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Bruce, Were You Transphobic as an Evangelical Pastor?

transgender sin

Transphobic: having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

The short answer to this question is yes. I am sixty-four years old. My upbringing, political identification, and my Fundamentalist religious beliefs all led to me adopting transphobic, homophobic, and racist ideas. To some degree, I was a product of my time. But I refuse to dismiss my past beliefs with a wave of the hand, saying, hey, it was the 60s and 70s. I can point to my parents and how they raised me, religious indoctrination, and social conditioning as mitigating factors, but I still must own the fact that I was not a good person when it came to what I believed about LGBTQ people. What I am today bears little resemblance to what I was as an Evangelical pastor. If there is anything redemptive in my story it is this: true moral and ethical change is possible. Yes, change is hard, and all of us are resistant to making fundamental changes in our beliefs and practices. But just because change is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible.

I spent much of my life as someone who was:

  • Born again Fundamentalist Christian
  • Bible Literalist
  • Patriarchal
  • Republican
  • Christian Nationalist
  • Pro-Life
  • Homophobic
  • Transphobic
  • Racist
  • Pro-War
  • Detroit Tigers fan
  • Green Bay Packers fan

Today, I am:

  • An Agnostic Atheist
  • Egalitarian
  • Democratic Socialist
  • Pacifist
  • Pro-Choice
  • Pro-LGBTQ
  • Cincinnati Reds fan
  • Cincinnati Bengals fan

Family, friends, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members who knew me in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are often shocked by what I have become. How is it possible that Pastor Bruce Gerencser, a defender of True Christianity®, Bible Truth, Christian Nationalism, and the Culture War, is now a Bible-denying Atheist, an Anti-War, Liberal, Commie, Socialist? How can these things be?

My beliefs began to change in the 1990s, first when I stood against the first Iraq War, and later when I publicly rebuked notable Evangelical culture warriors (those who followed in the steps of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority) for abandoning the gospel for the sake of raw political power. In 2000, I left the Republican Party, voting for my first Democratic candidate for president. It would be eight more years before I left Christianity and embraced atheism.

Clearing my mind of transphobia was a long, slow process. Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled Meeting My First Gay Person. Here’s an excerpt from this post:

As a card-carrying-member of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I often preached sermons condemning homosexuality. According to my infallible interpretation, the Bible condemned homosexual sex. Being the faithful Bible preacher that I was, I thought it important to preach against man-with-man, woman-with-woman sex. Never mind the fact that I did not personally know anyone who was gay. Well, I had my suspicions about several people — Polly’s late uncle comes to mind — but as far as actually knowing someone who was gay? Not one. I would learn years later that several of the students in our Christian school were gay or bisexual. Consider this statistic. I was a raging homophobe who railed against homosexuality and sexual “sin” in general. Yet, one-third of the students in our school were either gay or bisexual. Add to that the students who likely engaged in premarital sex, and I think I can safely say my preaching did little to change hearts and minds on sexual identity and activity.

In March of 1994, I left a church I had pastored for almost twelve years and moved to San Antonio, Texas to co-pastor Community Baptist Church. This move proved to be a disaster, and in the fall that same year, we packed up our belongings and moved to Frazeysburg, Ohio. With the help of Polly’s parents, we bought a newish manufactured home — a $25,000 upgrade from our previous mobile home.

We lived in Frazeysburg for six months. Needing immediate employment, I turned to restaurant management. I was hired by Charley’s Steakery (now called Charleys Philly Steaks) to be the general manager of their franchise at the Colony Square Mall in Zanesville. I continued to work for this restaurant until March 1995, when I assumed the pastorate of Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette.

The restaurant I managed had a drink refill policy for mall employees. If employees stopped at the restaurant with their cups, we refilled them free of charge. Some employees would stop every day they worked to get their large plastic cups refilled. One such employee was a man who worked at a nearby store.

This man was in his twenties. The first time I personally refilled his cup for him, my infallible, never-wrong (I am joking) gaydar went off. I thought, “OMG, this guy is gay. What if he has AIDS?” Quite frankly, I am surprised he didn’t see the disgust on my face. Maybe he did, but ignored it. I dutifully put ice in his cup, filled it with pop, and handed it back to him. After he walked away from the service counter, I would quickly run to the kitchen and thoroughly wash my hands, fearing that I might catch AIDS.

Over time, this man and I struck up casual conversations. He was quite friendly, and truth be told, I liked talking to him. As I got to know him better, I found that I no longer was disgusted or worried about getting AIDS. I even stopped washing my hands after serving him. What changed?

My theology didn’t change. And neither did my irrational fear of gay people. Coming to where I am today, a supporter of LGBTQ rights with numerous gay and transgender friends, took years. What needed washing was my proverbial heart, not my hands.

I spent much of my life in a political, theological, and social bubble. Sure, I was a kind, thoughtful, loving man, but make no mistake about it, if asked what I believed about LGBTQ (for a time I refused to use the word gay) people, I would turn into a smiling, hateful bigot.

It was not until I began leaving the Evangelical bubble that I was able to see a world outside of my own. The Internet opened up a whole new universe to me, forcing me to confront and deal with my deep-seated prejudices. And then came this blog (in all its iterations), a wide-open door to a wild, wooly world. I now have LGBTQ friends, but more importantly, meeting people different from me has forced me to come to terms with how I viewed them. Again, actually meeting, knowing, and befriending transgender people changed how I viewed them. I can’t emphasize this enough. Exposure to people different from us is the first step in rooting out hatred and bigotry from our lives.

I am not one who says that I am free of all past prejudices. I am not. A lifetime of indoctrination and conditioning is not easily overcome. All I know to do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Dying for Your Beliefs

guest post

A Guest Post by ObstacleChick

I have started and discarded this post several times as it’s painful to write. The world has changed dramatically in the past few years, with some of those changes being long overdue while others are incredibly backward and damaging.  It has been difficult for me to process and accept that things in our country were not as I had believed them to be. The ascension of the Trump administration and the covid-19 pandemic have exposed the ugliness that had previously been covered with a sheer veneer of respectability. It’s an exposure of my privilege that I have been blind to so much that is reprehensible in our country. I feel that the United States is like the Pharisees whom Jesus admonished, calling them “whited sepulchres”:  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27 KJV) The ascension of the Trump administration allowed the people who are racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, authoritarian, bigoted, and patriarchal, to openly emerge into the light of day, loudly proclaiming their putrid rhetoric. Dog whistles have been replaced by blaring trumpets.

Sometimes it feels like our country is falling apart. I used to take for granted that women had the right to our bodily autonomy – was that not hashed out by our Supreme Court in 1973? I took for granted that black people had equal rights – was that not codified by amendments to our Constitution, and further reinforced by the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s? I took for granted that finally LGBTQ people could marry whom they loved – was that not declared by our Supreme Court in the 2010s? I took for granted that we were a nation of people who work hard, who are for the most part educated, who are becoming increasingly diverse, and who are part of a world-leading nation.

But I have come to see something quite different. I see large swaths of people who embrace anti-intellectualism, who believe conspiracy theories, who think the QAnon conspiracy theories are real, and that a Satan-worshiping cabal of Democrats, Hollywood elites, and name-your-favorite Bogeyman are baby-killing, blood-drinking pedophiles who are trying to take over the U.S. Government, and our Great White Hope is . . . Donald J. Trump, a former reality-TV “star” who runs his businesses like a mafia boss, steamrolling over anyone who gets in the way of his profit. I see white supremacists coming out of the woodwork, fighting to keep their Confederate statues that were erected during an era in which white people were afraid that black people might be able to exercise freedoms. I see people protesting over wearing a mask in order to prevent the spread of a disease that is much more fatal than the common seasonal flu. I see that people are actively working against their own self-interest to promote their distorted version of freedom: a freedom that allows them to carry hand-held killing machines in public without much restriction, that allows them to force their religious symbols and statements onto others, that allows them to prevent people from having access to basic healthcare, housing, child care, and other needs. (If you have an opportunity to read Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl, I urge you to do so.) A political party has convinced nearly half of our country — many of whom profess to follow Jesus who urged that the greatest commandment is to love one’s neighbor as oneself — that leaving everyone to their own devices is the good and right thing to do.

How do we reach these people? I honestly do not know. They live in a different ecosystem from the one I do. They consume different sources of media from those I do. They wholeheartedly embrace untruths, believing them to be “true,” and they go around spreading their lies and their covid-19 infections to the innocent. The term “compassion fatigue” aptly describes how I feel right now. Part of me wants to leave them to their own devices — if they don’t want to protect themselves from covid-19, let them die. Yet, real people are being hurt.

One of the real people who was hurt was a colleague and friend of mine, a 38-year-old woman whose father is a retired police officer and an ardent Trump supporter. When the pandemic started, she was terrified that she would contract covid-19, and due to her chronic asthma and history of issues with bronchitis, pneumonia, and other pulmonary issues, she was very careful about where she went, wearing a mask, and washing her hands. Then things changed. Then Fox “News” and the Trump Administration promoted the notion that covid-19 wasn’t so bad and that people weren’t really dying from covid-19. Even after rolling out covid-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration foolishly did not capitalize on a marketing campaign that could have convinced thousands and thousands of their supporters to get vaccinated. Instead, they left it up to people to do whatever they felt like doing. And guess what? More lies abounded regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines. 

My friend believed stories that people were dying from the vaccine, that it was more dangerous than covid-19. She started going out in public more often, leaving her mask at home. She bragged at work that she only wore her mask at work because we mandated it, but that everywhere else she would not wear it. She and her husband started going to restaurants and clubs and hanging out with friends, many of whom were also resistant to getting the vaccine. Then one day, she came into work saying that her husband was sick and was getting tested for covid-19 — just in case. That afternoon, he texted her that his test was positive. We sent her home immediately with instructions not to return until both she and her husband were in the clear. She got a rapid test that came back negative. Several of our employees who had already experienced covid previously encouraged her to get tested again as it may take a few days for the viral load to build up enough to test positive. Sure enough, she tested positive a couple of days later.

While her husband started recovering, my friend got sicker and sicker. She joined in a few work calls, and she was coughing so much that we suggested that she focus on resting. It wasn’t long before she let us know that she was hospitalized. Unbeknownst to her, when her husband checked her into the hospital, the staff told him that they waited too late and there was little they could do. We kept texting and calling her, and she kept telling us that she was getting treatment but that it would be a long road. The night before she died, I was texting with her, and she just kept saying that she still didn’t feel well, but she never let on how bad it was. She passed away the following day, with her husband and parents by her side. I will leave out the awful details that her husband and parents told us; let’s just say that dying of covid-19 is not a good way to go.

I want someone to blame: the GOP, Trump, the science-deniers, people’s stubbornness, Fox “News” and other far-right outlets, American individualism, my friend’s parents & friends, my friend herself . . . Does it matter? It matters to my friend’s family (most of whom apparently went out and got vaccinated after her death), to her friends, to our company (her department is understaffed by 25% with her passing), to all she touched in her 38 years. Actions have consequences, and unfortunately, I do not see any magic deities coming in to save the day. If your doctor says that you are eligible, PLEASE get vaccinated.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Why Pastors are Apostatizing in Droves

fear the gay agenda

There are two frontal attacks on the churches today, making many pastors apostatize in droves. The first one is the LGBTQ movement. The culture is forcing the churches to embrace the homosexual agenda as being right in God’s eyes. They claim that God made them gay. That is pure blasphemy.

The second attack by the devil is Critical Race Theory. The CRT is rooted in the thoughts of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. It comes from a Marxism mentality to destroy the Judeo-Christian values. The culture is forcing white people to bow down to black people and confess that they are racist. That is demonic and ungodly to suggest that just because God made a person white, they automatically are racist. All nationalities have their bad apples, but that doesn’t make the rest rotten. I went to a black school where the blacks were racist toward Spanish and white people and hated them because they were not black. Would I now say that all black people are evil and need to repent for being racist at my school? Of course not. In Matthew 24:7, Jesus said in the end times, different races will fight against each other.

— Spaniard VIII, Spiritual Minefield: Exposing the spiritual landmines of the devil through the Word of God, Critical Race Theory, August 2, 2021

If Spaniard VIII is interested, I will gladly educate him about the real reasons for an increasing number of pastors leaving Christianity. Come to the light, my friend, come to the light. 🙂

Questions: Bruce, What Do You Think of the Reinterpretation of Bible Verses on Homosexuality?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

(I use the word homosexual for the sake of answering this question, knowing Evangelicals will be reading my answer. I know it is a derogatory term, as is sodomy/sodomite, used by Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims to denigrate LGBTQ people. I rarely use it in my writing.)

Sage asked:

I personally have escaped christianity and do not consider the Christian Bible to have any useful value. But lately I have heard LGBTQ people, who still attend church, saying that the biblical prohibition on homosexuality is a misinterpretation introduced in the 20th century, and prior it was prohibiting pedophilia. What are your thoughts?

Let’s start with Leviticus 18 (in context):

Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.

….

 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

And Leviticus 20 (in context):

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Romans 1:26-27 says:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

The above quotes are from the King James Version of the Bible. It is clear from these verses that the Bible condemns homosexual sex. The Bible does NOT say that being LGBTQ is a sin. It is who a person is fucking (and perhaps how) that determines whether a sex act is sinful. Just because someone is LGBTQ, or heterosexual, for that matter, doesn’t make them a sinner. Certain sex acts do. This same interpretation is borne out in modern translations too.

Our society is far more accepting of LGBTQ people than it ever has been. Progress, right? Even among Evangelicals, we are seeing increasing acceptance of gay people. The Bible hasn’t changed; people have. Thus, to make the Bible fit what people now believe, the aforementioned verses are reinterpreted. Instead of the Bible condemning homosexual sex, revisionists say it condemns incest, sex with children, or sex with prostitutes. However, if these verses are read in context, it is clear that the Bible condemns homosexual sex (and in other places, it also condemns incest, sex with children — sometimes — sex with prostitutes, fornication, and adultery). These reinterpretations are just ways for Christians, Jews, and Muslims to have LGBTQ friends or engage in homosexual sex without feeling guilty about it. Instead of just saying the Bible (God) is wrong or outdated, Christians, Jews, and Muslims make the Bible fit their feelings and beliefs.

The Bible can be used to justify almost anything. Just reinterpret the Hebrew, Greek, or English, and viola! homosexual sex is no longer sinful. This is a sign that the Bible is losing its control over our culture. And all the atheists said, AMEN! What was sin fifty years ago is no longer sin today. Some Evangelicals no longer believe fornication is a sin — hard telling what sins will be reinterpreted or vanquished by Christians in the years to come.

For further information about how the Bible prohibitions on homosexual sex have been reinterpreted, please read the Wiki titled, The Bible and Homosexuality. You might want to take some Tylenol and Aspirin before you do.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser