, you will never accomplish it. Calvin on Self-Denial, by John Calvin, pp. 4, 7, 8. (Click here to download as PDF.)

So, if Calvin is right, we should not even love ourselves, for self-love is the source of the vilest of vices. Many Christians have historically agreed with Calvin on this. Did they get this from the Bible? Let’s look at what it says.

How Does the Bible See Us?

Many verses see humans in a negative light. As I mentioned above, Ezekiel approves of self-loathing. He writes, “And there you will remember your ways and all your deeds by which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done.” (Ezekiel 20:43)

As another example, the book of Job is a drama discussing various reactions to Job’s suffering. At the end of the book, God steps in and lectures everybody on the true answer. (Job 38-42) It turns out that God is so much greater than people, and people just would not understand why they suffer. So Job and his friends better just accept what comes to them. Humans just wouldn’t understand, so don’t even ask. Job responds to this lengthy reprimand by saying, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6 KJV) The book of Job implies God approved of this response.

And Isaiah 64:6 tells us “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”

These verses are not merely telling us to recognize that we did bad things. They are telling us we are bad to the core. We should loathe ourselves, abhor ourselves, and understand that our best deeds are nothing more than filth.

What about the New Testament? Jesus says we are evil (Mat 7:11, Luk 11:13). He tells us, “when you do all the things which were commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:10) I see nothing there about intrinsically being worthy of self-love. We are simply unworthy slaves who better do what we are told to do.

John 15:5 says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Are we that helpless on our own?

Paul expands on this view. In Romans 3:11-19 he tells us that all have become unprofitable and that none is good. Our tongues are full of lies, our feet are swift to shed blood, and we don’t know the way of peace. Paul even tells us the whole purpose of the law is to make us feel guilty before God. Guilt? God wants us to feel guilty? That is far from the modern Christian psychological view that encourages us to accept our inner selves and minimize our feeling of guilt.

Total Depravity and Self-Esteem

Based on verses like the ones above, many have adopted the doctrine of “total depravity.” Total depravity is the first point of the popular Calvinist TULIP acronym. Here is an example description of total depravity from a Christian site:

The doctrine of total depravity is an acknowledgment that the Bible teaches that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man—his mind, will, emotions, and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). It acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature. (Source)

It appears to me that total depravity is devastating to one’s positive self-esteem. Can a Christian believe in total depravity and also seek to build his self-esteem? Or are these incompatible? Recently I asked these questions on a thread on the Christian Forums website. Many on that thread could see the conflict between those two concepts.

Some people there resolved the conflict by rejecting the need for high self-esteem, clinging strongly to the traditional view of total depravity. One person wrote that self-image, self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence are incompatible with his theology. This is one way to solve the conflict, but it is a little depressing. If I had to give up either self-esteem or total depravity, I would give up total depravity.

Others did indeed reject the idea of total depravity or watered it down to the extent that it lost its original meaning.

Dropping total depravity may seem like the natural way out of the dilemma, but there is a problem. If you reject total depravity, then why does Hell exist? The hard-line view says people are in Hell because they deserve it. Total depravity takes God off the hook. People that are in hell deserve it. Don’t blame God. But that also destroys self-esteem. If we are so rotten that we deserve Hell, how can we feel positive about ourselves?

If you instead decide to reject total depravity, how can your God justify Hell? Those that deny total depravity tend to justify Hell on a technicality. They will tell me that their God has a list of demands. And if your score on life’s test is not 100%, then sorry, you go to Hell, that’s the rule.

Oh, but they also say believers have an exemption. Don’t forget that.

But what about everybody else? What about those who never heard? Sorry. If they don’t believe in Jesus, they need to score 100% on the test.

One wonders why a loving God would make this the rule. If any schoolteacher were to fail every student that ever scored less than 100% in his class, we would regard his expectations as unrealistic. So how could God make such a requirement?

And if you say we can’t blame God for that requirement, for the nature of reality is such that God had no choice but to enforce this rule, then God is not all-powerful. Whatever it is that made this rule that demands perfection is then more powerful than God.

If some people go to Hell, not because they are depraved people who deserve it, but because they failed to be 100% perfect, and they never heard of Jesus, one wonders why God would not be more tolerant. If people don’t really deserve Hell, and they are just slightly off course, why doesn’t God stop the suffering? If we deny total depravity, then we are left with people that deserve to feel good about themselves being condemned forever as utter trash. That makes no sense.

Those that have taken this course to promote self-esteem and abandon total depravity often find the doctrine of Hell is the next to go. If people aren’t totally depraved, a God who enforces such punishments on good people who are not perfect is not easy to accept. So the doctrine of Hell is frequently ignored or even argued away.

Some people on that Christian Forums thread went through mental contortions to make total depravity and self-esteem compatible. One person suggested that “total depravity” simply means that we are good people that sometimes make mistakes. That is not total depravity.

Another person on that thread suggested that total depravity was just another way to say we were not good enough for God. But not being good enough for God is not the same thing as being totally depraved. For instance, I am not good enough to play chess in a tournament with grandmasters, but I do have significant chess skills. The fact that I could not play competitively with Magnus Carlsen does not mean I am totally deprived of chess skills.

