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Tag: Leaving the Ministry

Deconstruction Advice for Evangelical Christians

deconversion

What would prompt you [someone who has questions about Christianity] to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind?…Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself…Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.

Evangelical Apologist William Lane Craig

I get a lot of emails from Evangelical Christians who are struggling with their faith. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, and devout church members will contact me about their existential struggles. Some of them have questions, others just want someone to listen to them. Consider how bad it is for many Evangelicals that they can’t talk to their pastors or other church leaders, so they contact a stranger on the Internet. They read my story and it resonates with them. They see me as someone who will understand, and they hope I will listen to them or answer their questions.

My goal as a writer has always been the same: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity and to help people who have left Christianity altogether. My objective has never been evangelization. While scores of people have deconverted after interacting with me, that’s never been my goal. I genuinely want to help people. I suspect that I am not much different today from the way I was as a pastor. Of course, I no longer see salvation or restoration as the end-all. I am content to help people wherever they are on this journey called life. I don’t try to “save” people. I’m content to let people come to their own conclusions. I might challenge their worldview and beliefs, but I know that their journey is theirs, and I’m content to let them follow the path wherever it leads. Any movement away from Fundamentalism (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) is a good one.

When interacting with deconstructing Evangelicals, the first thing I do is listen. I am fascinated by their stories, so similar, yet so different. Sadly, they find themselves in a lonely place. No one wants to listen to them. Their pastors see them as a “problem” that needs to be fixed. Evangelicalism demands conformity and obedience. While differences of belief are permitted, typically they are discouraged or expected to fit closely defined parameters. Evangelicalism is like a box. Church members are free to wander within the box, asking hard questions such as premillennial or postmillennial, KJV or NIV, speaking in tongues or not, Calvinism or Arminianism, and a host of other game interpretations. Asking hard questions about God, the Bible, and the central claims of Christianity are unwelcome, and will quickly bring a visit from the pastor or a list of approved books from Evangelical apologists to read. Dare to climb out of the box to see what’s on the outside and you will be judged, condemned, and marginalized. And in some cases, you will be asked to shut the hell up or you will be threatened with excommunication. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are In It and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When interacting with Evangelicals, the first thing I do is encourage them to read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos. I suggest they stay away from Evangelical apologists and preachers. Such people have an agenda: to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. Their goal is to maintain the status quo and protect at all costs that which they and their fellow gatekeepers have built. They know that providing honest answers to questions about God, the Bible, and church history will cause more doubts and questions, and even unbelief.

When dealing with Evangelicals, I always recommend they read authors such as Bart Ehrman and John Shelby Spong. If I sense they can handle stronger doses of medicine, I recommend authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the anthologies published by John Loftus. These men speak truth, but their books can be difficult for sensitive Christians to swallow.

If, as Evangelicals allege, God, the Bible, and life after death are the most important things facing the human race, then it behooves us to know whether their claims are true. Reading books written by Evangelical authors will only reinforce, not challenge, beliefs. Such writers are certain they are right, and they want you to be just as certain as they are. Non-Evangelical authors are usually more interested in facts and evidence. Their goal is education, not evangelization and conversion.

The second thing I do is encourage them to talk to people who have different beliefs from theirs. Visit non-Evangelical churches. Interact with writers who are willing to listen and try to answer what questions you might have. My inbox is always open. I will interact with some people for a time and then I won’t hear from them again. I am quite happy to be “used” if I can help people in some way. Sometimes, people will reconnect with me years later. Often, they email me to let me know where they are in life or that they are now an atheist.

Third, I ask people to be brutally honest with themselves. Meet truth in the middle of the road and do business. Don’t try to back up or go around. If people are willing to do so, they will always end up exactly where they need to be. While many of them will remain Christians, I am confident that they will come to understand that Evangelicalism cannot be rationally sustained; that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible; that many of their beliefs are irrational and harmful. Evangelicalism sells itself as THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, but many people learn that there is a Christianity that exists that is not Fundamentalist; one built on a foundation of love, peace, mercy, and kindness. While I am always happy when people embrace atheism, I know that most people won’t. Thus, I gently encourage people to expand their religious horizons. The goal, from my seat in the atheist pew, is to smother the life out of Evangelicalism.

Hopefully, this short post will be helpful for those who are on the path away from Evangelicalism. I have no interest in arguing with zealots or debating apologists. I don’t intend to cast my pearls before swine. But I do want to befriend deconstructing Evangelicals and help them in any way I can.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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 Evangelical Reckoning

guest post

A Guest Post by Larry C

Over a century ago, upon reviewing the work of the white churches, Frederick Douglass had this to say:

Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity . . . .

White evangelicals have a real and deep reckoning coming. They have embraced exactly what Fredrick Douglass refers to as the bad, corrupt and wicked. This is not anything new. They have always done so. The white Evangelical movement has a long and dark history of racism, bigotry, misogyny, child abuse, and intolerance in general —  all of which are unchristian at their core.

I am not saying that all white evangelicals embrace these evils. Large and increasing numbers are rejecting these flaws and are instead finding a new path of greater love and tolerance for their fellow man. Still others are leaving the movement entirely. There is a wide diversity of beliefs under the umbrella of evangelicalism so it is very difficult to say anything that applies to all of them. Instead of trying to parse all the variations in the beliefs of these groups, it is easier to simply call those that still embrace the evils of the past as the “Religious Right.”

It is those who still adhere to the conservative values of 150 years ago who are most being blinded to the harm that they perpetuate. The more conservative they are, the more they cling to the ideas of the past. When you fast forward to today and look at the beliefs and actions of the Religious Right, they are still rooted in bigotry, racism, misogyny, hypocrisy and intolerance. If you look at what is important to them today, you can see the basic values are still the same.

Movement of faith becomes movement of grievances. For the Religious Right, the big three issues are Abortion, LGBTQ rights, and evolution. They have been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade for decades. Their goal is to give local state governments the power to outlaw abortion, thus allowing the government to tell women what they can do with their bodies. To say that women don’t have the right to decide for themselves is clearly misogynistic. They have been trying to overturn LGBTQ rights from the first moment these rights were affirmed by the courts. They want to be able to discriminate against them with no consequence. They want to be able to deny them seats in restaurants, service by businesses, and even health care. This is the same old racism we saw leveled against African Americans for centuries. Now, it’s against gays. The last of the big three is evolution. The Bible has a creationist view of our origins. The Religious Right has been attacking evolution for a century, not simply because the story is different, but because it is incompatible with the bible. And the Religious Right is totally intolerant of any view that is incompatible with theirs. Their intolerance does not begin and end with evolution. It permeates virtually every core belief that they have, which leads to all the other issues we see with the Religious Right. This goes in lock step with their denial of science as a whole. Science is not biblical.

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.

Eric Hoffer

All of this would not really be a problem for the rest of us except for the fact that the Right has chosen a path of political power over religious persuasion. Political power can be wielded quickly. Persuasion takes time and patience. Political power can be wielded nationally while persuasion starts locally and only spreads nationally when locally successful. Persuasion has been largely a failure in expanding their views so the cudgel of the force of law has become the weapon of choice. They are less interested in changing minds and more interested in changing laws. They believe that they are doing “God’s work.” They believe this gives them the right to do anything regardless of the ethical and moral problems associated with it. In short, they have come to believe that the end justifies the means.

They raise huge amounts of money and embark on acquiring the political power that comes with the money. They forge relationships with governors, senators, lobbyists, leaders of industry, and anyone who can advance their agenda. They donate huge sums of money to political campaigns. Little by little they make moral compromises. One piece at a time, they sell their souls to the devil. They become duplicitous and dishonest. To that end they have made a devil’s bargain. Their support of a man like Donald Trump is only the latest manifestation of this bargain.

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

Eric Hoffer

Pastors of mega-churches amass fortunes on the donations of people who can ill afford to donate. We see them hawking “prayer cloths” and “holy anointing oil” supposedly blessed by God with the promise that God will answer their prayers if they buy this stuff. They preach the “prosperity gospel” telling their people that they will become rich and prosperous if they pray hard enough and donate enough money. The leaders of these movements become richer and richer while their spiritual worth becomes poorer and poorer. They preach Christian values to ensnare the followers and behind closed doors they behave as corruptly as the worst of us. From the sexual scandals of Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, and Jerry Falwell Jr. to the financial crimes of Jim Bakker and Ephren Taylor, they are as hypocritical as they can get. They have been seduced and corrupted by fame, money, and power absolutely. They continue to fleece their flocks of trusting followers week after week, year after year, becoming obscenely rich on the donations of the faithful. And for good reason, it’s easy: They just tell their followers what they want to hear.

Week after week, year after year, the faithful hand over their money as if they were in a trance. Their trust in these charlatans is seen as a measure of their faith in God. In a sense, it is their reward for their naïve, childlike trust in these charismatic authority figures and their willingness to be deceived. It’s easy to fleece them blind once you are seen as God’s messenger. And the grift goes on and on. What do you get when you mix a conman preacher with sheep asking to be sheared? You get what you deserve.

It has been reported that child abuse is worse in the Evangelical Church community than in the Catholic Church, and like the Catholic Church, the leaders of the Religious Right would rather bury these cases than own up to them. There is a long history of sexual child abuse by the pastors of Evangelical churches and, so far, no real effort to confront it. Instead, the powers that decide the response choose to hide the abuse and blame the victim for reporting the abuse, thus abusing the victim a second time. This is being exposed by the Guidepost Solutions audit and report of 2022 to the SBC Executive Committee. Finally admitting that this is happening and dealing with this will be a major part of the coming reckoning.

Evangelical treatment of women is just as bad. For the sake of “biblical purity”, they treat women like second-class human beings, worth less than a man. From their views on abortion to their beliefs that women should be totally subservient to their husbands, they see women as being less. Women are treated as less. Women are devalued as less.

A friend of our family, an evangelical, once characterized Democrats as “baby killers.” She was completely oblivious to the fact that many Democrats are Pro-Life Catholics. She didn’t comprehend that you could be Jewish and Pro-Life either. Her view is the prevailing view of evangelicals.

Their intolerance is like the blinders on a horse. Their view is deliberately narrowed; their understanding is simplified into black vs. white; us versus them; good versus evil choices. There is no room for gray areas; no understanding of other points of view; no room for tolerance. 

All of these sins of the Religious Right are coming to the surface in today’s politics and are becoming ever more visible. This has never been more self-evident than in their unconditional support for Donald Trump, a man that stands 180 degrees opposite from everything that they profess to believe in. They are willing to support and defend separating immigrant children from their parents at the border and putting them in cages; a move that experts say will leave these children with lifelong emotional damage. By their support for the program separating the children from their parents, they enable destroying immigrant families, increasing violence against Muslims and other minorities. They support a man who lies with every breath, steals at every opportunity, and has no regard at all for the rule of law or the political norms that have made our democracy so successful. They support a man whose cruelty and lack of empathy harms everyone in his orbit. And they continue to support him in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he does not give a damn about their faith, their country, or anything else but himself. To think that they support Trump in spite of his values would be wrong. They support him because of his values. They support his racism, misogyny, and bigotry because these are also their values. It’s not faith that decides their beliefs, it’s the politics of racism, bigotry, and intolerance — intolerance that is systemic and pervasive. It’s a longstanding bigotry that extends all the way back to our time of slavery. Evangelicals are perpetuating it to this day and they see in Donald Trump a strong man who will allow them to impose the worst in their nature on all of American society by the force of law. This is the bargain they struck with this evil man. This is what they have sold their souls for.

There is another aspect of the Religious Right that needs acknowledging, perhaps the most dangerous aspect. We see violence and militancy in the movement that is both striking and alarming. White Christian Nationalism has become a prominent part of their ideology. Instead of messengers of God, they see themselves as “soldiers of God.” They see the world in a binary “us versus them” war of good versus evil, God versus the devil. As a result, they are prone to justify the use of violence to fight this war. The bombings and arson of abortion clinics are examples. The harassment of abortion clinic workers is an ongoing and persistent occurrence. The murders of abortion doctors such as George Tiller and Barnett Slepian are additional examples. Paul J. Hill, a Pastor, shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton (an abortion provider) in July 1994 in Pensacola, Florida. Before he was executed for the crime Hill stated “I’m willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did,” The Religious Right has adopted an end-justifies-the-means attitude that again, has roots that run long and deep in their history, and runs counter to all that is Biblical. Violence for political gain has become an accepted method of the Religious Right. Many of the rioters that stormed our capitol on January 6th were doing so with a religious motivation to “go to war” for God. After all, Trump is God’s President.

The reckoning is coming. I believe that it has already begun. I see it coming in many forms. The unconditional support for Trump has alienated an entire generation of young evangelicals who not only reject Trumpism but reject the entire racist underpinnings that pervade the evangelical movement. The evangelical movement is losing the young at alarming numbers. The youth have seen the movement for what it is and many have moved beyond the tipping point and are leaving. It’s not just the young. Many of the more progressive corners of the movement have already spoken out against the racism, bigotry, and misogyny in the movement. They have denounced Trumpism for what it is and have put their words to action. Political action groups and progressive publications are all starting to dot the otherwise red landscape. More and more, pastors and other church leaders are speaking out about how their movement has been corrupted by the pursuit of wealth, fame, and political power. They speak of how their movement has been enablers of racism, misogyny, bigotry and Trumpism.

Rod Dreher, writing in the American Conservative a piece called The Coming Christian Reckoning, says:

I expect that a number of congregations will be seized by a spirit of “wokeness” commensurate to how other congregations were seized by a spirit of #MAGA. It’s all a false idol. All of it. The path out of this dark wood leads through pain and suffering. There’s no doubt about it. The church is not the Republican Party (nor the Democratic Party) at prayer — and to the extent that it is, it deserves to die.

His words echo the growing awareness of how the movement has been corrupted by politics. This awareness is growing in strength and numbers, leading to a fragmentation of the Evangelical movement. Many are speaking out. Many more are leaving altogether.

In her blog, The LPM Blog, Beth Moore, a prominent and outspoken Evangelical leader, author, and founder of the Living Proof Ministries publicly said the following:

Some key Christian leaders ’had attitudes’ that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire.” She further goes on to say: “I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason, ungodliness.

In response to the support for Donald Trump, Beth Moore also tweeted in December, 2019, that “Evangelicalism as we knew it, as imperfect as it was because we are imperfect, passed away in 2016. History will plant its grave marker there.”

Beth Moore has paid a heavy price by the Evangelical Southern Baptist establishment.  Not only has she been widely criticized for her views, but she has also been called a heretic.  She has been accused of being “at war with the Bible” and called a “rabid never-Trumper.” She was so marginalized that in March of 2021 she left the Southern Baptist Church and joined the Anglican Church where she remains today.

Russell Moore, a prominent evangelical theologian and (former) member of the Southern Baptist Counsel was forced to resign his position on the SBC for criticizing Donald Trump in 2016. He was also a prominent critic of the way the SBC handled allegations of misogyny and sexual abuse within the church. Thousands of public comments calling him a Democrat and liberal and therefore an enemy of the evangelical world had the impact of shunning him from the church and evangelical community. Today, Russell Moore is a writer for Christianity Today magazine and a full-time theologian.

 Bruce Gerencser was an Evangelical Baptist pastor for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. In 2005 he left the ministry. In 2008 he left Christianity completely. His parting words on his blog in 2008 summed up the reasons for leaving simply and revealingly.

Dear God,

I can’t pretend anymore.

I can’t lie to myself anymore.

I can’t lie to others anymore.

And most of all, I can’t lie to You.

I still believe that You are the Living God.

I still believe Your Word to be Truth.

I still believe I am your Child.

But I can’t stand some of Your Children.

Their hatred wounds.

Their self-righteousness cuts.

Their narrow-mindedness tears.

And I can’t have those kinds of people in my life anymore.

What is a man to do when all that he has ever known is found to be a lie?

What is a man to do when hatred and self-righteousness are passed off as virtues?

What is a man to do when he can’t find God where God should be found?

This man quits.                             

Today Bruce Gerencser writes a “post-Evangelical” blog. He identifies himself as a Humanist and Atheist.    

Beth Moore, Russell Moore, and Bruce Gerencser are not unique. A growing number of former Evangelical leaders have left the movement and sometimes the Church as a whole, never to return.

 A slow shattering of the Evangelical movement is happening before our eyes. Instead of being centers of faith and religious thought, in the words of Peter Wehner writing in The Atlantic,

Evangelicals have become political, tribal and repositories of grievances. Their religious priorities have been replaced by political priorities. Evangelicalism is dying by its own hands and thru its own actions. Trump was not the root cause but was the accelerant that triggered a slow ember of resentment and fear of “the other” to explode into a raging fire. This fire will consume not only evangelicalism but is likely to consume the Baptist world as a whole. It’s too late to put out the fire. There is little that the rest of us can do except wait until the fire has consumed all that it will and pick up the pieces. Until then, try not to get burned.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Evangelical Stalker Daniel Kluver Thinks I’m a Christian and Have Returned to Preaching

danny kluver

In May 2021, an Evangelical man named Daniel Kluver began stalking me on the Internet. I have asked him to stop emailing me or sending me messages on social media, yet he continues to do so. Some of Kluver’s past literary works say things such as this:

Evangelical Man Says I am Infested with Evil Spirits:

You are the one making an ass out of your self! If all you can talk is shit then go talk It to the devil. A devil did speak through in a lie yesterday. You claimed to have demonic power yesterday [evidently Kluver doesn’t understand sarcasm] but the fact is the devil in you was just boasting about himself! You have no power and your garbage that you dump into the world will soon be over according to your testimony about your health [ah yes, another passive-aggressive threat]. Sometimes when people are infested with evil spirits they don’t even know what is wrong with their selves. If that’s the case with you then you still have a chance for the evil spirits to be flushed out and then you won’t have to keep living like the guy in mark chapter five.[the demon-possessed maniac of Gadera] I have learned how to get demons to manifest in people like you and that is evident.

Another Facebook Message From an Evangelical Zealot:

Peter ruckman was disliked by many brainwashed preacher boys but he was my favorite teacher because he was a straight shooter! Just because the Bible says in the latter times some will depart from the faith giving heed to doctrines of demons like the nuns that won’t marry doesn’t mean you have to. You should watch demons and Christians by ruckman.

You speak like you were a brainwashed preacher boy and it makes me wonder if you are really saved.

I have prayed for god to soften your heart and cut you to the marrow if that’s what it takes.with stents and patches all over our bodies we are in the third quarter of life.

I would probably bet that your wife has been a first peter chapter three wife at times.

Gods message to you is don’t let your pride get in the way of eternity! The only way you could ever preach gods word and denounce him later is only by devils that you have let surround yourself. Devils perched on both shoulders whispering lies into your mind to block the Spirit of God all mighty!

there is a literal hell and I have found that out before I was saved. God used it as a tool to get my attention and it worked.

I am going to ask God to pull back his protective hand off of your life if that’s what it takes to get your attention. In case you haven’t realized it yet I asked God to use me and instead of street witnessing like I used to he is using technology. I have to stay prayed up to fight the devil everyday and you saw how he was working on me with the first message I sent you.

If I don’t see you in heaven then I will see you on judgment day! Take care and god bless!

Yet Another Facebook Message From an Evangelical Zealot:

You morphs are just confirmation of the times we are in.

You have shown that you don’t love or fear god and you are useless now!

Your opinions are slanderous and you have become just like satan whom you serve. A stumbling block to some. Just a bunch of hot air to others.

Rough times ahead just right around the corner for those who hate god.

You’re wrong about who dies when you said that we will both die. Believers never die!

I am amazed at your ignorance and you probably were thrown out of the congregation that you say you were pastoring. I doubt that much of what you said is true!

Why don’t you get a job?

Kluver even contacted my wife, Polly, on Facebook:

If we are truly born again we cannot quit the church because we are the church. You can walk away from the lord and be miserable if you are truly born again just as a non believer that thinks they are born again and can’t understand why they are miserable.

I have been where Bruce is or was and Hebrews twelve verses seven and on confirms the truth about someone.

God has answered every one of my prayers over the last twenty five years and you and your family have been my first and foremost prayers!

Praying for others is my spiritual gift and I wasn’t sure what it was until I asked God to confirm it. We all have these gifts if we are born again and I believe one of yours is your heart for children.

take care and god bless you and your family!

Kluver also sent me private messages on Facebook. Eventually, I was able to successfully block and ban him. Somehow, earlier this month, Kluver was able bypass being blocked and banned and contacted me on Facebook. Not remembering my previous interactions with him, when Kluver messages me about the weather and IFB evangelist Dennis Corle, I politely and happily answered him. After two or three messages, a light went off in my addled senior brain, reminding me who this man really is. I quickly banned and blocked him. Not one to take a hint from anyone but the Holy Spirit, Kluver came to this site and used the contact form to send me an email:

Hey Bruce I heard that you are preaching again. That’s awesome because you know what the baptist say: once saved always saved! If that’s true then you are stuck being a Christian. I will tell Dennis corle hello for you and tell me where you are preaching so I can stop by and say hello.

What the fuck, right? Kluver is a sociopath with advanced degrees in gas lighting and passive-aggressive behavior. Kluver has in the past threatened me, so I find him saying “so I can stop by and say hello” troubling. Fortunately, Kluver lives in California, so I am not too concerned that he will try to show up on my doorstep and say “hello.”

I am not sure what to make of his claim “Bruce I heard that you are preaching again.” I assume this is just Kluver making shit up. No one, anywhere, including yours truly, is saying that “Bruce Gerencser is preaching the Christian gospel again.” I remain an unrepentant atheist, an enemy of God and Christianity. Now, if an Evangelical church would like to have me come and preach, I am more than happy to do so. However, I suspect they might not like my sermon. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Dr. David Tee Attacks My Character for the Umpteenth Time, Thinks He’s Just Following the Evangelical God’s Leading

Fake Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, has been on a roll lately. Earlier this year, Tee said he was going to stop writing about me and Ben Berwick. Having written dozens of posts about me over the past three years, Tee concluded that I wasn’t listening to him; that there was no chance that I would see the light, relent, and return to Christianity. Over this time period, I have featured Tee in the “Christians Say the Darnedest Things” a few times. The rest of my posts featuring him were responses to articles he wrote about me; articles littered with lies, distortions, and attacks on my character.

Tee is known for his defense of child molesters, rapists, and sexual predators. By all accounts, Tee is not a good person. I’ve seen nothing in his behavior that suggests that he is a Christian. Tee shows no evidence in his life of the fruit of the Spirit, nor does it seem that he has ever read the Sermon on the Mount.

Recently, someone with a personal, intimate connection to Tee contacted me to share documents that show he has a secret past, that he fled the United States years ago, and he is now living in the Philippines under an assumed name. I have seen these documents firsthand, so any suggestion by Tee that they are third and fourth-hand information is not true. I know Tee is familiar with these documents and the person providing them to me, but has made no effort to defend himself. Instead, Tee claims that he is just like the soon-to-be-crucified Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin.

What follows is an excerpt from a recent post written by Tee titled We Worry About It Too. My response is indented and italicized.

BG [when writing about preachers who commit crimes, sexually assault children, rape teenagers, and take sexual advantage of vulnerable women (and men)] takes the low road and tries to embarrass, harass, and do many other negative things.

It makes him look bad when he puts out his red and black collar articles. As if Christians need his help in spotting bad preachers. But it is not his call (nor MM’s) who gets to minister in any given church.

BG = Bruce Gerencser and MM = Meerkat Musings, AKA Ben Berwick. Tee refuses to address us by our names. I suspect he’s too lazy to do so or it’s his way of showing disrespect. Either way, doing so is unprofessional.

After all, BG quit on God and MM never tried to be a believer. Both of these people and many others like them should learn to mind their own business They just do not have a better alternative to offer anyone. In fact, they have nothing to offer anyone and they have no real spiritual advice to say to anyone.

Tee continues to assert that I am quitter; that I quit on God; that I quit on the ministry. Evidently, no one is allowed to change his or her mind. Tee refuses to accept my story at face value, even though he has allegedly read numerous posts on this site. I have published over four thousand posts since 2017. The reasons I deconverted are clearly shown in post after post, yet Tee deliberately ignored these explanations. Instead, he continues to attack my character and smear my name. Such behavior is contrary to the teachings of the Bible; the book Tee says he loves, believes, and practices. I have pointed out these things to Tee over the years. His response? Self-justification or silence.

We [I] do not embarrass, belittle, judge, attack, or publicly humiliate anyone. We [I] write what we [I] feel God wants us [me] to write and leave the conviction to him. We [I] are [am] not judges, jury & executioners. Nor do we [I] call for anyone to fire these people. Not our [my] place.

Readers of this blog are likely on the floor laughing as they read Tee’s description of his behavior. None of what he writes here is true.

[BG wrote] Can any of us say that Tee is a good person?

It won’t be BG or MM, that is for sure. They do not know us [me], never met, talked, or spent time with us. Their big problem with us [me] is that we [I] will tell the truth and won’t join them in leading children to sin and disobedience to God.

LOL 🙂 No, I haven’t met, talked, or spent time with the fraud David Tee. Nor would I want to — ever. I have, however, been reading his writing for at least three years. His writing, along with information provided to me by people who personally know him, tells me all I need to know about Derrick Thomas Thiessen.

The reason I don’t think Tee is a good person is this: he is an arrogant, nasty, vicious, hateful, self-righteous liar. You are the problem, David, not your beliefs. I interact with Evangelicals all the time who have beliefs similar to Tee’s. Few of them spend an inordinate amount of time attacking me on their blogs. Tee fashions himself as some sort of prophet. On several occasions, Tee has compared himself to Jesus. It’s hard not to conclude that Tee has some sort of God complex. He has no church, and few readers, yet he sees himself as the conscience of Evangelical Christianity. He has spent years on the Internet courting persecution. Tee is known for leaving caustic comments on atheist and Christian blog alike. When he wears out his welcome — and he always does — owners of these sites ban him. Of course, Tee never considers what he might have done. Much like he does on this site, Tee blames others, claiming persecution.

They get 2nd, 3rd, and 4th hand information, think it is the gospel truth, and then form their opinions about us [me]. We understand they do not like our [my] message and that is understandable. We [I] are [am] in two different worlds and unbelievers, as the Bible tells us [me], will laugh and scoff at the truth.

Tee is referring to recent information I received about his nefarious past. This information comes from first-hand and second-hand sources, particularly a sworn deposition in Thiessen’s own words. Tee continues to say, without justification, that the real issue is his beliefs. Nope, on this issue, it’s YOU, Derrick. Certainly, Tee has horrendous beliefs, i.e., his recent posts about forcing a ten-year-old rape victim to carry her baby to term. Even worse, Tee said that even if the child was five-years-old, he would force them to have her baby. I can’t think of a more vile belief than this one. And since you cannot separate a skunk from its smell, I have concluded that Tee is a despicable man; a man who would rather see a rape victim die if it meant he was being true to his Fundamentalist religious beliefs.

Then, the Bible says that no one is good and by no one, it means us as well. So technically, without Christ, we [I] are [am] not good people. We [I] do our [my] best to live the Christian life and we [I] are [am] not perfect. however, unbelievers and even Christians will hold your [my] mistakes over your [my] head forever and refuse to forgive even though the offense did not happen to them.

Much like many Fundamentalist Christians, Tee uses his theology to hide bad behavior toward his family. He fled the United States to hide, hoping he could start over without anyone ever knowing what he did. Well, the chickens have now come home to roost. Tee wants people to forgive him and move on, yet he refuses to own his behavior, both in the past and present. Much like serial sexual predator David Hyles, Tee hides behind the unconditional love of God and the blood atonement of Jesus. Jesus has forgiven him, so should everyone else. Until Thiessen admits that he has been living a lie and makes things right with those he has harmed, I’m not inclined to give him a pass. Confession, David, is good for the soul.

We [I] have written about how tough it is to be a Christian. BG should know that, he could not handle the Christian life and quit on Jesus. He and MM have no moral or other foundation to cast the stones they cast. Nor do any other unbeliever or former Christian.

Tee continues to assert that it is “hard” to be a Fundamentalist Christian. It’s not. After all, you don’t have to think, you just have to do. Instead of owning his behavior, Tee continues to disparage me and Ben Berwick, along with every non-Evangelical (the only true Christianity according to Tee) who reads this blog.

Instead of hanging in there, they all gave up and then blame or blamed other Christians for their decisions. Christians can be as tough or tougher than unbelievers and really make it difficult for some believers to succeed.

The more BG talks about his ministerial experience, the more we [I] understand why he failed and left the faith. He lacked a lot of wisdom and understanding. he didn’t realize that taking a sabbatical was not quitting on God.

It was a biblical thing to do as one needs to wait for the Lord to renew their strength. A sabbatical is just one way to be obedient to those words. We [I] see this time and again when BG talks about his ministerial life. He didn’t follow God during his ministry, he followed his own ideas of what he thought God wanted.

Tee concludes his screed by going all MMA on my ass. I am a quitter, a failure, weak, I lacked wisdom and understanding, and I followed my own ideas instead of God. Refusing to accept my story at face value, Tee has constructed a caricature of me in his mind, a straw man that bears no resemblance to the real Bruce Gerencser. Such is the nature of the Internet.

I don’t plan on having a renewed battle with Tee. That said, when he attacks me by name, I will respond. In time, Tee will return to his lair, lamenting that no one would “listen” to him; that he is being persecuted for his beliefs. All he is really doing is harming the cause of Christ. Based on Thiessen’s behavior, who would ever want to follow in his steps and become a Christian?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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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1980s: My Preacher Friend Dick and the Wolves That Mauled Him

wolf

I do a lot of writing about preachers who have no business being in the ministry. Way too many preachers are lazy, indolent, predatory, authoritarian, and dishonest. If the Black Collar Crime and Red Collar Crime series’ tell us anything, it is that there are a lot of bad apples in the proverbial barrel, men who commit crimes, psychologically abuse church members and their spouses, and take advantage of vulnerable people. Just because someone says he is a pastor/evangelist/missionary/youth leader/ worship leader doesn’t mean he is a good person. Think about all the vile, hateful, disgusting comments you have read on this site from preachers. Not good people, to say the least. Ponder the beliefs of Dr. David Tee (whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen), especially his recent posts about forcing a ten-year-old girl (and a five-year-old child) to have a baby after she had been raped. Can any of us say that Tee is a good person? I daily read scores of blog posts and social media comments written by Evangelical preachers. Many of these men are assholes in every sense of the word, unable to tolerate and respect anyone different from them. Their churches may love them — after all, pastors often attract people just like them — but to the “world” they are people you want to steer clear of.

That said, there are a lot of good pastors (even if I disagree with their beliefs); men who genuinely love people and want to help them. Dick was one such man.

In the 1980s, Dick became the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church in New Lexington, Ohio. The church was a split from a nearby American Baptist congregation, New Lexington Baptist Church (the church is now affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention). The pastor of the American Baptist congregation left with a large group of people and started Cornerstone. Several years later, the church was once again embroiled in controversy. Rumor had it that the pastor had tried to have an inappropriate relationship with his sister-in-law. He resigned and moved on to a church in the south. Numerous members left the church, landing at other local Baptist churches. Two dozen or so of them came to Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio, a congregation I pastored for eleven years. Two years later, all of them either returned to their former church or moved on to other Baptist churches. Most of them had well-paying jobs. Their departure severely crippled our church financially.

Dick was a recent graduate from an Evangelical seminary. Cornerstone was his first pastorate. What the church needed was a firm-handed, straight-shooting seasoned pastor, a man with a lot of experience pastoring churches. Instead, the church hired Dick, a passionate, mild-mannered, affable man. I would later say that Dick was a lamb to the slaughter. It was not long before past (and new) conflicts boiled over, causing Dick untold heartache and pain. We often got together for prayer, fellowship, or lunch, spending hours talking about our churches. I learned a lot from Dick.

Cornerstone, of course, ate Dick alive. He finally had enough and resigned. Sadly, this was the only church Dick would ever pastor. Cornerstone had so misused and abused him, he wanted nothing to do with the ministry.

Dick and I tried to keep in touch, but over time we lost touch. The last letter I received from Dick (1997) was one pleading with me to take a break from the ministry. I was on my third church in three years. Dick feared I was going to crash. He gave me good advice, but I ignored his plea, saying “God has called me to be a preacher!” I pastored my next church for seven years, but I have often wondered if it would have been better for me to take a sabbatical. Instead, I heeded the words of Dr. Tom Malone, the chancellor of the college I attended. NEVER QUIT! GOD DOESN’T USE QUITTERS! Wanting to be used by God, I would not, dare I say, I could not, quit.

Dick’s story is a reminder that some churches don’t deserve to have a pastor. Far too many churches go through one pastor after another, mauling them and destroying their lives. Maybe Dick wasn’t well-suited for the rigors of the ministry. Maybe his seminary professors and mentors didn’t school him in the realities of pastoring people who, despite saying they were Christians, were more like demons from Hell; selfish, judgmental people who saw their churches as their personal fiefdoms. Sadly, such people eat men like Dick alive. Quite frankly, there are a lot of churches where the best thing that could happen to them is that they die. No more sacrifices of good men and their families to their selfish whims and ambitions.

Dick moved to Cincinnati. Thirty-five years later, I still wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he knows if I finally heeded his advice and took a sabbatical, albeit a permanent one from God and the ministry.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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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Bruce, Did You Return All the Money You Took From Churches When You Became an Atheist?

bruce and the money

Recently, a man named Bradley Brown left the above comment on YouTube. Brown wants to know if I returned the money I earned pastoring churches when I became an atheist. Evidently, Brown’s Bible doesn’t include the verse that says a “laborer is worthy of his honor” and that a pastor/elder is worthy of “double honor” (pay).

I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. All told, I averaged less than $10,000 a year as a pastor. Two churches paid me no money, one church paid me $26,000 and provided housing, and the rest of the churches I pastored paid roughly $8,000-10,000 a year. Total that up and I made around $250,000 as a pastor.

Not one church provided health benefits or any other benefits. We relied on Medicaid or paid cash for our medical care. We only went to the doctor if it was an emergency. Our children went years between doctor’s visits.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2
Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720-square-foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

Only one church provided us housing. The rest of the time, we lived in rentals or two mobile homes we purchased. For five years, our family of eight lived in 12’x60′ mobile home — 720 square feet. Most years we drove cars that cost a few hundred dollars. We did buy a new Plymouth Horizon in 1984 for $6,000, putting 102,000 miles on it in two years. We also bought a spartan low-mileage 80s Chevy Cavalier for $2,900. We junked it at 176,000 miles.

plymouth horizon

Every church I pastored had my full attention, as I worked full-time even when I was paid paltry wages. In addition, I worked secular jobs to provide for my family. Every dime I ever made, I earned. So, to answer Bradley Brown, no I am not going to return the money I EARNED pastoring churches.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Ten Things I Regret Not Doing as an Evangelical Christian Parent

life is a one time offer

My wife, Polly, and I will celebrate forty-four years of blissful, happy, serene, uneventful — wait for a minute while I get a hysterically laughing Polly off the floor — marriage. 🙂 Life has blessed us with six children, ages twenty-nine to forty-three — damn they are getting old — and thirteen grandchildren, ages two to twenty-one. And I must not forget our son-in-law and daughters-in-law. Without them there would be no grandchildren, and, though we don’t say it enough, we love and appreciate them. On balance we have lived a good life, blessed in every way.

Yet, as a slowly dying, frail sixty-five-year-old man with fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, osteoarthritis, and chronic, unrelenting pain, I can’t help but reflect on my life. My new counselor has told me that I have a good sense of self-awareness. This, of course, can lead to me thinking too much about the past and my culpability in things that did or didn’t happen in the lives of my wife and children. I’ve been faulted for dwelling too much on the past, but this is who I am. Besides, I wouldn’t have much to write about if I let the past be the past. The important thing for me is that I don’t live in the past. I use the past as a teaching tool, as a way to measure progress in my life; as a reminder of what not to do. Being a committed, devoted Fundamentalist follower of Jesus Christ, a man with a slavish devotion to the literal teachings of the Bible resulted in me making choices and decisions I now regret.

While not everything on the list below is religion-related, many of them are. For the nominal, cultural Christian, their faith doesn’t make much difference in their lives. However, for those of us who were saved, sanctified, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost believers; people who immersed themselves in the Bible, a book they believed was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God; people who governed their thoughts, words, and deeds by the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit; people who devoted themselves to the work of the church and the ministry; people who gave thousands and thousands of dollars to their churches and other ministries; people who witnessed to and evangelized unbelievers; people who separated themselves from the world; people who homeschooled their children or sent them to private Christian schools; people who put God/Jesus/church/ministry above their families, friends, and job — their faith and its attendant beliefs and practices made an incalculable mark on their lives. And now that we are no longer believers or have moved on to less demanding expressions of faith, it’s hard not to look back on our lives without regret. In my case, I spent fifty years of my life in the Christian church, and half of those years pastoring churches full-time. It’s hard not to conclude, then, that I spent much of my life devoted to a lie, sacrificing my wife and children for an imaginary deity.

Ten Things I Regret

  1. I regret not teaching my children to swim. We spent very little time at places where our children could swim and I had no time due to my commitment to Jesus and the church to take them to swimming lessons.
  2. I regret not letting my children play organized sports. There was one hard, fast rule in the Gerencser household: the church always, and I mean ALWAYS, came first. Since practice and game schedules conflicted with the church calendar, there was no discussion to be had: no sports for the Gerencser children. Why play baseball when you can go soulwinning and street preaching with your preacher father, right? While I played baseball and basketball in school, I didn’t afford my children that same opportunity.
  3. I regret not taking my family on vacations. The only “vacations” the Gerencsers took were trips to events or churches where I was preaching.
  4. I regret not taking off time from toiling in God’s vineyard to enjoy nature with my children. We lived in a lot of beautiful, wildlife-filled places, yet I was too busy to take the time to enjoy what was right in front of me. Hell was hot, death was certain, and Jesus was coming soon! Who had time for trees, flowers, hills, rivers, mule deer, and bobcats? Souls needed saving and Jesus was fixing to split the Eastern Sky as he returned to earth to judge the living and dead.
  5. I regret using disciplinary methods with my three older children that I now think are child abuse. While I moved away from such disciplinary practices later in life, there’s no other way to view the whippings and beatings my older sons received as anything other than ritual, Bible-inspired, Jesus-approved child abuse. I would not blame my oldest sons if they hated me and wanted nothing to do with me. That they still come around and we have good relationships is a testimony of love and forgiveness.
  6. I regret using my children as unpaid laborers for the churches I pastored. My children spent countless hours working with their father on church projects. While they learned many skills that they still use today, I can’t help but regret viewing my children as construction workers janitors, and groundskeepers. They were never given a choice. Preacher Dad said ______________. End of discussion.
  7. I regret not letting my kids be kids. Certainly, my sons and daughters did plenty of kid stuff — especially when I wasn’t around — but they lived in a glass house where appearance and perception were everything. God, church members, and the “lost” were always watching, I told my children, so we must always be kind and polite — even to assholes — and on our best behavior.
  8. I regret not exposing my children to a secular worldview. Instead, I built a bubble around them, protecting my children from the big, bad, evil world. While they have recovered nicely from the Fundamentalist indoctrination and conditioning of their youth, I can’t help but think these things harmed them as young adults.
  9. I regret not telling my children I loved them. I blame this directly on growing up in a dysfunctional home where my mom or dad rarely, if ever, expressed love for me. While I am a lot better with this now, I still could do even better. When I first embraced my youngest daughter and told her that I loved her, she had a shocked look on her face that said, “are you dying”? I can’t emphasize this enough: emotional distance between parents and children is often generational. I know it was for me. I look at my grandparents and parents and I clearly see this distance. They passed this on to their children. The only thing I know to do is to recognize this and do better.
  10. I regret being a hypocrite. As a pastor, to church members and the world, I was a pillar of morality and virtue, a man who always had his life under control; a man who rarely expressed anger. Behind closed doors, I could be a different man, far more temperamental, more easily provoked to anger. Oh, the stories that could be told to illustrate this point. I hope to get some of my children (and Polly) to come on my podcast and talk about these things someday.) Today, I want to focus on why I was this way. I was a loving, kind, generous man, especially towards church members and unbelievers. Yet, when it came to my family, I could, at times, be unloving, unkind, and lacking in generosity. Granted, I’ve come to this opinion thanks to hindsight. At the time, I thought I was just being a good Christian husband and father. Why was I this way? My version of Christianity demanded that I deny self, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. In doing so, I lost all sense of self. Thus, when I was behind closed doors, pent-up frustrations would come out, often in anger. If I had had a healthy view of self, I suspect things would have been different. I know that TV (which I deemed sinful) wouldn’t have gone flying out the front door. 🙂

The past is the past. There are no do-overs. At best, we get second chances to right the wrongs of the past or at least model and show that we have learned from the bad things we did previously. I know that’s the case for me. I see my grandchildren as an opportunity to do things differently, and I hope in the latter years of my life to forge better relationships with Polly and my children.

Does this mean that I was a bad man, unfit to pastor churches? I am sure some will come to that conclusion — thus finding yet another reason to dismiss my story out of hand — but I see myself as a broken, flawed man, someone deeply affected and scarred by his upbringing and immersion in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity. It would take me five decades before I realized how much harm IFB (and later Calvinistic) beliefs and practices had caused me, harm I passed on to Polly and our children (and Polly had her own dysfunction to deal with). I see that growing up with a mentally ill mother who tried to kill herself numerous times, constantly living in new houses and attending new schools, being sexually abused as a boy, and being left to fend for myself during the most formative years of my life, extracted a horrific price from me. Sure, I survived, but not without lasting scars. All I know to do is make an uneasy peace with the past and try to do better. I will leave it to those I love to decide if I have successfully done so. If not, I will keep trying. What else can any of us do?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

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Why Are So Many Evangelical Preachers Arrogant and Full of Themselves? — Part Two

humble pastor

Part One

Part Two

Why are so many Evangelical preachers arrogant and full of themselves? While it would be easy to answer this question simply by saying that these so-called “men of God” are narcissistic Assholes for Jesus®, the correct answer is more complex and nuanced. In both yesterday’s and today’s posts, I will use the fifty years I spent in Christianity and the twenty-five years I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan as a backdrop in an attempt to answer this question. While no two life stories are exactly the same, I am confident that I can pick things out of my own story that can also be found in the life stories of many Evangelical preachers.

In the 1960s, my parents moved to San Diego, California hoping to improve their lives financially. Unfortunately, their California dream proved to be an illusion. Two years later, Mom and Dad packed up our earthly belongings and moved back to Ohio. The Robert and Barbara Gerencser who left Ohio for the promised land of California were very different people when they returned to Bryan, Ohio. While in California, my parents and I were saved at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church — Scott Memorial Baptist Church. Overnight, Mom and Dad became devout followers of Jesus. Not long after I asked Jesus into my heart, I told Mom that I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. I was six years old.

At the age of fifteen, during an Al Lacy revival meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, I made another public profession of faith in Christ. I remember feeling a deep sense of conviction over my sin, and once I prayed to Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me, the shame and guilt I felt over my sins was gone. Several weeks later, feeling, yet again, a deep sense of God working in my heart, I went forward during an invitation — a time at the end of church services where people are asked to come forward to the altar to do business with God — and publicly confessed to the church that I believed God was calling me to preach. At that moment, I became the latest member of a special group called “preacher boys.”

Preacher boys, called by God to do the most important job on earth, are viewed by pastors and churches as the future of Christianity. Without a steady supply of preacher boys, churches wouldn’t have pastors, new churches wouldn’t be started, and the lost would go unsaved. Thus, preacher boys are treated in ways that make them feel unique and special. Pastors love to brag about how many preacher boys were called to preach under their ministry. Similar to gunslingers putting notches on their six-shooters’ wooden grips every time they killed someone, pastors see preacher boys as notches on their ministerial guns.

After announcing my call to the ministry, I spent the next four years being handled by pastors who took it on themselves to prepare me for the work of the ministry. In the fall of 1976, at the age of nineteen, I packed my meager belongings into the back of my rust-bucket of a car and moved from my Mom’s trailer three hours northeast to Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac was the home of Midwestern Baptist College — an IFB institution started in the 1950s by Dr. Tom Malone (who pastored a nearby megachurch, Emmanuel Baptist Church). Midwestern was established specifically for training preacher boys for the ministry. Midwestern was an unaccredited school, so students received no financial aid. Most of the preacher boys had to work full-time jobs while attending classes. These future pastors were also required to work in one or more of the ministries at Emmanuel, along with being in attendance for Sunday school, two worship services, and midweek prayer meetings. Students were busy seven days a week, with little time for relaxation. It should come as no surprise, then, that many students washed out after their freshman year. Men who endured until the end were viewed as battle-tested preachers ready to enter the hard work of the ministry. Filled with pride and given the approval of IFB titan Tom Malone, these newly minted men of God fanned out over the world establishing new churches and pumping new life into older, established IFB churches. Forty years later, most of the men from my class are still plucking grapes in God’s vineyard. I am, as far as I know, the only person who attended Midwestern and later pastored churches who is now an atheist. (Please read The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist.)

Evangelical young men who enter the ministry most often spend their entire lives in what I call “the Evangelical Bubble.” Within this bubble, pastors are sheltered from the world; within the bubble, Evangelical theology and practices make perfect sense; within the bubble, pastors are rarely challenged concerning their beliefs; within the bubble, pastors are viewed as God-called authority figures; within the bubble, pastors receive the praise and adulation of congregants; within the bubble, pastors are revered and treated as demigods; within the bubble, pastors answer only to God; within the bubble, pastors have no equal; within the bubble, pastors put into motion their agendas, their God-given visions for their churches; within the bubble pastors’ birthdays and ministerial anniversaries are celebrated; and within the bubble, God allegedly uses pastors in unique ways to supernaturally advance His kingdom.

Pastors who remain in this bubble are surrounded by like-minded people who believe the same things, sing the same songs, and generally live cookie-cutter lives (at least outwardly). Exposure to the outside world is limited, especially for those who are full-time pastors. I have long advocated for churches forcing pastors to be bi-vocational. Doing so exposes pastors to a world far different from that of the Evangelical bubble. Unfortunately, few churches see the value of having part-time pastors. Churches which, out of economic necessity, pay their pastors part-time wages often demand their pastors give them full-time attention.

Safely ensconced within the Evangelical bubble, pastors go about doing the work of the ministry. These sheltered men frequent pastors’ fellowships and conferences — meetings where pastors get together to whine about how evil the world is and how hard it is to be a pastor. These meetings provide pastors yet another opportunity to have their right beliefs and right practices reinforced and approved by fellow clergymen. Such meetings are pep rallies meant to rally and energize the generals of God’s army.

On Sundays, pastors mount the pulpit and preach sermons they believe God has laid upon their “hearts.” Congregants gather to hear the Word of God from the man of God, showing their approval by shouting “amen,” nodding their heads, and raising their hands. After services, pastors stand at the back of their churches, shaking hands and listening to members tell them how wonderful their sermons were. In the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I never had a church member shake my hand and say, Preacher, that sermon sucked or Pastor Bruce, are you sure God told you to preach that sermon?  I preached plenty of bad sermons over the years, but congregants still praised me for giving to them the Word of the Lord. Imagine being in an environment where no matter what you do, everyone tells you what a great job you are doing. Spend enough time being praised and never criticized, and you will begin to think — to speak bluntly — your shit don’t stink.

Taking what I have written above, is it any wonder that many Evangelical pastors become arrogant and full of themselves, especially when their churches grow numerically? Outwardly, these men of God are (sometimes) humble, but inwardly they think, Wow! Look at what God is doing through me — ME! ME! ME! being the operative word. Praised by congregants and peers alike, preachers find it is easy for them to lose touch with reality.

Rare is the man who can withstand a lifetime of praise and adoration without negatively being affected. Over time, pastors start to believe their press clippings, thinking that they have arrived. Sunday after Sunday, congregants file into services to hear THEIR pastor preach. It is not too much of a stretch for me to say that many pastors begin to develop bigger-than-life personalities, thinking that congregants are there to see them perform. Credence is given to this when pastors leave their churches for new ministries. What happens?  Many congregants stop attending services. If Pastor Ain’t He Awesome isn’t preaching, I’m not going, they say. Let pastors take a sabbatical or vacation and what happens? Church attendance declines. Evidently, while the proverbial cat is away, the mice play.

Throw in certain personality and psychological traits pastors tend to have, and it should come as no surprise that many Evangelical pastors are insufferable, arrogant, full-of-themselves assholes — especially in the view of those who live outside of the Evangelical bubble. Does this mean that Evangelical pastors are inherently bad people? Of course not. But years spent in the Evangelical bubble can change pastors, often for the worse. I have no doubt that some pastors will whine, complain, and howl over what I have written here, saying I AM NOT LIKE THIS!  Others, however, will admit that what I have written here hits too close to where they live.

Pastors can become so immersed in the work of the ministry that they lose all sight of reality. The solution, of course, is for pastors to leave the ministry and devote themselves to reconnecting with humanity by wallowing in the pigsty of the world. As long as they remain in the Evangelical bubble, pastors will not see things as they are. Of course, pastors aren’t going to listen to me. The calling of God is irrevocable, they will tell me, God has CALLED me, and I must not disappoint or disobey Him!  And therein lies the problem. Evangelical pastors believe that God is behind their call into the ministry, and that every sermon preached and every decision made is done by the mighty power of the Spirit of God. Until these Gods become men, I fear there is little that can be done to deliver them from the other-world, rarefied air of the Evangelical bubble.

For me, once I finally admitted that I was not what I claimed to be, that the wizard behind the curtain of Bruce Gerencser’s life was not the Evangelical God, but Bruce himself — then, and only then, could I make sense of a lifetime spent in the ministry. Every decision I claimed was made according to God’s leading was, in fact, influenced not by God, but by my parents, pastors, peers, and my own wants, needs, and desires. I now know that I genuinely want to help other people; that I love trying to fix things that are broken; that I love the thrill of building things from scratch. And yes, I now know that I loved receiving the praise and adoration heaped on me by congregants. I loved being the center of attention, the decision-maker, the man with all the answers. Does this mean I was a bad person? I will leave that to others to decide. All I can do is give an honest accounting of my life. In doing so, I hope ex-Evangelicals and those trying to extricate themselves from the Evangelical bubble will gain a bit of understanding about what they have experienced at the hands of God’s men. While I did many good works as a pastor, things that I am proud of, I must also admit that I was not always a good person; that I was, at times, filled with pride and arrogance. Am I better man today than I was as a pastor? Most certainly. I now know what it means to be human. And in reconnecting with my humanity, I have found that I still have much to offer, without, of course, the baggage of Christianity.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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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Dear Frank, Is Bruce Backslidden or Was He Never Saved To Begin With?

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Rick, 1996, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Several years ago, I received a Facebook notification about approving something Rick, a friend of mine, wanted to post to my wall. Rick is a long-time friend, former parishioner, and frequent reader of this blog. What’s interesting about his request is that he meant his message to be a private one sent to a friend of his by the name of Frank. The reason I got the notification is that he inadvertently tagged me. Here’s the message Rick sent to Frank — also a man I have known for many years.message to frank

Don’t be put off by Rick’s poor language skills. Several years ago, Rick had a major stroke. This affected his ability to write sentences. Best I can tell, the stroke has not affected his ability to study and read the Bible, nor has it affected his ability to read religious materials.

I met Rick in the late 1990s. At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Rick, a Calvinist, was looking for a Calvinistic church to attend and someone recommended that he check out Somerset Baptist. Rick joined the church, happy in knowing that he had found a man who was conversant in the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism). For the next five years, I would drive two times a week — thirty miles round trip — to New Lexington to pick Rick up for church.

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Frank and Rick, 1993, Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

One Sunday night, while on our way to the church, Rick was waxing eloquently about double predestination and whether children who die in infancy and developmentally disabled people are automatically a part of the elect — those whom God, from before the foundation of the world, has chosen to save. I told Rick, with a slight irritation in my voice, that Calvinistic Baptist great Charles Spurgeon believed such people were numbered among the elect. Rick, not the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to social cues, continued to defend God having the absolute right to eternally torture anyone, including infants and developmentally disabled people, in the Lake of Fire. I could feel anger welling. I thought to myself, has Rick forgotten that I have a developmentally disabled two-year-old daughter with Down syndrome? Doesn’t he care how hurtful his words are? I slammed on the brakes and told Rick to get out of the car. He could walk to church, I told him. I quickly cooled down, telling him, I didn’t want to hear another word from him about whether infants and developmentally disabled people are elect. Rick complied, moving on to other hot button Calvinistic issues.

Let me share another Rick memory, one that I think readers will find funny. Rick worked third shift at a residential home for the developmentally disabled — Mount Aloysius. Unsurprisingly, Rick was quite tired by the time he arrived for Sunday morning church. Try as he might to stay awake, Rick would often fall asleep. Rick snored, so the entire congregation knew when Rick was sleeping. Sunday after Sunday I watched Rick fight sleep, his head bobbing back and forth during my hour-long sermons. One Sunday, Rick bobbed his head back and then forward just as he did Sunday after Sunday. This time, however, Rick’s head traveled forward farther than he intended, smacking the pew in front of him. I stopped preaching and went to Rick to make sure he was okay. Fortunately, the only thing harmed was his pride. After the service, I told Rick that perhaps he should skip the Sunday morning service when he worked the night before. That way he could be rested and mentally fresh for the Sunday evening service. By the way, this was the only time in twenty-five years of pastoring churches that I told someone, please don’t come to church.

I haven’t been Rick’s pastor for over twenty-seven years, and the last time I saw him was in 1996 when he and Frank drove to West Unity, Ohio to attend services at a new church I had planted. Since then, I have traded a few emails with Rick, but nothing of substance.

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Rick, Bruce, Greg, and boy, 1993 , Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

Rick’s message is a reminder to me that people still talk about my deconversion. People who knew me well — as Rick and Frank once did — are still trying to square the pastor they once knew with the atheist named Bruce Gerencser. In Rick’s case, he wonders if am just backslidden, or is it possible that I never was saved. I am sure Rick prefers the backslidden explanation. I am sure trying to wrap his mind around the possibility of me never being saved is too much for him to emotionally and intellectually handle. If I was never saved, this means that Rick was taught for five years by an unsaved pastor, a man he heard expositionally preach hundreds of times; preaching that he believed was empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am sure he remembers the countless hours we spent after church talking theology. I am sure he remembers my love, kindness, and compassion, and my willingness to, week after week, drive to New Lexington and pick him up so he could attend church. I am sure he asks himself, how is it possible that the Bruce I knew was never a true Christian.

The easy out for Rick is for him to embrace Arminianism with its belief that saved people can and do fall from grace. Doing so would mean that I once was saved, but now I am not. Of course, Rick’s Calvinism keeps him from believing I have lost my salvation, so he is forced to psychologically torture himself with thoughts about whether I am backslidden or was never a Christian to start with.

I wish Rick nothing but the best. I hope he will, in time, come to terms with my current godless state. I chose to be exactly where I am today. Or did I? Perhaps all of this has been decreed by God, and the person ultimately responsible for my lost condition is the divine puppet master, John Calvin’s God.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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