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Tag: Judging Others

Why I Don’t Tell People I Was a Pastor

somerset baptist church 1985
Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and kids, 1985

I have worked many different jobs over the years; everything from selling vacuüm cleaners and life insurance to pumping gas and working as an auto mechanic. I worked more factory jobs than I can count. Well, I can count them, but I prefer not to bring up memories of mindless drudgery. Factory jobs paid good wages, but I couldn’t stand the repetitiveness of the work. Two years into our marriage, I applied for a restaurant management position with Arthur Treacher’s. Starting salary? $155 with flex overtime for every hour over forty-five. I instantly fell in love with the restaurant business, and six months after starting with Arthur Treacher’s I was promoted to general manager and transferred to the Reynoldsburg, Ohio store.

While I worked numerous and varied jobs over the years, I considered them a means to an end: making money and providing for my family. My true calling and ambition in life was the pastorate. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. For the most part, I loved being a pastor. I enjoyed preaching and working with people. I suspect that in another life I might have been a college professor or a social worker.

Early on, I noticed that many pastors used their position for material gain and upward social status. One of Polly’s young preacher cousins provides a good example of this. One day I called my in-laws and he answered the phone. This is Reverend James Overton. How may I help you? I snickered to myself, and said, Hey Jamie, this is Bruce. Is Mom or Dad there? I thought, Reverend James Overton? Really? I never played the Reverend game. I was comfortable with congregants calling me Bruce or Preacher. I also never asked for the “preacher discount” or special treatment. I had no regard for pastors who weren’t shy about announcing their clerical status, hoping that they would be granted discounts, free meals, or other special considerations.

I never told people out of hand that I was a pastor. Granted, a lot of people knew I was a preacher, but I never told strangers what I did for a living. I wanted to be considered an everyday guy.  The reason for this was simple. As soon as I told someone I was a pastor, a snap judgment was made about me. After I stopped pastoring churches in 2005, we looked for a church we could call home. All told, we visited over one hundred churches. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!) At virtually every church, the first or second question I was asked was “what do you do for a living?” Early on, I would tell people I was a pastor, but I noticed that people treated me differently if I did: reverently, respectfully, with careful distance. One Sunday after visiting yet another new church, I told Polly, I am sick of being asked what I do for a living. I think the next time someone asks me I am going to say, I’m sorry, but I don’t have sex on the first date!  Of course, I never did. I was too polite to ever say such a thing.

These days, I NEVER tell someone who doesn’t know me that I was a pastor. I don’t want to have to explain why I am no longer in the ministry. Yes, if someone does a web search on my name he or she will quickly find out I was once a pastor. However, I am not going to volunteer that information. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by my former life as a pastor. I have many fond memories of the years I spent in the ministry, along with a boatload of dark, harmful experiences too. What I want to avoid is being judged by people who don’t know me.

I just want to be an everyday country bumpkin. If I dare mention I was a pastor, well, people act differently. Like it or not, people see ministers as God’s representatives. People might use swear words, but let a pastor be nearby, and all of a sudden the cursing stops — God is present! The same goes for racy or colorful stories. Even if I tell people I am an ex-preacher, they tend to act differently from the way they would if I were a farmer or factory worker. Of course, the same goes for telling people I am an atheist. My atheism is well-known, but I never tell anyone that I am an unbeliever. I prefer to live my life without being judged by my labels. I am being naïve, to be sure, but my life is much more than my labels: atheist, humanist, democratic socialist, etc.

How about you? Are you more than your labels? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Touch Not My Anointed

touch not my anointed

Criticize or judge an Evangelical preacher, and you likely will be told that preachers are called and anointed by God, and only God can judge them. Recently, an Evangelical commenter on a Black Collar Crime series post told me that it was wrong for me to expose these men of God; that it was up to God alone to deal with them. She even went so far as to quote the parable of the tares and wheat (Matthew 13:18-30), suggesting that clerics who are child molesters, rapists, abusers, and adulterers should remain in their churches. If God wants to remove these tares from among the wheat, it is up to him to pull these so-called men of God up by the roots.

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. I attended an IFB college, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, and pastored several IFB churches in the 1980s. Throughout my time in the IFB church movement, I heard and was taught that preachers were untouchable, that criticizing pastors would bring the judgment of God down upon your head.

Those of us who spent significant time in IFB churches likely heard sermons from 2 Kings 2:23-24:

And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

The CEV translates this passage of Scripture this way:

Elisha left and headed toward Bethel. Along the way some boys started making fun of him by shouting, “Go away, baldy! Get out of here!” Elisha turned around and stared at the boys. Then he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Right away two bears ran out of the woods and ripped to pieces forty-two of the boys.

