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Tag: Marriage

Questions: Can a Mixed Marriage Between an Evangelical and Atheist Succeed?

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.

Michael asked:

Based on your deep learning and long experience, what do you see as the primary obstacle(s) in a marriage involving an evangelical (who came to the faith well after marrying) and an atheist/agnostic? And, given the scriptural warnings against such a union, how would you evaluate the chances for such a union to succeed? Thank you.

How often have you heard the statement “opposites attract”? Polly and I are very different from one another. She was a wallflower when we met, while I was, on the other hand, outgoing and talkative. Forty-three years later, Polly is still quiet and reserved, while I am, well, not that. 🙂 Over the years, an interesting thing has happened. Polly and I each developed hobbies and likes different from those of the other. But, we also developed hobbies and likes we share.

Both of us were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christians when we married. Twenty-nine years later, we walked hand-in-hand out of the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Today, I am an out-and-proud (and vocal) atheist. Polly is an agnostic who rarely talks about her unbelief. I can say this: her dislike of organized religion is much stronger than mine. I know, I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. I may be the outspoken atheist, but if I ever said to Polly, “let’s go to church today,” she would blister the paint off walls with curse words her IFB mother has never heard her say. 🙂

Our marriage has survived all these years because I am awesome. Or maybe I am delusional. 🙂 That was a joke, by the way. We share many common goals and ideals. We enjoy one another’s company. Our politics and religious views are similar. But, ultimately, it is the things we hold in common that are the glue that keeps our marriage together.

It is commonality, not differences, that typically attract one person to the other. This is why I recommend that people marry men or women who hold similar values, morals, and beliefs. Sure, all of us know couples with disparate values, morals, and beliefs who have been married for years. Such couples find a way to make things work. However, we also know numerous couples who divorced over dissimilar values, morals, and beliefs. No couple wants to spend their days arguing about politics, religion, or any of the other things that people argue about. And no couple wants to compartmentalize their lives, unable to talk with their spouse about certain things. (I deliberately paint with a broad brush. I know there are exceptions to the rule.)

I would never, ever recommend that an atheist marry an Evangelical Christian. The risk of conflict is too great. I am not suggesting that an atheist should never marry someone religious. It depends on the religion, how devout the person is, and the likelihood the person will become more religious over time. I know atheists who are married to mainline Christians. Their marriages seem to be successful and happy. Typically, the mainline Christian spouse is a universalist, so there are no worries about threats of Hell or evangelization. I have had two atheist friends die over the past two years. Both of my friends were outspoken atheists. What did their Evangelical families do after they died (one person was married, the other was not)? They ignored their final wishes and had funeral services for both of them. I have no doubt my friends were screaming and rolling over in their graves.

What about marriages where one spouse becomes an atheist or an Evangelical years later? Can such marriages “survive”? The short answer is yes. I know that some of the readers of this blog are in “mixed” marriages. They entered marriage equally yoked together as followers of Jesus. Then, years later, one of them lost their faith and deconverted. Some of the people I am talking about are “secret” atheists. Many of them even attend church on Sundays with their spouses and children.

That said, I have corresponded with numerous atheists who were/are married to Evangelical Christians. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to receive another email from them months or years later that says they have either separated or divorced. They either found they couldn’t make their mixed marriages work or decided that they didn’t want to spend any more time in a relationship where their significant other didn’t share their interests, values, and beliefs.

I have written several posts on this subject:

Let me conclude this post by addressing the “Scriptural warning against believers marrying unbelievers.” While I don’t care one wit about what the Bible says on anything, I do recognize that the Good Book occasionally offers sage advice. In the case of mixed marriages, the advice given in the Bible is generally sound.

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 and Polly Sitting in A Tree

polly bruce gerencser cranbrook gardens bloomfield hills michigan 1978
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Cranbrook Gardens, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1978, two months before wedding.

Polly and I are celebrating our forty-third wedding anniversary today. Tomorrow, we plan to travel to Findlay, Ohio, and celebrate our anniversary at The Gathering, an upscale restaurant. Afterward, we will take a stroll along the Blanchard River at Riverside Park. Weather permitting, I hope to take a picture of both of us. It’s been two or three years since I have done so.

Last night, as I typically do on Wednesdays, I watched Matt Dillahunty’s show The Hang Up. At the end of the show, Matt takes what is called Super Chats from viewers. Any donation over $10 is read live on air. What follows is my $19.99 Super Chat. (Clip starts at 2:16:25 if the embed doesn’t work properly for you.)

Video Link

Thanks, Matt! And most of all, thank you, Polly, for forty-three mostly wonderful years. I love you!

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: Lori Alexander Tells Women How to Become Attractive to Their Husbands

lori and ken alexander

I am increasingly convinced that Christian Fundamentalist Lori Alexander’s blog is actually operated by her patriarchal husband, Ken. “Lori” says stuff that no rational, thinking, self-aware woman would say. This fact makes me wonder if Ken is the person behind the scenes making the puppet’s mouth move. It is possible, of course, that Lori is so deeply indoctrinated in Christian patriarchal thinking that she has lost all sense of self; that all that matters to her is pleasing Ken (and Jesus).

While people are free to live any way they want, Lori attempts through her blog to convince women that her way of life is the way all female True Believers® should live. Want to be a Jesus-loving, husband-pleasing wife? Lori asks, practice what I preach!

Today, Lori wrote a post titled, Becoming Attractive to Your Husband. Consisting of thirty points, Lori’s sermon could easily have been titled “You Don’t Matter.” Here’s an excerpt from Lori’s post. Notice that the goal is to make yourself attractive to your husband so he will want you and pay attention to you:

A few tips on building attraction with your husband:

1. Pay attention to what makes him moody.

2. Don’t get upset when he shuts you down.

3. Publicly embarrass him with compliments.

4. Look up and smile at him when he enters the room.

5. Make his life more restful by not arguing with him and needing to have the last word.

6. Love God more than you love him.

7. Learn to disagree without being mean and having to be right.

8. Learn to be kind, gentle, and feminine.

9. Explore with him how to increase his sexual pleasure and yours.

10. Make sure your bedroom is not cluttered but an inviting place of rest and privacy.

11. Live wisely and contentedly within his income.

12. Keep your body in the best shape that you can.

13. Listen to him when he speaks and pay attention to his desires.

14. Don’t dress or look like a bum even around the house.

15. Give him a back and neck rub.

16. Hug him and kiss him like you’re his dream, and he’s your man.

17. Go on dates together if at all possible.

18.Learn self-discipline and have a servant’s heart.

19. Be submissive to his leadership.

20. Quit soap operas, junky TV shows, and literature porn.

21. Learn to be a good homemaker in all areas.

22. Be loyal to him always, especially with your words around your parents and girlfriends.

23. Take responsibility for your attitudes and behaviors.

24. Be caring and compassionate.

25. Say “thank you” often for all he does for you.

26. Make him believe he’s the best man for you, ever.

27. Turn off your phone, Facebook, and Instagram when he is around.

28. Wear your hair and clothes the way he likes.

29. Become the woman he WANTS to have sex with instead of the woman he HAS to have sex with.

30. Make it easy for your husband to obey this verse: Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. Proverbs 5:18,19

Lori, by the way, closed this post to comments. I wonder why?

Did you notice the points about physical attraction and sex? Sure sounds like a Fundamentalist man talking. 🙂

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.

Short Stories: Remember When Long Distance Telephone Service was Deregulated?

rotary phone

My wife and I began life quite simply when we married in July of 1978. Our monthly budget included expenses such as:

  • Rent
  • Electric
  • Natural gas
  • Water/sewer
  • Telephone
  • Sears
  • JC Penny

Over time, we added indebtedness to finance companies such as Modern Finance, Beneficial Finance, and several other loan companies. Polly and I had zero understanding about the real world of debt. Neither of us grew up in families that were smart about money. My parents (my father) ran up debt and skipped town, whereas Polly’s parents spent every penny they earned and put the rest on credit cards. Neither was a great example for a young married couple. This resulted in us making poor financial decisions. It took us a few years to figure out that if you don’t pay your gas/electric/phone bill you won’t have gas/electric/phone. I wouldn’t, even today, say that we handle money and debt very well. Things are certainly better, but medical bills are slowly choking the life out of our checkbook. That said, we have cellphones now, and it has been forty years since we found a tag on our door saying that our gas/electric/phone had been shut off. Progress, eh? 

When we married, our primary form of communication was the telephone. There was one phone company, and phone choices were limited: black, white, pink and rotary or push button dial. That’s it. Per-minute charges for long distance could be as high as 25 cents. In the 1980s, thanks to deregulation, scores of companies entered the long-distance telephone market. These companies offered all sorts of incentives for customers to sign up with them. For a couple of years, we received weekly enticements to change long distance companies. 

Many of these enticements were cash incentives in the form of checks. Signing and depositing the checks gave the long-distance companies permission to change your service provider. I suspect, all told, we changed long distance providers a dozen times during the days of wild, wild west long-distance shoot outs. At the time, I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. We were quite poor, so the check inducements became a source of extra income. I never had a twinge of guilt about changing companies, I thought, at the time, if you are going to give me free money, I am going to take it. The biggest incentive we ever received came from Sprint: $200 to switch to them. I could hardly believe that they were offering us so much money to change providers. I quickly endorsed and deposited the check, worried that Sprint might find out that we had been their customer several times before. Ah, those were the good old days. 

After several years of battling for customers, long distance providers realized that giving people large amounts of money to change providers was not financially sustainable. In the 1990s, companies would use similar incentives to attract new internet service customers. I am sure many readers can remember when our mail boxes were filled with offers from AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, and a slew of dial-up internet service providers. These days, it’s cell phone companies, along with cable and satellite TV providers, who use cash incentives to attract new customers or steal customers away from their competitors. 

Do you remember the days of long-distance deregulation? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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-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.

Short Stories: Forty-Two Years of Used Furniture 

new couch

In 2016, Polly and I bought a brand-new loveseat and couch. This was a monumental decision for us. Before this purchase, we had never owned a brand-new couch. Never! Over the years, we bought second-hand furniture or used family castoffs. Our thinking went something like this: there is no need to buy nice furniture as long as you have children. As any parent knows, children are hard on furniture. From spills to flops, children can turn nice furniture into something from a CSI crime scene in a few years. And then came grandchildren, and we repeated the abuse all over again. Our last loveseat and couch came from a nearby secondhand store. I believe we paid $399 for the pair. Weathering the abuse of our now-grown children and grandchildren, this furniture had reached what they call in the tech industry its “end of life.” But even then, after eight years of service, we couldn’t bear to haul the furniture off to the landfill. Instead, several of our sons hauled it out to the curb. We placed FREE signs on the furniture, hoping that someone might haul them away. Less than an hour later, a noisy beat-up pickup truck pulled up to the curb, and its passengers exited the truck, excited over their new find. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. They quickly loaded the furniture on the truck and drove away. Mission accomplished! (Two weeks ago, we did this with an old grill. Everything we put by the road ends up swiftly disappearing.)

Polly and I love having new furniture. It’s nice, even at this late date in life, to have something new. Of course, we turned into furniture Nazis for a time, not allowing the cat or dog on the furniture, nor allowing the grandkids to get anywhere near the furniture with food or drinks. We thought if we can get our adult children sippy cups for their beer and coffee, all will be well. Looking at you, Nathan. Four years later, the new furniture has settled into the rhythm of our home. The dog and cat — both fourteen years old now — and our grandkids know it’s okay to sit on Nana’s precious (said with Gollum’s voice).

After Ashley Furniture delivered the loveseat and couch, we decided that we also needed a new end table. We did not buy a new table, choosing instead to go to the used furniture store to find a table that would match the new furniture. The end table set us back $69. Last year, we gave that table to our youngest daughter, and bought four new tables and matching lamps. My oh my, aren’t the Gerencsers up-town now! After that, we decided that we wanted to replace our massive oak entertainment center — which we gave to son number three — with something a little more understated, giving us more space in our small, 12’x20′ living room. For this purchase, we bought ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture from the Sauder Woodworking Outlet Store in Archbold, Ohio. Polly chose a unit with colors that matched the loveseat, couch, and carpet. That she “chose” shows how far removed we are from our former patriarchal life. Thanks to a 35% employee discount, our new credenza cost $220. My oldest son and grandson put the unit together, a much more peaceful event than had Polly and I assembled the credenza. Our older children likely remember the time their mother and I decided to hang wallpaper — together. Needless to say, things didn’t go well, with both of us realizing that we loved each other deeply, but hanging wallpaper together was a sure way to end up in divorce court. After forty-two years of marriage, I am glad that we are now able to somewhat work together on household projects. Who knows, we just might stay married.

Parts of this story were written in 2016. The new couch and love seat? They are now well-worn, and our decision to buy furniture with springs in the cushions has proved to be a bad idea. And now that I spend a lot more time on the couch due to my declining health, the cushions are disfigured (and hard to straighten in their coverings) and increasingly uncomfortable. The credenza? DON’T ask! Polly and two of my sons are managers for Sauder’s. Awesome company to work for. All of my children except for Bethany have worked for Sauder’s over the years. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the Sauder family. That said, this particular unit has been problematic from the start, including manufacturing defects. Over the weekend, I installed an XBOX 360 our youngest son gave to us so we could play Tetris and a few arcade games. What should have been a simple project took ninety minutes, lots of swearing, and more than a few Bruce fits. Not a pretty sight. Our youngest son volunteered to do the installation, but I said no. “I can do it, ” I told myself. Yeah, I still have a hard time accepting that I am really sick, disabled, and can’t do what I used to do even a few years ago. Those days are over, but damn if I am willing to accept this fact. Pride is a terrible taskmaster. Another reminder of my failing health came when I repeatedly tried to beat Polly playing Tetris. Years ago, I won every head-to-head match. I beat her into submission, so to speak, every time we played. Now, thanks to osteoarthritis in my hands and declining motor skills, I was the one on the losing end. I did, however, beat Bethany. Woo-hoo, right?

How about you? Do you have any furniture stories to tell? Do you work well with your spouse or significant other? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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