We cannot water down “total depravity” by saying it just means “good but falling a little short of the standard.” That is an abandonment of total depravity.

Another person told me I could have positive self-esteem if I ignored my human, evil nature. That is ersatz self-esteem. The self-esteem that comes from ignoring reality is not true self-esteem. But this is the best self-esteem this believer in total depravity could come up with for unbelievers.

So, if one adopts a view of total depravity, based on the Bible and on the need to explain Hell, one is left with a struggle to have any meaningful positive self-esteem.

In the extreme, groups like the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, of which I was once a participant, see people as little more than a spec of worthless dust.

And so, I find traditional Christian doctrines of depravity are at odds with the modern emphasis on self-esteem. Many who were once trapped in these depressing doctrines of human depravity have expressed tremendous psychological relief when leaving these doctrines of faith.


The Bible repeatedly mentions pride. Here are links to the many verses that mention pride; verses that mention the proud; and verses that mention the haughty. The Bible tells us that we are to hate pride (Pro 8:13); that pride leads to dishonor (Pro 11:2); that pride leads to destruction (Pro 16:18); that it brings us low (Pro 29:23); and that God humbles those who walk in pride (Dan 4:37). In Mark, pride is listed as one of the evil things that defile a man (Mark 7:21-23). And Pro 16:5 tells us, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.” Other verses tell us God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6, 1Pe 5:5).

And Isaiah tells us:

Moreover, the LORD said, “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and jingle the anklets on their feet, the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the LORD will make their foreheads bare.” Isaiah 3:16-17

You do not want your scalp afflicted with scabs or your forehead bare. Isaiah says if you are haughty and walk with head held high, this will happen. Will you no longer walk with your head held high? Or will you ignore this warning?

Christians who want healthy self-esteem will tell us that high self-esteem and pride are not the same thing. One website says pride is the notion that we don’t need help, or that pride is the notion that one is superior. Where do they come up with these definitions? Nowhere does the Bible tell you that is what it is talking about. One would think that authors who wanted us to think highly of ourselves, but to avoid certain errors, would be clear that they are actually praising high self-feelings, and that their condemnation applies only to certain wrong extremes of pride. The Bible does not do this. It declares a blanket condemnation of pride. It sure looks to me like it is condemning the very essence of high self-esteem.

Biblical Self-Esteem

Despite the conflicts between the Bible and Christian teachings, many modern Christians have found ways to promote high self-esteem. You will find many Christian sites arguing for the virtue of self-esteem, such as this site and this one. You will find lists of Bible verses supposedly supporting self-esteem here and here. Yet the verses they list have little to do with self-esteem. None of these sites shows a verse warning of the problem of low self-esteem. None lists a verse telling us to think generally more positively about ourselves. None can find a verse stating the need for high self-esteem.

But there are many verses that say the opposite. Romans 12:3 tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Galatians 6:3 warns people that think they are something when they are nothing. No verse warns us about thinking we are nothing when we are actually something. 2 Timothy 3:2 warns us that the last days will be terrible. It gives a long list of evils, beginning with “lovers of their own selves.” Low self-esteem or lack of self-love didn’t make the list of evils. But loving oneself is on that list. As I said at the top of this post, it is important that our self-esteem is both accurate and positive. As a humanist, I find everything that I need to build healthy self-esteem. After all, we are all humans with all the inner capacities that this involves. We humans can accomplish great things. We can fly to the moon, make great works of art, and build great nations. And so, we can look at ourselves without looking through the veil of total depravity, and we can see ourselves as humans with innate worth.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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An Evangelical Pastor’s Wife Loses Her Faith and Finds Herself

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A Guest Post by Sarah

I was raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist church. I was saved and baptized at about the age of six. Throughout my youth, I remember being wholly devoted to Christianity. I remember family praising me as a young child for the example I set because I wouldn’t eat a bite at meals until I made sure everyone prayed together. I also remember being the “good Christian girl” through high school and college. I prayed, faithfully attended church — even by myself after I started driving — and read the Bible voraciously. I sought to be completely devoted to Jesus. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I sang, led Bible studies, and served God. All my extracurriculars were associated with the church or faith-based things, other than being involved in my community arts organization as a teenager, mostly acting in plays. I was so certain about Christianity until the moments in which I wasn’t. In my late teens, I began to incorporate the following story into my salvation testimony to prove I had truly been born again and to use it to allay any doubts I or anyone else might have about the authenticity of my faith.

Baby Sinner

My mom has always talked about how I was such a headstrong young child, so much so that she didn’t know how to parent me. Mom told me she once went to our pastor crying about me because she didn’t know what to do with me. Recently, she told me a story I had never heard before — that she remembers the first time she really connected with me was in a Pizza Hut when I was about four years old. It made me sad because my daughter is almost four.

My daughter is so much like me. My relatives who knew me as a child say being around my daughter is like being around me again when I was her age. Even though she’s headstrong and hard for me to manage sometimes, I feel we have more moments of connection than I can recount from my own childhood. To hear my mom say she distinctly remembers not having a real moment of connection with me until I was four years old makes me question what was really going on with me back then.

Mom said I was difficult until I “asked Jesus to come into my heart” then it was like a switch was flipped on in me and I became “better.” Now that I’m a parent of a toddler, I realize that my issues as a toddler and young child weren’t the spiritual issues of a hell-bent sinner, but that I was lacking something somewhere, stability or attention or love or something. I was well cared for as a kid and I had a good childhood. I don’t think I was neglected or abused, but whatever was lacking, the problem wasn’t spiritual or that I needed Jesus, but it was behavioral, that I needed something real from my parents, whatever it may have been.

Seeds of Doubt

In my teens, and especially college years, I struggled with doubt. I have a lot of questions. My mind dissects things, deconstructs things to the minutest details, and rebuilds them to understand what’s happening, how things work, and what is the logic behind them. But I’m also naturally loyal. I was loyal to the presuppositions of my faith that were ingrained in me since before I can remember. I questioned, but I never sought answers outside of my faith community, even in college.

One of my biggest regrets is that in college I did not lean into and explore all kinds of thinking. I dabbled in things because I went to a state school. I couldn’t get away from it in mandatory philosophy classes and English classes where I was introduced to secular ideas. I learned what ideas were out there, but I never truly considered them. I observed them from behind the hazmat suit of Fundamentalist Christianity I wore. In fact, I remember driving two hours to my home church to attend a special service where a visiting preacher preached a sermon he called “Babylon University.” He used the story of Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylonian captivity to set a principle for those of us going to college to be “in the world, but not of the world.”

Marriage Obsession and Denied Sexuality

As a teenager, I was obsessed with getting married. My church’s worldview, and being a child of divorce, as well as my dad dying from suicide two years after my parent’s divorce when I was 13, caused me to desire stability that was foundational to my obsession with marriage, along with my natural sexual desires that wouldn’t be satisfied until I got married.

Even though I was raised by a single mom who dated and had boyfriends with whom she was having sexual relationships, I was sexually and relationally conservative because I held so closely to the teachings of the church, even more so than to my mother’s parenting. I remained a virgin — mostly — until I got married at 28.

At 18, I began a “courtship” (think Josh Harris “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and Elisabeth Elliot’s romance with Jim Elliot) with a man in my church who was 15 years older than I. He was 33 at the time. This was my first serious relationship. This relationship was supposed to be a “courtship” overseen by our parents, but considering he was 33 and my only parent was a single mom who, along with her boyfriend, (eventually my stepdad), thought the whole thing was super weird, it was mostly overseen by my youth pastor and his wife and my church’s pastor and his wife. By the way, the whole thing top to bottom makes me cringe today and I’m so grateful I did not marry that guy.

I became engaged or “betrothed” (ugh!) but thankfully my mom, and eventually, my church, helped me end the relationship before it got to marriage. After our engagement, my husband-to-be began acting strange — overbearing and potentially abusive. My mom and youth pastor encouraged me to move away to live on campus at the college I was currently attending.

I didn’t want to move away, but I heeded my mom. Living on campus, this was the first time I became depressed. However, I got involved with a church and made good friends and when I left campus for the summer, I realized I was sad to leave and couldn’t wait to go back. I had a great college experience. My friend group grew beyond the church. I became a resident assistant and really enjoyed my friendships with my fellow housing employees. Looking back, I have some regrets about missed opportunities, but nothing that makes me hate my time there. I didn’t date anyone in college, but I wasn’t without my crushes. I literally fell in love with one man, but we never dated, surprisingly. At one point I did feel like God told me I would marry a pastor. Good to know, God.

Not long after college, I moved back to my small town because I missed my church. I eventually connected with a former high school classmate that ended in another broken engagement after three years of an on-and-off-again relationship. After one final rebound boyfriend to whom I nearly lost my virginity, I met my husband.

My husband and I have an amazing relationship and chemistry. If I have any belief left in miracles, then the one miracle I have in my life is Matthew. When I lost belief in God, I felt free to say, “I believe in Matthew and in our love,” but also, I believe in myself and my place in the world.

During that strange time, especially as an unmarried, 20-something, between graduating college and meeting Matthew at age 28, I fell into a deep depression that lasted years; I don’t think it ever fully lifted. This is when I started to lose my faith, though I didn’t talk about it. I had suicidal thoughts. The loneliness facilitated by my church’s beliefs as I waited for marriage was debilitating and I believe denying my sexuality gave me sexual frustration that contributed to my depression. I suspect if I had a different worldview at the time that would have allowed me healthy sexual expression outside of marriage, then I would have carried a lot less shame and guilt about masturbation, which I discovered in college.

Meeting my husband lifted my depression. We had a quick romance. We met and were married between February and November of the same year. I was so happy. Within three years we had two children. My life up until I met Matthew felt so slow and especially those last few years in my 20s felt like a slow grind. Since meeting Matthew, change keeps coming and coming. Big stuff — marriage, babies, becoming a pastor’s wife, losing my faith as a pastor’s wife, moving from a very rural area to a city. When we got engaged, we were looking at a decent combined annual income, but halfway through our engagement, we both lost our jobs. We started marriage and had babies living in extreme poverty and mutual depression over our situation. It was traumatic, but our relationship remained strong.

Loss of Faith

In October 2019, I remember really struggling with doubts about my faith, and that’s the first time the thought entered my head, “I’m not a Christian.” I thought God gave me that thought. The next day, I was emotionally moved by a sermon my husband preached to respond with a recommitment to my faith and I was baptized again.

But doubts resurfaced and I began struggling with deep depression again. Around January 2022, I told my husband that I wanted to take some breaks from attending church, like maybe one Sunday a month, I don’t go, or I visit another church. He was supportive of me doing that. However, I never followed through on it because someone in the church broke her back and I stepped in to fulfill her responsibilities. It put my plan to take a break from church on hold as I needed to be there for these things. I didn’t mind it. It helped me a little because I felt I had more purpose with church than just getting the kids dressed to go and wrestle them into a pew and fight to keep them quiet.

Then in May 2022, my stepdad asked my mom for a divorce after 15 years of tumultuous marriage. It was with this backdrop that I just got tired of pretending that prayer did anything, that faith had any meaning, that Christianity was true, or that maybe God was even real, and if he was real, that he (or she or them) even cared about things the way my church said God did.

At the end of July 2022 and with the help of Bruce’s blog, I told my husband I considered myself a Christian agnostic. Christian in that I am content to practice a social Christianity for the sake of his ministry. I sincerely don’t want my faith status to disrupt his profession and passion and I sincerely love my Christian friends. I don’t want to cause him controversy and pain within the church.

I would be socially Christian in the outward trappings, but I told him that I refused to pray privately. I decided to act as if God didn’t exist, and if he did, then let him reveal himself clearly to me. So far, God hasn’t. I haven’t been struck by lightning. I’m the same person I’ve always been. I cuss more and pray less. My thoughts on abortion and sexuality are changing. But I’m essentially the same person. Better, I think, in how I treat others and how I treat myself.

I’m happier and more at peace with myself and the world as I face depression as essentially an atheist. I would much rather face depression without faith than face it with faith, as if I’m thrown into a fight with a demon with a bag over my head.

Moving Forward

I don’t know what the future holds for me as a non-Christian married to a devoted Christian who still feels a special call to be in church ministry. We have toddlers so we have many years ahead of raising children. My husband has resigned from the ministry for the time being for reasons not related to me. He is excited about finding a new church to join in our new city. I told him that I don’t think I’m eligible to become a new member of a church and that I don’t intend to hide the truth about my faith status from people we meet in churches. I don’t mind attending church with him some, because I enjoy having that connection with the whole family, but I’m also looking forward to exploring slow Sundays with no expectations except to truly rest.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

The Preventable Death of a Follower

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Guest post by Troy

My brother’s story, an indictment of the Evangelical church’s response to Covid vaccinations.

In early December 2021, I got a call from my mother. “Jason has Covid and is in the hospital. When he takes off the oxygen, he can’t breathe at all.” When my mother asked him why he wouldn’t get vaccinated, his response was “God will take care of me.” And while I thought his prognosis was good, two weeks later he died. He was in his late 40s, the baby of our family, the father of two adult children, and the father and provider of three young children.

Jason had a hard start in life. He was my stepbrother, a part of the joining of two families who had both lost parents in accidents; he lost his mother when he was a toddler. He had some issues with auditory processing, and I think he had trouble with conversational nuance and connecting the dots. He’d end up telling people what he thought they wanted to hear. Possibly this was his path to becoming a follower. High school was tough on him academically, college was out, so the army looked like his only option. Just before going to the army, Jason was arrested for drag racing. It’s laughable to me, he had a junker car, and I don’t know the details, but I can’t imagine he was out challenging people to race . . . but it all makes sense if it is yet another instance of following. The judge dismissed the charges since he was going into the army. But despite “following orders” being the army mainstay, following didn’t help him in the army. His testing limited him to infantry, and along with this his infantry comrades, he (nor they) wasn’t always the most upstanding of characters. The example I’ll cite is that he was with someone who looked into a car and saw a set of golf clubs, checked the door handle, found it unlocked, and took the clubs. Of course, most people would argue with someone stealing from a stranger’s car, but not a follower. Apparently, there were other missing things, and guilt by association ended Jason’s stint in the army with a less-than-honorable discharge.

After the army didn’t work out, he ended up working at McDonald’s. This is where he met his wife and also where he ended up joining her Evangelical church. (Parents of one of my friends wondered if their misguided marriage was because they both got mad cow disease by working at McDonald’s!) The follower had found his bliss. He didn’t have to try to guess what people wanted of him, no nuance or inferences, just obey the simple, easy-to-follow instructions. He also finally had a church family of people that would accept him; his disability didn’t really matter, he was “Brother Jason” and all that mattered was the remarkable zeal that is unique to the convert. While the extremes of his church were completely out of the mainstream, my mother confided in me that she was glad, because he was a follower, that he had landed there. As the army experience demonstrated, there are worse people he could be following. There are always nefarious people who will take advantage of followers.

Things turned around for Jason when our dad got him a temp job at his union shop. Dad impressed upon him what he needed to do: work hard, always be on time, and you will become a fully contracted employee. He now had a high income to lavish upon his beloved church. He was living for the LORD, and while we were on opposite sides of the religious spectrum, I certainly was happy that he finally had success in life. That said, the church truly taxed him financially. He gave 20% of his income to the church, and ended up living hand to mouth, and had his house foreclosed upon. While he listened to Dad to get and keep the job, Dad couldn’t impress upon him the abstraction of good credit.

Sadly Jason’s wife passed away 15 years ago, which led him to the Philippines, where he remarried. He ended up getting hepatitis during a return trip to the Philippines. While he recovered enough to go back to work, there were lingering health effects that no doubt made him very susceptible to Covid.

Before I proceed with my indictment, I want to reminisce back to when we were kids. It’s the late 1970s and our family is off to church. If it were Sunday, we were packing six boys into the Suburban and we were in the pews, never early unless we forgot to change our clocks back to standard time, but we were there. We pull into the parking lot and I recognize some of the teens who were active in the youth group. They wave us over, “Good morning,” “Are you guys wearing seat belts?” The answer was a big NO; for one thing, absolutely nobody wore seat belts, and if we tried, we weren’t going to squeeze everyone comfortably into even a large vehicle like a Suburban. “Oh, okay, well, we’re going to have to give you a ticket! My dad grumpily reaches for his wallet and pays the few dollars for the “offense.” “We care about you, and we want you back next Sunday.” Believe me, next Sunday we all had our seat belts on.

Now let me contrast this with the Evangelical church. While some on the religious right (in particular Franklin Graham) advocate for the Covid vaccines, most are either neutral or actively — and sometimes vehemently — hostile to the vaccines. Currently, around 500 people die every DAY from Covid — about three times the number of people who die in traffic accidents. My indictment is as follows: The Evangelical church has failed its followers. By not encouraging their “flocks” to get vaccines, they have failed them. My brother isn’t the only one; earlier in the pandemic I’d routinely see go-fund-me campaigns for large families who had lost one of their (Evangelical) unvaccinated parents. I do know that some people at my brother’s church did get vaccinated. But was it actively encouraged? Did it make the sermon every week as alcohol did? What, then, is their excuse for this failure? Ignorance? I have a lot of problems with religion. But I have zero problems with “We care about you, and we want you back next Sunday.”

One of Jason’s adult sons wistfully wondered (on Facebook) if he was off to the Paradise he had always told them about. But if Evangelicals don’t know the here and now, I have zero confidence they know the hereafter.

Evangelical pastors, redeem yourselves; I implore you to encourage your followers to get vaccinated. Heaven will wait.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Is God in Control?

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A Guest Post by Merle Hertzler who blogs at The Mind Set Free

On September 11, 2001, millions of people watched in horror as the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Why did God allow it to happen? Many were praying for God to protect their loved ones. And yet they watched the dreadful destruction occur. Why did this happen? Did God not love those people in the towers and in the planes? Did God not have the power to stop it? Christians would certainly say he had the power to prevent it. But he did not.

What about the thousands that died that day? You might suggest that God had some mysterious purpose in letting them die. Perhaps their time on earth was done.

Imagine the details that God would have had to control to assure that only those people whose time had come were killed. What if the planes had hit several stories higher or lower? What if the flights had been delayed 10 minutes? What if somebody in the towers had gotten stuck in traffic that morning? What if the planes had hit at a different angle? All these things would have altered the death toll. If God had planned for certain people to die that day, then he must have guided all these details. He must have guided the planes to hit the buildings exactly where they did. In other words, God would have had to have been in control of those airplanes, and the terrorists were merely doing what God directed. All of this is of course absurd. Such a God is a micro-manager. Such a God wanted those planes to hit the towers where they did.

And so, I conclude that the reason these people died had nothing to do with God having a purpose in them dying. It just happened. Random forces were at work. God was not in control.

Some would tell me he allowed it to happen to punish people. Did all those that died that day deserve to be punished? How did God control it so only those who deserved to die were killed?

Why does God allow suffering? Why do 3 million children starve every year? Why is there so much disease? Why does God not stop terrorists? These questions have been asked many times.

And it is good to ask such questions. A good God would expect us to ask questions.

Somehow, God is said to have a reason for it all. If a car misses us, that must have been God’s protection. If it hits us, somebody will say God is trying to teach us something. Everything must have a purpose. Otherwise, we are left with a God who refuses to help.

You and I would not respect a policeman who sees a rape about to take place and did nothing. It would be hard to respect someone who could help and refuses to do anything.

Where was God on 9/11? People cannot bear the thought that God might have just stood back and not cared. So, we are told that God must surely have had a purpose.

If God was in control of what happened to the people in those planes on September 11, and if he wanted them to die this way, then this event was not a tragedy. It was God’s will. But we all agree that it was a tragedy. So it, therefore, was not a good God’s will. Things happened that a good God would not have wanted. For whatever reason, God, if he exists, did not take control.

Now if God did not want it to be this way, and could have stopped it, how can you explain his actions? Many people have been blamed for that day. We have heard the pundits criticize the FBI and CIA. We have heard how airport and airline security was lax, and that airplane doors were not designed correctly. What about God? He apparently could have stopped it all, wanted to stop it, and did not stop it.

Likewise, disease has destroyed many lives throughout history. What did God think in the past when he looked down on children in polio wards? Did he look at the pain and suffering of innocent children, and think it was good? Did it have a purpose? No, I think not.

Many people were sure that this suffering was pointless. They thought that nature was acting by itself and causing this suffering. They wanted to stop it. They looked for a natural cause, and they found it. Then they looked for a way to overcome that natural cause, and they developed a vaccine. When the vaccine and other preventions became readily available, the illness was controlled. If God had a purpose for polio, were these people right to try to prevent it? Yes. They were very right. Polio was bad.

Did God cease to have a purpose for polio the moment prevention became readily available? Does God still have a purpose in allowing underprivileged children to suffer who do not have access to medicine? Isn’t it odd that the probability that God will have a purpose in a child being crippled by polio has a direct correlation with whether the child has access to modern medicine and sanitation?

Suppose that firemen arrive at a burning house with a child inside that they could rescue. Is it possible that God wants this child to suffer? If God wants the child to suffer, are they doing the child a disservice by rescuing her? Of course not. The firemen would not think that for a minute. They would do everything they could to rescue the child. They would assume that the suffering was bad.

Tomorrow, almost everyone will be doing something to prevent others from suffering. Nurses will care for the sick. Policemen will protect us. Road workers will fill in potholes. Researchers will look for cures for diseases. Truckers and sailors will bring us lots of cool stuff — all the way from China. We will go about our lives hoping to minimize the suffering of others. We all know suffering is bad. And so, we will try to stop it.

Which brings us to God. Suffering will happen tomorrow. God, if he exists, will not stop it. People will get sick. Accidents will happen. And where will God be? For whatever reason, he will not stop it. But people will know that it hurts. They will know it is bad, and they will try to stop it. Even if you tell us that suffering has a purpose, we will assume it is pointless, and will try to prevent it. But God will not stop it.

Do you think that he sometimes helps? Fine, but why is there all that suffering that he does not stop?

Some would argue that God is there comforting the suffering people. But how does that solve the problem? Would a fireman be excused for ignoring a fire if he later comforts the survivors? It is a good thing to comfort the suffering, but when it is completely within somebody’s power to stop suffering, and he does not do so, his comfort is small consolation to the victims. Has God been demoted from Supreme Ruler to Comforter-in-Chief?

It appears that God was not in control of the circumstances when those planes hit the towers. So why think that he is in control when somebody takes your parking space, a tree falls on your house, or a loved one has cancer? Why try to answer the agonizing question about why God did this? Is God trying to teach you patience? Is he trying to win people to himself? Is he punishing you, or teaching you to rely on him? No, it would seem to me that it just happens. And it seems that our minds can be much more at peace when we realize this.

I don’t think God has a purpose when bad things happen. I do not see a strong wind or a mighty movement of the earth when I need it. Random events cause random suffering. I accept that. God is not in control.

Or maybe God doesn’t even exist.

Some people might say that I should not be looking for God to intervene in might or power, but I should be listening instead for a still, small voice. I discuss that next.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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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.

Not A Conservative Anymore

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A Guest Post by Dia Wright

I have always been a sensitive girl, and life hurts. Life hurts me at every twist and turn. Not because of the screaming, people throwing things, overturning chairs, slamming doors—not because of the violence and heartbreak and tragedy I grew up with, even though I saw one small tragedy after another for so many painful growing-up years. No, it’s not because life sucks that I hurt. It’s not even because of the things people tell me about myself. Well, maybe that’s part of it. But what hurts me most of all is realizing that the world I trusted to keep me safe and secure from evil doesn’t even know me, and I have no protectors. Nobody understands. I am truly alone in the universe, just like everyone else is. For me, the hurt of wrecked illusions is a pain that pierces the core of me, the place where thought and feeling and emotion struggle for a voice, and this pain goes deeper and deeper until I want to die. I can only curl up with my head in my knees, feeling slow tears slip through my hair, wishing to God that I wasn’t so sensitive. Sensitive. What does the word even mean? Can I stop being sensitive and grow a backbone and not care about my feelings anymore? How can I stop hurting and letting life stomp all over me? Since when did life have to kick me in the face, anyhow? Who am I?

In my early years, I gave in to every emotion and cried all the time, about nothing, about everything. My rebellious, defiant, tantrum-throwing stub of preschool self was thrown behind locked wooden doors, pounding and shrieking, out of my mind, losing control. Thrown back behind the doors to cry it out alone. Whipped up and down with a belt buckle. Sometimes, I didn’t understand why I went crazy and shrieked and screamed and threw myself on the floor. It just happened and there didn’t seem to be any way to stop. I felt very crazy and ashamed of myself as a tiny girl with huge emotions. There were these three stages to the end of any bad day: the crying, the screaming, and then the punishment.

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and taught about Jesus from the start. The older I grew, the more intense the Christian talk became. Teachers and parents begged me to ask Jesus into my heart. They said it would be a gift to my mother on Mother’s Day, a gift to Jesus on Christmas. By the time I was seven, I had heard those childish altar call requests about a thousand times. By the time I was ten, I couldn’t resist the call of Christ anymore, and I was baptized. Really, I had been privately struggling with the huge and scary doctrines for several years, trying to fit them into my big little-girl mind, and nothing seemed to work. I was a sinful girl, but Jesus died to save me—whatever that meant. So I asked Jesus into my heart. I read the tracts and my Adventures in Odyssey Bible and I thought about Hell and the Rapture all the time. I served myself communion when no one was looking. I prayed when my anxious little stomach twisted in knots of fear. Still, I was getting bigger, and my spiritual responsibility loomed before me, as I reached the point of no return—the Age of Accountability. 

“You must believe in Jesus,” the people told me, their faces so serious and stern that I was scared. My parents. My brother. My Sunday School teachers and AWANA leaders, when they were done with the fun and games part of church. They wanted me to get spiritually serious. But I was a silly girl—they called me Her Silliness. I didn’t understand, and it made me upset. I just wanted to laugh and joke and make my friends happy, so they would laugh and joke as well. I wanted to run and be silly and throw sofa cushions, break candy piñatas, throw parties, run through the sprinkler. Why did I have to be serious at the end of it all? I tried to put my jokes into their serious spiritual discussions, but sometimes, they rebuked me for it, and that just ended in hurt and pain.

Why must I be so serious? They said they didn’t know what was going on in my mysterious little mind.

Being Serious was a strange business. Though I loved to laugh, to be silly and giggle and play pretend, as I grew bigger, being serious held a strange and deep fascination for me. So I started being serious when nobody was around. So serious they’d be shocked. I was very private and alone and serious behind my silly façade, and this side of me, also, I felt I must be protected from adults. They couldn’t know who I was inside.

When I listened to Mom’s Christian songs, this part of me that was mystical and strange and serious bubbled up like a fountain from a pool, and I shivered all over. Deep down, I was just thinking about me and how good it felt to be serious, but the music was my only connection with these high-flying feelings. I loved music—Christian music, radio pop songs, silly music, all music. The music made me feel and feel and feel.

Even then, I was looking for the beauty in song, in story, in film, in laughter, to fill me up like a cup and turn on all the lights in my darkening mind. I was a sensitive girl and clutched at any emotion, all emotion, wanting to feel and feel deeply. Needing to feel.

Now, I know the end of the story. That little sensitive girl who just wanted to stare at the sky from the windows of her mother’s car and listen to music and feel—she was never part of the plan for salvation. She would use anything to fill up her sensitive neediness, so she clutched at religion, though she was years from learning what this religion really meant to her. She was manipulated and pressured into accepting religion at a young age, leading to an excruciating teenage faith crisis that stripped her illusions as raw as exposed wire.

So slow is my tomorrow, gone to sorrow. I will forget who I am and breathe out a prayer of dishes. What do you know? The sun may find me running into a thousand other suns and the moon will crack like a magnifying glass and what do you know, not where the sun has been dancing on her stick the wall above my bedside swims with vacant colors. At night there was a storm and I spilled my water when I was too thirsty. Numbly I prayed for salvation, begged not to die and go to hell tonight. Fearful as a child, creeping around in the darkness. Flashes of light and rain fused to air and I was alone and so alone dreaming of drifting from the tropics to Antarctica on a map as flat as a rock. We have loved the slow snow at the windows and fell into piles of swans and leaves. On the dawn you breathe your storms of eyes into the stillness that always pervades your mind and keep it up and keep it up and keep dancing because you will dance your evergreen death in a million light years the ballet of lines on pages serenade your old selves all you can ever hope to find the syncopation of the rhyme you can’t grasp like old puppet shows. Dancing blues. Dancing like the walls and floors dance. Dancing like the apricots in heaven dance from the leaves of the trees. Me and you. Dance in the greyhound station forever and I pray they never stop and I pray you never stop and kiss me before bedtime every night and sleep on my dog bones and serenade my flowers to unopened grandeur and the sugar flower on the map of time will keep it up till the dawn of all that you’ve not been feeling and get rid of the bugs and write your sorrows into the people friendly people persons on the road to the universe of muddy footprints joy in the living night that swallows the embryonic moon from the highway…

The AWANA club is run by a guy named Mr. Zeto who has a long white beard. He has a big red handkerchief that he mops his nose with, and that’s gross. Every week he calls up two kids to hold the flags—the American flag and the AWANA flag. We have to sing a dumb song about AWANA every week and shout, “Youth on the march!” louder and louder, until he’s properly satisfied. He can’t sing at all. Reminds me of a robot. Mr. Zeto really doesn’t like kids, but he wants them to know Jesus and memorize their Bibles. He says if you ask Jesus into your heart you go to Heaven when you die. Mr. Zeto angrily surveys our toes which aren’t lined up correctly on the masking-tape line. I am usually scrunched almost to the point of invisibility within the smashed-up line of sweaty big kids. He screams at us loud and nasty to put our toes on the line but our toes never quite satisfy him. Yelling yelling yelling.

But my mommy and daddy are always waiting outside the door for me. When Mr. Zeto is done yelling at us, we can go home. I like talking to my mommy and daddy on the car ride home. I feel happy and peaceful now that there is no more noise and no more dodge ball for another week. The world is dark and loose and coming apart with stars. There are streaks of light in the rain around every passing street light and I am small, small, small. Small before the timelessness of history and Noah’s Ark and Adam and Eve and Jesus dying on the cross and all the distant dark obscure things of the past I’ve just learned about. Smaller than anything I could imagine. Like I’m always looking at myself through a telescope. I am far away. And moving farther away. They say I am like a big girl trapped in a little girl’s body.

I want many things. I want there to be another short girl at AWANA who will understand me. I want Mr. Zeto to take a train (peanut brain!) I want to spy on everyone. I want paper dolls and lollipops. I want to understand this thing about there being a little Jesus in my heart I can’t see. I guess if He’s in my heart he’s out of sight pretty much and you can just keep him there like a paper doll in a paper dollhouse and you don’t have to worry about Him falling out. Once you sign the back of the tract he’s there to stay. I like to read the tracts they have in a big box on the wall. They say things like Does God Really Care? and there are pictures of ladies with haunted-looking eyes staring at the stars and forgotten gravestones that have the inscription Forgiven. I feel like that haunted lady but I am a very little girl and they say I am too young to make a faith decision. I feel very still and solemn but there’s a part of me that scrunches shorter and shorter on the line where I am properly hidden and within my own mind.

When I am first to come at AWANA that is best of all. Then I make up plays with myself and act them out in the darkened church sanctuary. Dark, wide, empty, fathomless. So empty empty empty of short people and tall people and Mr. Zeto and the rest of the folks. There’s only God in there but you can’t see him. You aren’t allowed to climb under the stacks of chairs or play the piano or run on the stage. But nobody stops you from running alone.

I am the dark center of a flower of darkness. Everything is the same. It is like before God made the world and there was nothing but water and dark and no sin at all.

Run, twirl, fall down, sing a song, live and die, listen, spin, spin, spin…

There is no freedom like being alone in the sanctuary.

But there were other church basements. There were other long Sunday and Wednesday nights learning how to be a good evangelical girl. Time may come and time may go, but there will always be church basements. Water damage, spiders, corners, kids, adults. And me.

When I was fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, I was looking across the parking lot of a church called Fox River Lutheran. When I was sixteen, I was on my own there. My parents had stopped going to the church, but I still went to the youth group on Sunday nights. They played songs to the beat of a middle school girl band thumping and clunking and half-singing and giggling their way through bland top 40 worship hits. I still went to the youth group and I couldn’t tell you why. I didn’t like the church at all. But I wanted to go to that youth group and I came clawing for redemption and God time and time again.

There was a ping-pong table and a pool table and that whatever-you-call-it game you play when you’re bored in the church basement at youth group. But the middle school boys were obnoxious and got on my nerves. One of the kids got up when I decided to eat at his table. I must have smelled bad or something. But I kept going.

Looking across the church parking lot, there were cars flying by in the darkness. And the field behind the church was darkness. All was darkness with faint streaks of light and I was cold. And I didn’t want to play games with the other kids. They beat each other with dodge balls and captured the flag and played four-square endlessly till I couldn’t stand it. I just wanted to sit outside their games. I wanted to watch the sun spilling over the clouds like an over-filled pot of spaghetti and write in my journals and make up a story. I always made up my best stories when I was watching other people and ignoring them from the sidelines.

I was alone and afraid and confused. I was doubting. I felt distorted, warped, stricken, conflicted, tearful, isolated. Contagious. Different. Unsaved. Not understanding. Not yet.

All the church seemed to preach about was Donald Trump and conservative values. But I was years from myself. Flung into a deep, solemn, half-redeemed night of adolescence. The smallness and fragility of my sixteen-year-old soul was lost from church basement eyes. I was short and not popular and I was peculiar. I didn’t know what to think. Stars and grass and alone and my parents and me. And me. I came to test who I was. And I don’t know. I lost track. Weeks turn to months and years. And scribbled poems. And church basements.

Somewhere along the line, I realize that I am not a conservative anymore. I can’t even remember how I used to think. How I used to understand.

Churches we were years from understanding. The stretches of road leading to this church and that church. My childhood, on the road to church. On the road to redemption. Christian radio droning away. Voices of my friends. A sanctuary of peace and light. Hope. Hope. Faith. Let me never end. I want to be everlasting. I don’t want to die. Don’t want to go home. Want something of my own. Want my reflection in these windows. Give me this.

Give me this.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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