The recently anointed prophet Elisha was walking to Bethel. While on his journey, he came upon forty-two boys who mocked him for having a bald head. Elisha, a temperamental Baptist preacher, turned around, looked at the boys, and cursed (at?) them — in the name of the Lord, of course. God heard Elisha’s bitching and moaning, sending two female bears to attack and kill the boys. Moral of the story? Don’t mock a man of God. If you do, God might kill you.

Imagine being a child in an IFB church. Imagine hearing this story repeated over and over again. It should surprise no one that children grow up fearing their preachers (and God). Children are taught that they must respect the “man of God” no matter what. Thus, it is not uncommon for IFB children to reverence their pastors as if they are God himself. These children later marry and teach their own children to view their pastors as godly, holy, larger than life figures. I heard more than a few IFB preachers say that there was no greater job than being a pastor; that becoming the president of the United States would be a step down for them.

In December 2020, I wrote a post titled, The Gods Have Clay Feet: A Few Thoughts on Evangelical Pastors:

The Evangelical Christian church has many gods. While Evangelicals will profess to worship the true and living God — the God of the Bible — often their true object of worship is human and not divine. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of church government. Some churches have adopted an elder rule form of government. Regardless of what form of government a church adopts, there can be no doubt about who really runs the church. The CEO, the boss man, the head honcho is the pastor — also known as the senior pastor, executive pastor, and prophet, priest, and king.

The pastor is the hub upon which the wheel of the church turns. He (there are very few she’s) is the man who runs the show. He sets the course for the church. He is a modern-day Moses leading the church to the Promised Land. He is the visionary with a vision that the church is expected to follow. He is, after all, the man of God. He is divinely called by God, a call that cannot be explained with human words. He is the man of God, given a message by God, to speak to the people of God.

He is a man not to be trifled with. He has been anointed by God. He has been set apart by God to do the most important work in the world. His calling is higher than even that of the President of the United States. The congregation is reminded that the Bible says “touch not mine anointed.”

Touch not mine anointed . . . 1 Chronicles 16:22 says: Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. The Message translates this verse this way: Don’t you dare touch my anointed ones, don’t lay a hand on my prophets.

IFB preachers remind congregants that GOD SAYS they are NOT to ever TOUCH his anointed ones — pastors. Not literally “touch,” of course. These men of God want to warn people that it is a sin against the thrice Holy God to say bad things about them.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post titled, How Dare I Talk Smack About C.T. Townsend. Townsend is a well-known IFB evangelist and pastor. One of his acolytes, a Baptist preacher, took issue with a previous post I had written about Townsend. (Please see Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles, You Better be Mindful of Speaking Against a “Man of God”, and How Dare I Badmouth IFB Evangelist CT Townsend! Says Fundamentalist Christian.)

He sent me a scathing email, part of which said:

The BIBLE says to TOUCH NOT mine anointed. Be careful brother you are walking on dangerous ground. You know nothing about CT Towsend. The life He lives and what He says proves what’s in His heart I don’t know you but THE BIBLE SAYS Out of the abundance of the Heart the mouth speakerth What you say about GODs man exposes who You Are ! It’s funny to me that a child of satan thinks he’s so smart that he can judge a Great Man of GOD like CT Townsend. I will leave you with this Bible verse The FOOL hath said in his heart There is no GOD. THE BIBLE IS NEVER WRONG.

According to this Baptist preacher, Townsend is untouchable. Since God uses Townsend to save souls and do mighty works in his name, he’s above criticism and judgment. How dare I speak ill of the man. I am walking on “dangerous” ground — IFB-speak for “God is going to kill you!”

This kind of thinking allows IFB preachers to behave any way they please. Even when caught in sin and debauchery, these preachers are often quickly forgiven or allowed to quietly resign and move on down the road to another church. Bad conduct is routinely covered up. Churches leave it to God to chastise and correct errant preachers. Told repeatedly that they must never touch God’s anointed, congregants can’t bring themselves to discipline and excommunicate erring pastors.

Surely, conduct can rise to the level where these men are no longer considered God-called, anointed preachers, right? Nope. Romans 11:29 says: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. The Message translates this verse this way: God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded. Never mind the fact that this verse is talking about Israel, not IFB preachers. This verse is why more than a few IFB Christians believe I am still a God-called preacher; that my health problems are the result of God’s chastisement; that God will one day use me again to win souls and advance his Kingdom. Once a Christian, always a Christian. Once a preacher, always a preacher. Or so the thinking goes, anyway.

Did you hear sermons from the verses mentioned in this post? How were preachers treated in your churches. Were you told to never “touch” God’s anointed ones? Please shares your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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I Hope You (Fill in the Blank)

meaning of life

Well-meaning people have all kinds of expectations and desires for me, revealing how they view my life and me as a person. Often, they view me as hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Instead of allowing me to define who and what I am, they use their own version of who and what I am and then come to certain conclusions about me. It’s like me saying I am a cat and someone saying no you are a dog, and then all their subsequent judgments about me are based on their belief that I am a dog. No matter how loud I meow, they still think I am a dog.

These kinds of people think there is something wrong with me. Take my friend Bill. Here is what he said in a blog comment:

But in my not very humble opinion as a person who has known your thinking for more than 25 years (?), the topic of “god” is disturbing your mind to no good end.

Now, on one hand, Bill has known me for a long time. He lives thousands of miles away from me and we met face-to-face one time in the late 1990s. Years ago, I sponsored the CHARIS discussion list, and Bill was a regular participant. He has, on and off, read my writing for almost 25 years. He has followed my evolution from a Calvinistic pastor to an atheist. Surely, he should “know” me, right?

While I consider Bill a friend, I would never say that Bill “knows” me. In fact, the number of people who really know me can be counted on one hand. And even then, can someone ever really completely “know” me? During the course of our friendship, Bill has mentally developed his own version of Bruce Gerencser. While this Bruce bears some resemblance to the real Bruce, it is not the real Bruce and if Bill doesn’t understand this, he will likely, as in his comment above, come to a wrong conclusion about me.

I think Dale summed up things quite well when he said to Bill:

What Bruce is doing is therapeutic for him and for many of us.

Dale precisely summed up why I write. I am not sitting here raging at God. I am not, on most days, hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Outside of the constant pain I live with, I am quite happy. I have a wonderful marriage and family, and I love interacting with my internet friends through this blog. Yes, I can go through bouts of deep depression, but people like Bill wrongly assume that my depression is driven by my questions about God and religion. It’s not. My health problems are what drive my depression. Feel better=less depression. Lots of pain=more depression.

These days, the only time I think about God and religion is when I am writing. There are no unanswered questions for me when it comes to the Big Kahuna. I don’t think there is a God, so this pretty well answers all the “God” questions for me. My interest in religion has more to do with sociology, philosophy, and politics than it does anything else.

I frequently get emails, blog comments, and comments on other blogs that start with, I hope you _____________________. These people have read something I have written and have made judgments about me. They think I am lacking in some way, and if I would just have what they are hoping I will have, then all would be well for me.  They hope I find peace, deliverance, salvation, or faith. They are Internet psychiatrists who think they can discern who I really am and what my life consists of by reading a few blog posts.

I know that this is the nature of the Internet. People make snap judgments about a person based on scant information. (Just today, a Christian commenter told me I was a fascist. OMG! A fascist?) They think they “know” me after they have read 1,500 words, and they are then ready to pass judgment on what I am lacking.  Everyone who writes in the public space faces this problem, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

This is me saying, I don’t like it. I am not a problem in need of solving. I am not a broken toy that needs fixing. I don’t need what my critics are hoping for me. I am quite happy with who and what I am. It is atheism that has allowed me the freedom to be who I am. I realize this presents a real problem for Evangelicals because they believe that a person cannot be happy, satisfied, or at peace without Jesus. But, here I am.

One commenter stated:

Dear Bruce, I hope you are delivered from your delusions of a happy, satisfied, peaceful life. You are living in denial of how things REALLY are for you.

All I can say to this is that I am enjoying every delusional moment of this life, and I suspect many of my fellow atheists are doing the same.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why Evangelicals Can’t See People as They Are


Why Evangelicals Can’t See People as They Are

Evangelicals believe that people are either saved or lost. Every human being, past and present, fits into one of these two categories. There’s no middle ground, no choosing to follow a different path. Either you are a follower of Jesus or you are a follower of Lucifer. Either you are a child of God or you are a child of Satan. According to Evangelicals, most of humanity falls under the lost category. Muslims? Lost. Buddhists? Lost. Catholics? Lost. Humanists? Lost. Shintoists? Lost. Many Evangelicals believe that some of their own tribe is lost too. Calvinists, in particular, are fond of condemning everyone to the Lake of Fire except for the elect — whom all happen to be worshipers of John Calvin.

Evangelicals also believe that all humans are inherently sinful. People don’t become sinners, they are born that way, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. Thus, every human being is either a saved sinner or a lost sinner. God says it, end of discussion, or so Evangelicals think anyway.

These facts make it impossible for Evangelicals to see people as they are. Instead of judging people according to their character and behavior, Evangelicals measure them by what the Bible purportedly says about the human condition and human behavior. Many Evangelicals believe that unsaved people can’t truly love or do good works. Why? True love and good works require a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While unsaved people might “love” others and do what seem to be “good” works, they have selfish, ulterior motives (as if Evangelicals can’t have selfish, ulterior motives). Only born-again, bought-by-the blood, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Evangelicals can love and do good works that are pleasing to God. Does what Evangelicals can see with their eyes validate these beliefs? Of course not, but it matters not. The standard for judgment is the Bible, not what can be seen with the eyes and heard with the ears. This is why many Evangelicals believe that I am hiding some sort of secret sin; that the reason I became an atheist is that I wanted to freely indulge my sinful nature. I may keep these things hidden in this life, but someday I will stand before the thrice holy God and in “This Was Your Life” fashion, the Evangelical God will expose my sin for all to see. Some Evangelicals can’t wait to see on judgment day what I have been hiding. Boy, are they going to be disappointed!

The next time an Evangelical tries to befriend you, ask him to tell you honestly what he thinks about you as a person and how you live your life. Not wanting to offend you, many Evangelicals will go out of their way to keep from telling you the truth. Evangelicals figure if they can just make a connection with you, they will eventually be able to say what God thinks about you. Remember, Evangelicals believe they should love what God loves and hate what God hates. Thus, in their minds, they see things as God sees them. After all, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that Evangelicals have “the mind of Christ.” Based on what I know about Evangelicals, I can confidently say that if Evangelicals have the mind of Christ, Jesus is one warped, sick motherfucker.

Sadly, Evangelicals live in a narrow, truncated world that lacks the fullness and wildness found among the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Instead of accepting, loving, and enjoying people as they are, Evangelicals are forced to judge everyone according to their peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Bible. As an atheist, I am free to accept people as they are. I am friends with Christians and heathens alike. Our beliefs rarely perfectly align. I even have a few friends who voted for Donald Trump. I don’t understand how they could do this, but they did. I still have several Evangelical friends. They love posting Christian memes on Facebook, some of which are directly aimed at me, or people like me. I choose to ignore these memes, opting instead to focus on the things we have in common: family, grandchildren, and a love for good food. I could respond in kind, but I choose not to. I just want to love and appreciate them as they are, even if they can’t, deep down, do the same for me. I will always be, in their minds, a dear friend who needs saving. I would love to “save” them too, but at their age, I am content to let them go to the grave with their mythical Jesus.

When Evangelicals see homeless people, they don’t see people in need of housing or mental health care. The homeless are people who are dead in trespasses and sins; people who need the salvation and forgiveness of sins offered only through the Evangelical Jesus. The same could be said of every person struggling with bad choices and behaviors: prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, and preachers, to name a few. Their personal, individual stories matter not. Every life must be filtered through what the Bible says. Thinking this way keeps Evangelicals from seeing people as they are; from enjoying their fellow bipeds, warts and all. The world is filled with audacious, colorful, strange people; people who can and do add much to our lives. Over the past decade, thanks to this blog, I have had the privilege of meeting countless people from all sorts of nationalities and backgrounds. As a Christian Fundamentalist, I lived in a closed-off, black-and-white, homogenous world where I rarely, outside of my evangelistic duties, ran into people different from me. This way of living gave me a stilted, false view of the world. It was only when I began meeting people different from me that my worldview began to expand. As many former Evangelicals can attest, it took actually meeting people different from me: i.e. gays, liberals, people of color, to cure me of bigotry, racism, and homophobia.

As long as Evangelicals view the world through Bible-colored glasses, they will never see people as they are. We face many serious trials in the coming months and years. Successfully tackling these issues requires a willingness for each of us to embrace the differences of others. I’m game, are you?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: J.D. Hall and Fred Phelps, Two Peas in a Pod

jd hall
Pastor J.D. Hall

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

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip produced by one Baptist (Peter Lumpkins) showing that two other Baptists (J.D. Hall and Fred Phelps) are one and the same when it comes to judging the salvation of others. Phelps says Baptist Billy Graham is headed for hell and Hall says Baptist Ergun Caner will soon split hell wide open too.  Or just another day among the Baptists.  Everyone knows Fred Phelps, the deceased leader of the Westboro Baptist Church cult. J.D. Hall?  Hall, a Calvinistic wanker, pastors Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana and blogs at Pulpit & Pen.

Lumpkins, Hall, Phelps, Caner, and Graham all have one thing in common: they emphatically believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser