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Tag: Midwestern Baptist College

Can Atheists Celebrate Christmas? 

bruce and polly gerencser christmas 2015
Santa and his favorite elf.

Growing up in an Evangelical home, I knew that Christmas was all about the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Gifts were sparse, often just two or three packages, but never far from view was the most wondrous gift of all: salvation through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The churches I attended spent significant time each holiday season reminding congregants that Jesus was the reason for the season. Sermons against Santa Claus, consumerism, and idolatry were common, as were pleas for money to help the poor and marginalized.

Polly and I started dating in September 1976. On Christmas Eve of that year, I drove from my mother’s home in Bryan, Ohio to Newark to meet Polly’s parents and attend her family’s Christmas gathering. This was the first time I had the opportunity to be alone with Polly, and we took advantage of it, using trips to the apartment complex’s laundry room to get as much kissing in as possible before returning to Midwestern Baptist College and its thou-shalt-not-touch six-inch rule. The family gathering was held at the home of Polly’s aunt and uncle, Jim and Linda Dennis. Jim was the pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. Prior to gathering at their house, we dutifully attended the Christmas Eve service at the Baptist Temple. During the service, Polly’s uncle decided to thoroughly embarrass both of us by pointing out that Polly had a special visitor with her. He then said, “Bruce and Polly have a shirt tail relationship. We just don’t know how long the shirt tail is.” I can imagine Polly’s Mom saying to herself, not very long if I have anything to do with it.

After Christmas Eve service, we drove over to the Dennis’ home. As I walked in the door, I couldn’t help but notice the largest pile of Christmas gifts I had ever seen in my life. Jesus may have been the reason for the season, but it was quite evident that receiving a lot of gifts came in a close second. Prior to the gift-giving orgy, someone — I can’t remember who — gave a quick devotional, reminding all of us, yet again — as if we haven’t heard before — that Christmas was all about Jesus, his virgin birth, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. Once the Sermonette for Christianettes® was duly delivered, it was time for the gifts to be distributed. Polly and I had already traded gifts, so I didn’t expect anything for myself. I was surprised (and embarrassed), then, to receive a gift from Polly’s parents — a leather belt.

After Polly and I married, we settled into a holiday routine that had us celebrating Christmas Eve with her family and Christmas Day with mine. Things continue this way until the late 1980s. I had stumbled upon material that purported to reveal the pagan history and true meaning of Christmas. Wanting to be obedient to Christ and untainted by the world, I decided, as the head of the home, that we would no longer practice Christmas. I can only imagine how heartbroken Polly was when I gathered up all of her Christmas decorations and donated them to Goodwill. I did make an allowance for us attending family Christmas gatherings. We bought no gifts for our children, treating Christmas as if it were just another day. For several years, our family drove to the Charity Rescue Mission in Columbus on Christmas Day to help serve food to the homeless. Several families from the church I was pastoring at the time — Somerset Baptist Church — went with us. While I deeply regret becoming the Grinch that stole Christmas, feeding the homeless put Christmas into perspective for the Gerencser family.

Somewhere in the 1990s, I realized that you could make Christmas into whatever you wanted it to be. Much to the surprise and delight of our children, we bought a Christmas tree and decorations. We also allowed for limited gift-giving. As I look back on this, I realize that I did with Christmas exactly what the Catholics did when they took pagan practices and repurposed them for Christian use. Yes, Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, as were many of the practices associated with it, but I believed that such things could be used to further the gospel of Christ and give witness to Jesus. From that point forward, in the churches I pastored I allowed Christmas decorations to be put in the church auditorium. For the next decade, our home and the churches I pastored celebrated Christmas as most other American families and churches did. Jesus may have been the reason for the season, but gift-giving was a close second. To assuage the lingering guilt I had over consumer-driven gift-giving, I made sure our family and the churches I pastored gave liberally to missionaries and the poor.

Fifteen years ago, on the last Sunday in November, Polly and I attended church for the last time. For the longest time, we found it impossible to attend anything remotely associated with religion. We had just gone through a nasty divorce with God, and we didn’t want to go anywhere that would remind us of our ex. After a few years, the distance between deconversion and the present was sufficient that we were able to attend Christmas programs and concerts without wanting to commit homicide. Our first foray back into the religious world was attending the production of Handel’s Messiah at a nearby church. That same year, we attended a Christmas concert put on by a Trans-Siberian Orchestra cover band — Siberian Solstice. One of the mainstays of the group was my counselor.

Evangelicals often deride me for practicing Christmas. How can an atheist practice a religious holiday? they ask. Christmas is all about Jesus, and aren’t you being hypocritical if you celebrate a holiday set aside to worship a God you don’t believe in? I suppose that this would be a valid question if the evidence at hand showed me that, indeed, Christmas was all about Jesus and his alleged virgin birth in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. However, the evidence clearly shows that Christmas is all about family, food, and gift-giving, with Jesus often being a cursory add-on — even for Evangelicals. While many Evangelical churches will attempt to put Christ back in Christmas, most church families will practice Christmas in the same manner as their non-Evangelical neighbors.

As atheists, we can enjoy the holiday season, sans Jesus. In fact, Polly and I both say that Christmas is far more enjoyable now than it was when I was pastoring churches. Quite frankly, the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s were so busy that we had little time to enjoy the holidays. Like many Christian churches, who once a year want to show the poor and disadvantaged that they really, really, really care, we put together several food baskets and delivered them to the poor. (Isn’t it amazing that the poor only need food and help during the holidays?) Not only did we have to do obligatory alms to the poor, we also had to prepare for special services such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. By the time the new year rolled in, Polly and I were quite glad the holidays were over.

These days, we are free to enjoy Christmas without worrying about whether we are giving Jesus his just dues. For Polly and me, Christmas is all about family. We eat lots of food with no worries about waistlines. Polly loves to bake and I love to eat (in former years, but not since being diagnosed with gastroparesis and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) what she bakes, as do our children and grandchildren. For the next month, Christmas songs will waft through the air of our home — yes, even religious ones. You might be surprised if you stop by to hear us singing Joy to the World, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, or many of the other religious songs associated with Christmas. The lyrics of the songs are reminders of our cultural heritage, not declarations of faith. This is why you will also find us singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. For us, family and not Jesus is the reason for the season. If Christians want to focus on Jesus during Christmas, that is certainly their right to do so. However, I refuse to let them ignorantly suggest that Christmas is a Christian-only holiday. When confronted with such historical ignorance, I remind them that Christmas means different things to different people. It is a holiday that should bind all of us together, reminding us of the blessings of family and our common heritage. Evangelicals who stupidly say that there is a war against Christmas deserve a double-barrel gun salute. There is no war against Christmas, and no matter how many times Fox News says that there is, the fact remains that Christmas is a religious and a secular holiday. Christians are free to worship the baby Jesus — cue Ricky Bobby and Talledega Nights — and sing praises to his name, and the rest of us are free to practice Christmas without the religious baggage.

How do you practice Christmas now that you are no longer a Christian? Are the holidays stressful for you? Do you still attend Christmas services? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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

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Allen Domelle Whines About How IFB Preachers are Treated Today

elisha bears
Cartoon by Graham Williamson

Allen Domelle, a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, is the pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma. A staunch defender of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, Domelle is also the editor of the Old Paths Journal. Several years ago, Domelle published an article titled, Treatment of the Man of God (which is no longer available). Domelle offered four ways church members should never treat their pastors:

  • Never treat the man of God with disdain
  • Never demand of the man of God
  • Never distance yourself from the man of God
  • Never treat the man of God irreverently

In IFB churches, the pastor is called the “man of God.” While Domelle says “the man of God is nothing of himself,” he makes it clear that the man of God’s “position” is what makes him important. Most IFB congregations are pastored by one man. He is considered the head honcho, boss, and ruler. Jesus might get top billing, but IFB preachers are the star of the show, the hub around which the church turns. I know of one man who pastored his church for over forty years. He not only preached, but he also wrote the checks, kept the books, looked at the tithing records to see who was contributing, and ruled over every aspect of church life. When congregants were asked where they attended church, it was not uncommon for them to say, “I attend Pastor _______’s church.” This should not come as a surprise. In IFB churches, pastors often stay at one church for years. The longer the man stays at the church, the more autocratic control he has.

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — an IFB institution. Pastors-in-training were encouraged to go to a community, start a church, and stay for a lifetime. Countless Midwestern graduates did just that. In fact, some men stay until they retire or die, often handing the church off to a son. The patriarchy lives on in IFB churches.

Millions of people attend churches on Sundays that are pastored and controlled by one man. When congregants look towards the man in the pulpit, they see a man above all men; God’s man; a man chosen by God to be their guide and ruler. (The phrase “man of God” is used seventy-two times in the King James Bible.) IFB preachers turn to the following verses (and others) to justify their authoritarian rule:

  • Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation . . . Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:7,17)
  • Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17)

Some IFB churches have a plurality of elders (pastors). Supposedly, having multiple “men of God” stymies authoritarian rule. However, a closer examination of such churches reveals that while there may be more than one pastor, there’s one, and only one, head pastor. Fundamentalist John MacArthur pastors a megachurch in California. The church is governed by an elder board. But make no mistake about it, Grace Community Church is John MacArthur’s church. He alone has the final say. I have yet to see an Evangelical church that has an elder board that didn’t have one man who ruled the roost above all others.

In IFB circles, along with Evangelicalism in general, congregants revere their pastors. This should not shock anyone. When you are taught from an early age that the man in the pulpit is God’s messenger, that he is chosen, directed, and anointed by God, is it a surprise that church members idolize their pastor? As a student at Midwestern, I heard more than one chapel speaker say that a pastor becoming president of the United States would be a step down. I was taught that what America needed was more “men of God” called to preach the gospel and stand against Satan. I left college in 1979 believing that God had put his stamp of approval on my life; that this “calling” I had received from God was irrevocable. (The Bible says in Romans 11:29: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.)

Let me bring this rabbit trail back around to Domelle’s post. As is common among IFB preachers, Domelle yearns for the good old days — the 1950s. (Please see Pastor Bob Gray Sr. Pines for the 1950s) He pines for a day when “men of God were revered and honored. It wasn’t that those men were sinless, but it was the position they held that demanded the respect of every person, and was expected from every person.”

Let’s briefly look at Domelle’s four ways congregants should not treat the “man of God.”

Never treat the man of God with disdain

Just because the man of God preaches against your sins doesn’t make him a bad man. The disrespect of men of God on social media is atrocious. People feel like they can say hateful and disrespectful things to the man of God because they feel that they have the forum and the “right” to criticize him. Always remember that how you treat men of God is a revelation of your respect of God.

Domelle believes it is always wrong to criticize the “man of God.” How you treat the “man of God” reveals the level of respect you have for God. Disrespect your pastor, and you disrespect God. Is it any wonder IFB church members fear criticizing their pastor? Mess with the preacher, and you are messing with God.

Never demand of the man of God

To demand of the man of God is to put yourself in God’s place because it is God’s position to deal with the man of God. Sometimes it is not what you are saying that is wrong, but it is how you are saying it to the man of God that is wrong. Your tone towards God’s man does matter to God; you should always be respectful instead of demanding.

According to Domelle, congregants should never demand anything from their pastor. If congregants think the “man of God” is lacking in some way, it is up to God, not them, to straighten him out. Hear rumors that Pastor Billy is fucking his secretary? Take the matter to God and let him take care of it. Scandals are often shoved under the proverbial rug. If God wants things to be different, he will take care of the matter. Sadly, God rarely takes care of anything, resulting in the rug turning into a mountain of dirty laundry. Decades of misconduct are swept under the rug, with congregants believing that God will make things right. As the Black Collar Crime Series makes clear, if church members don’t act, no one will.

Domelle believes that congregants should always be respectful to their pastor, regardless of whether such respect is earned. The “man of God” deserves respect no matter what. Again, Domelle invokes God’s name when he says “your tone towards God’s man does matter to God.” Be careful, God is listening to how you talk to your pastor. Use a disrespectful tone and God just might chastise you.

Never distance yourself from the man of God

People who distance themselves from God’s man find themselves missing the heart of the man of God, and they also miss seeing the miracles of God up close. One of the biggest reasons I have found that people follow the man of God from afar is because they don’t want him to find out what they are doing.

In IFB churches, pastors are often considered God’s bloodhounds. Supposedly, they have a nose for sin — well a nose for every sin but their own. According to Domelle, people distance themselves from the “man of God” because they fear he will discover their sin. Wait a minute, Bruce, I thought people’s sins were between them and God. Maybe, but pastors of IFB churches are the equivalent of the Pope. They are Christ’s representatives on earth, given the duty and responsibility to suss out the sinful behavior of congregants.

The “man of God” oversees the lives of church members, both at church and at home. His eyes are ever watching for “sin.” What is “sin” you ask? Why, whatever the man of God says it is. His interpretation of the Bible is the standard by which all things are judged. Interpreting the Bible differently is viewed as rebellion against not only God, but against the “man of God.” One pastor I knew well told me, “how can a man of God rule over his church unless he rules over EVERYTHING?” His question reveals the fact that authoritarianism breeds absolutism. The pastor is absolutely right all the time. Why? Because he is the “man of God.” Is it any wonder that some people consider the IFB church movement a cult?

Never treat the man of God irreverently

In 2 Kings 2:23-25, some boys thought it was funny to call Elisha a bald man, but God showed that He would not tolerate irreverence towards His servant. Always treat the man of God with respect. Never call him by his first name, but always address him according to his position. Never talk bad about the man of God, because you place yourself against God when you choose to speak irreverently about His servant.

The proper way to treat God’s man is to have a reverential fear of him and follow him closely as he follows God. You should have a fear of God’s man, and you should treat him with dignity and respect; he is God’s man.

Virtually every article or sermon on pastoral authority will include 1 Chronicles 16:22: Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm and 2 Kings 2:23-25:

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

Simply put, don’t mess with the “man of God” lest bears kill you and eat your body for dinner. Longtime IFB church members have likely heard these verses many, many times. What better way to keep congregants in line than to warn them that God will kill them if they dare speak poorly of or oppose the “man of God.” Domelle states, “Never talk bad about the man of God, because you place yourself against God when you choose to speak irreverently about His servant.” In fact, according to Domelle, you shouldn’t even call the “man of God” by his first name! That’s right. Doing so is disrespectful. I have heard several IFB preachers say that they demand church members call them Pastor _________ (last name). Some of these preachers have Dr. in front of their names (please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor) and expect church members to address them as Dr. ____________ (last name). Never mind the fact that IFB doctorates are almost always honorary or earned through diploma mills. If the “man of God” has a doctorate, people are expected to reverently address him as such.

Domelle tells his readers that they should “fear” the “man of God.” Why? Bears. Woods. Dinner. No one should be astonished, then, that IFB church members fear their pastor. He is the “man of God” and is to be respected at all times. If God and his man are as tight as Domelle alleges, I’d be fearful too. When you believe the preacher has a direct line to God, it makes sense to keep your mouth shut and obey his edicts. Either that or run as fast as you can out the back door of the church never to return. If you are heaven-bent on going to church, there are kinder, gentler expressions of faith than those found in IFB churches. Don’t waste another moment being psychologically traumatized by a man who confuses his place in life with God’s. (Not that I believe in God, I don’t. But some readers of this post do, and my advice to them is to seek out a pastor who doesn’t have a God complex, and who will treat them with dignity and respect.)

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

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: How a Dislocated Finger Almost Got Me Kicked Out of Bible College

midwestern baptist college freshman class 1976
Midwestern Baptist College Freshman Class 1976. Polly Shope, first person on left, first row. Bruce Gerencser, eighth person from left, third row. Weren’t we cute?

In late August, 1976, I packed up my meager earthly goods, put them in my Plymouth Valiant, and trekked two-and-a-half hours north from Bryan, Ohio to Pontiac, Michigan so I could enroll for ministerial classes at Midwestern Baptist College. I parked my dilapidated car in front of the dorm (which housed two floors of men and one of women) and unloaded my clothing, books, food stuffs, and a few pictures. My first roommates were Toby Todd and an older man named Dale Wilson. Several months later I moved to another room. My roommates were the only Black man in the dormitory: Fred Gilyard, Jack Workman, and Wendell Uhl — who was a rambunctious, thrill-seeking man who would later be expelled from school for writing his unique initials in a school monument’s freshly poured cement.

I had three goals I hoped to achieve while attending Midwestern:

  • Prepare for the ministry
  • Date a lot of girls
  • Play sports

Now, when I say play sports, I am not talking about college sports as most readers think of when thinking about collegiate sports. The enrollment at Midwestern was around four hundred students. The college had an astronomical drop-out rate — over seventy percent. There was a constant stream of new talent for the college’s basketball program. I was one such player. I was six feet tall and weighed one hundred sixty pounds. I loved playing basketball, having played high school city league basketball three years for Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. The team was coached by the chairman of the drama department. He was fired during my sophomore year of college for having an affair with the wife of the dean of men.

The coach was a player-coach. Many of the players were older men, some in their thirties. Midwestern’s basketball team was very much a collection of misfits — at best an intramural team. Regardless of the quality of the team, I very much wanted to play basketball for Midwestern Baptist College. The college’s founder, Dr. Tom Malone, was an avid basketball player. He was in his 60s at the time. I played many a pick-up game with Dr. Malone. He was a hard-nosed player. He sent many a student packing over complaints about fouls. No blood, no foul, was Dr. Malone’s style of play; a style, by the way, that agreed with me. I loved playing rough, physical basketball.

Midwestern’s team was made up of all comers. I expressed my interest in playing and began attending practices. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with my fellow teammates, and I was looking forward to helping Midwestern vanquish other nearby Fundamentalist Baptist college basketball teams. Unfortunately, something happened that would permanently derail my college basketball career.

car I took to college
My 1970 (I think) Plymouth Valiant.

One early evening at practice, I jumped up to block the shot of a fellow teammate. As I forcefully slapped the ball, I dislocated the middle finger of my left hand, jamming the finger into my knuckle. I was taken to the emergency room where the doctor attempted to reset my finger. After several careful attempts to do so, the doctor said, well, this is going to hurt! He made sure the bed wheels were locked, put his foot on the bar along the bottom of the bed, and with my mangled finger in his hand, forcefully yanked my dislocated finger back into place. He was right about the pain. I screamed and said a few Christian swear words (See Christian Swear Words), but I was grateful my finger was back in place. I left the hospital with a splint on my hand. This injury put an end to my college basketball career.

Midwestern had a strict dress code. Male students were required to wear ties to classes. One early morning, I met Polly in the dorm common room and asked her to tie my tie for me. No big deal, right? One fellow Christian helping another one, I thought at the time. I found it impossible to tie my tie with one hand, and I didn’t think anyone would mind if my girlfriend helped me out. Boy, was I wrong. Sitting in the common room was a pharisaical couple who deemed our tie-tying endeavor a violation of the college’s six-inch rule — a decree that said unmarried male and female dorm students couldn’t have any physical contact. (See Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule)

Come the following Tuesday, Polly and I were called before the college’s disciplinary committee to answer for our “sin.” There were three men on the disciplinary committee, Gary Mayberry, the dean of men, Don Zahurance, and another man whose name I can’t remember. Polly and I were excoriated for breaking the six-inch rule. Zahurance, in particular, grilled us, asking if we “enjoyed” touching one another; if we got a “thrill” out of physical contact. Today, I would have said, YES, DUMB ASS, WE DID!  However, not wanting to be expelled, Polly and I endured their intrusive, offensive inquisition. We were given fifty demerits and told that if we had any physical contact again we would be expelled.

Their attempt to put the fear of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) God into us failed. We would spend the next eighteen months finding ways to engage in damnable sins such as holding hands, kissing, and hugging. On weekends, we would double-date with like-minded students. I won’t tell if you won’t, was the rule. We hugged and kissed our way to July 15, 1978, our wedding day. Finally, no more demerits for getting too close to the love of my life!

I know this story sounds almost unbelievable to some of you, but it did happen. Attending Midwestern Baptist College was like living in an alternate universe. Polly and I now laugh about our days as Midwestern students, but there was a time when we feared being exposed for behaving like normal, heterosexual humans. We feared being reported to the disciplinary committee for daring to touch one another. The cruelty of Midwestern’s disciplinary system was that it allowed anonymous students to report offenders. There was a box outside of the dean of men’s office for disciplinary slips. Only certain students were allowed to write someone up. Generally, freshmen were not permitted to write anyone up. Ironically the upperclassmen who reported us for breaking the six-inch rule? It was later rumored that they were going all-in on breaking the six-inch rule and having sex. Hypocrisy abounded at Midwestern. The couple who reported us is now faithfully pastoring an IFB church. I am sure they preach against teens and unmarried adults having physical contact with each other before marriage, conveniently burying their own sexual indiscretion in the dust of the past.

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

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

My First Steps Towards Believing the Bible Was Not Inerrant

bible inspired word of god

I grew up in a religious faith that taught me the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. The word “inspired” meant that the Bible was the word of God; that holy men of old who wrote the Bible were told by the Holy Spirit exactly what to write. Some of my pastors and professors believed in the dictation theory. The authors of the Bible were mere automatons who wrote what God dictated to them. Other pastors believed that men wrote the Bible, thus their writing reflects their personality and culture. God, through some sort of unknown supernatural means, made sure that human influence on the Bible was in every way perfect and aligned with what he wanted to say.

Inspiration gets complicated when dealing with the question of WHAT, exactly, is inspired. Were the original manuscripts alone inspired? If so, there’s no such thing as the “inspired” Word of God because the original manuscripts do not exist. Are the extant manuscripts inspired? Some Evangelical pastors believe that the totality of existing manuscripts make up the inspired Word of God, and some pastors believe that certain translations — namely the King James Version — are the inspired Word of God. Regardless of how they answer the WHAT question, all of them believe that God supernaturally preserves his Word down through the ages, and the Bibles we hold in our hands is the very Words of God.

The word “inerrant” means “without mistake, contradiction, or error.” Some Evangelical pastors, knowing that every Bible translation has errors and mistakes, say they believe the original manuscripts are inerrant, and modern translations are faithful, reliable, and can be depended on in matters of faith, practice, morality, and anything else the Bible addresses. Of course, these men are arguing for the inerrancy of a text they had never seen Whatever the “original” manuscripts might have been, their exact wording and content are lost, likely never to be found.

The word “infallible” means incapable of error in every matter the Bible addresses. Thus, when the Bible speaks about matters of science and history, it is always true, and without error. No matter what scientists and historians say about a particular matter, what the Bible says is the final authority. That’s why almost half of Americans believe the Christian God created the universe sometime in the past 10,000 years.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution that prided itself in turning out hellfire and brimstone preacher boys. My three years at Midwestern reinforced everything I had been taught as a youth. Every professor and chapel speaker believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I was a seedling and Midwestern was a controlled-environment hothouse. Is it any wonder that I grew up to be a Bible thumper; believing that EVERY word in the Bible was straight from the mouth of God? If ever someone was a product of his environment, it was Bruce Gerencser.

I left Midwestern in 1979 and embarked on a ministerial career that took me to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I stood before thousands of people with Bible held high and declared, THUS SAITH THE LORD! For many years, I preached only from the King James Bible. I believed it was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God for English-speaking people. Towards the end of my ministerial career, I started using the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and after that, I began using the English Standard Version (ESV).

Many of my former colleagues in the ministry and congregants trace the beginning of my unbelief back to my voracious reading habit and my abandonment of the King James Bible. One woman, after hearing of my loss of faith. wrote to me and said that I should stop reading books and only read the B-I-B-L-E. She just knew that if I would stop reading non-Biblical books, my doubts would magically disappear. In other words, ignorance is bliss.

As I ponder my past and what ultimately led to my loss of faith, two things stand out: a book on alleged Bible contradictions and a list of the differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions of the King James Bible.

As I studied for my sermons, I would often come across verses or passages of Scripture that didn’t make sense to me. I would consult various commentaries and grammatical aids, and, usually, I was able to reconcile whatever it was that was giving me difficulty. Sometimes, however, I ran into what could only be described as contradictions – competing passages of Scripture. In these times, I consulted the book on alleged contradictions in the Bible. Often, my confusion would dissipate, but over time I began to think that the explanations and resolutions the book gave were shallow, not on point, or downright nonsensical. Finally, I quit reading this book and decided to just trust God, believing that he would never give us a Bible with errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I decided, as many Evangelicals do, to “faith” it.

For many years, the only Bible translation I used was the 1769 edition of the King James Bible. I had been taught as a child and in college that the original version — 1611 — of the King James Version and the 1769 version were identical. I later found out they were not; and that there were numerous differences between the two editions. (Please read the Wikipedia article on the 1769 King James Bible for more information on this subject.)

I remember finding a list of the differences between the two editions and sharing it with my best friend — who was also an IFB pastor. He dismissed the differences out of hand, telling me that even if I could show him an error in the King James Bible, he would still, by faith, believe the KJV was inerrant! Over the next few months, he would repeat this mantra to me again and again. He, to this day, believes the King James Bible is inerrant. I, on the other hand, couldn’t do so. Learning that there were differences between the editions forced me to alter my beliefs, at least inwardly. It would be another decade before I could admit that the Bible was not inerrant. But even then, I downplayed the errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I continued to read about the nature of the Biblical text, but I kept that knowledge to myself. It was not until I left the ministry that I finally could see that the Bible was NOT what my pastors and professors said it was; that it was not what I told countless congregants it was. Once the Bible lost its authority, I was then free to question other aspects of my faith, leading, ultimately, to where I am today. My journey away from Evangelicalism to atheism began and ended with the Bible.

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

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Short Stories: 1978: The Spot on the New Carpet

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, in front of our first apartment in Pontiac, Michigan, Fall 1978 with Polly’s Grandfather and Parents

My wife, Polly, and I met as freshman students at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. Two years later, in July 1978, we stood before God and man and professed our love, devotion, and commitment to one another. After a short honeymoon, we returned to Pontiac to begin our new life as husband and wife.

Several months before our wedding, we rented an upstairs apartment on Premont Avenue in Waterford Township (Pontiac) Michigan. Our upstairs apartment had four rooms: a living room, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. The walls were freshly painted. The living room floor had recently been covered with green and white shag carpeting. The heat was controlled by the people who lived in the first-story apartment.

Shortly before Polly and I started living together, I stopped at a yard sale that had a bunch of furniture for sale. I made them a $150 offer for all the furniture, an offer they quickly accepted. Upon returning home from our honeymoon, Polly was quite surprised to see all the “wonderful” furniture that I had purchased to furnish our apartment. After a few months of marriage, we bought a love seat from Kay’s Furniture to replace the piece-of-junk futon I had purchased at the yard sale. The love seat, along with a new double bed we bought from J.L. Hudson’s, would be the last new furniture we would own for the next 20 years.

Our little apartment was all that we needed. Polly and I were quite busy. Both of us were full-time students. I also worked forty hours a week for a Detroit machine shop. Polly cleaned the homes of a Bloomfield Hills rabbi (Richard Hertz) and his wife, along with their daughter. Financially we were secure, and looking forward to starting our junior year at Midwestern. We learned quickly that life circumstances can and do change overnight. Six weeks into our marriage, Polly learned that she was pregnant. Severe morning sickness forced her to stop cleaning houses. This was a hit on our finances, but not a fatal blow. That would come three months later when I was laid off from my job.

One afternoon, I came home from school to eat lunch and then change my clothes for work. No ties were needed at the machine shop. We were still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage. All was well between us. That quickly changed on this day when I walked in the door and noticed a large brown stain on our brand-new light-colored carpet.

Polly had been drinking iced tea in the living room and accidentally spilled her large glass of tea on the carpet. Panicked, Polly decided to clean the spot; not with water; not with carpet cleaner. She used the one thing she thought would turn the dark stain light — bleach. That fateful decision turned the dark brown spot into a lighter-brown spot. The tea stain became permanent.

In February 1979, Polly and I informed our landlord that we had to move. The landlord told me she wanted to talk to us before we moved to Ohio. I thought, “What are we going to do about the stain?”

On the appointed day, the landlord came to our apartment. Everything was just as it was when she rented us the place months before. What happened to the spot? Oh, “God” led me to move a footstool over the stain. Viola! The stain magically disappeared.

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

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Fifty Years Ago, I Preached My First Sermon

emmanuel baptist church 1983
Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983

I was raised in the Evangelical church. My parents were saved in the early 1960s at Scott Memorial Baptist Church (now Shadow Mountain Community Church) in El Cajon, California, pastored at the time by Tim LaHaye. From that time forward, the Gerencser family attended Evangelical churches — mostly Bible, Southern Baptist, or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregations.

In the spring of 1972, my parents divorced after 15 years of marriage. Both of my parents remarried several months later. While my parents and their new spouses, along with my brother and sister, immediately stopped attending church, I continued to attend Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. In the fall of 1972, a high-powered IFB evangelist named Al Lacy came to Trinity to hold a week-long revival meeting. One night, as I sat in the meeting with my friends, I felt deep conviction over my sins while the evangelist preached. I tried to push aside the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, but when the evangelist gave the invitation, I knew that I needed to go forward. I knew that I was a wretched sinner in need of salvation. (Romans 3) I knew that I was headed for Hell and that Jesus, the resurrected son of God, was the only person who could save me from my sin. I knelt at the altar and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and save me. I put my faith and trust in Jesus; that he alone was my Lord and Savior. (That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamedRomans 10:9-11)

I got up from the altar a changed person. I had no doubt that I was a new creation, old things had passed away, and all things had become new.  (Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The next Sunday, I was baptized, and several weeks later I stood before the church and declared that I believed God was calling me to preach. For the next thirty-five years, I lived a life committed to following Jesus and the teachings of the Bible.

After confessing to the church that God was calling me to preach, my youth director, Bruce Turner, took me aside and told me it was time for me to get busy preaching the Bible. Bruce took me under his wing and helped me craft my first sermon; one that I would deliver to the junior high youth department. My chosen text was 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

My sermon was short, sweet, and to the point:

  1. We are Christ’s ambassadors
  2. He has committed unto us the word of reconciliation
  3. We are to implore people to be reconciled to God

Over the next four years, I would preach occasionally at youth events and Word of Life preaching contests. I didn’t begin preaching in earnest until I left to train for the ministry at age nineteen at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. My father-in-law, a Midwestern grad, had been holding Sunday afternoon services at the SHAR (Self Help and Rehabilitation) House in Detroit. After his graduation, Dad asked if I would be interested in taking over his ministry at the drug rehab facility. I told him sure, so for the next two school years, I regularly preached at SHAR House. This gave me a lot of preaching experience by the time I left Midwestern in 1979.

I preached my last sermon in April 2005 at Hedgesville Baptist Church — a Southern Baptist congregation — in Hedgesville, West Virginia. All told, I preached 4,000 sermons — preaching three to six sermons a week, plus revivals, special meetings, Bible conferences, youth rallies, and nursing homes.

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

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Short Stories: 1976-78 — Fun Times at the Midwestern Baptist College Dorm

gary keen bruce mike fox greg wilson midwestern baptist college 1978
Gary Keen, Bruce Gerencser, Mike Fox, Greg Wilson, Midwestern Baptist College, 1978

I have been accused of not having anything good to say about my alma mater, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. It is certainly true that I have been a harsh critic of Midwestern’s doctrinal beliefs and practices; and of their cult-like control of student behavior. I make no apology for saying that Midwestern’s founder, professors, and administrators caused psychological harm with their Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) extremism. That said, I had a lot of fun times at Midwestern, as a nineteen- to twenty-one-year-old dormitory student.

Midwestern had four dormitory wings: the pit (basement), the spiritual wing, the party wing, and the women’s wing (the whole second story). I spent two years living in a shared room on the party wing. Every room had two to four students, including one room monitor. I lived in two rooms as a freshman and sophomore student. My first room assignment was not a good fit; Toby (strict and spiritual), Greg, and an older man named Dale. I wanted the “party” in party wing, so I asked to be moved to a different room. My new roommates were Wendell, Fred (a Black man), and Jack. Sadly, only Wendell had the party spirit I was looking for. Boy, did we have fun! Well as far as IFB fun goes, anyway.

I really enjoyed Sunday night devotions that were held in the dorm common room. After attending church three times, working in the bus ministry, teaching Sunday school, or some other ministry, and going out on a double date after evening church, most students were filled with energy by the time they gathered for devotions.

The program was simple: prayer, singing, and a sermonette. The sermonette was often given by the dorm supervisor, Ralph Bitner. He and his wife, Sophie, lived on the same floor, adjacent to the common room, and across the hall from the snack room. Ralph was a dreadful speaker, as were many of the students asked to give a devotion. I sat there hoping the pain would soon subside, knowing that my favorite part of devotions, singing, was next.

Students lustily sang modern choruses and hymns — all a cappella. I loved to sing, using my tenor voice to praise and glorify God. One of my favorite songs was the HASH chorus — a mash-up of different songs.

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After devotions, dating students would say their non-physical contact good night to their boyfriend or girlfriend. For me, devotions were the perfect end to a busy, stressful week.

I was quite temperamental. Quick to rise, quick to recede, people knew to steer clear of me when I was angry. One day, as I came into my dorm room, Greg was lying in wait for me with an oversized plastic bat. He planned on pummeling me with the bat. Fun times, to be sure, but when Greg swung the bat he hit me in the kidneys, knocking me to the floor, breathless and in pain. I quickly became enraged, planning to do harm to Greg when I got up off the floor. Greg sensed my anger, dropped the bat, and ran for the hills. He didn’t return until the next night. By then, I was cooled down, and all was right with the world. Greg loved to horse around, as did I, but he wisely retired from his career as a baseball player.

One evening, Wendell and I were horsing around in our room. Wendell was quite the jokester. You had to be on your toes when Wendell was around lest you fell prey to his wily devices. On this night, we were going back and forth when I decided to pick up a work boot and chuck it at Wendell. Unfortunately, I missed my target, and the boot hit the wall, going through the drywall. We briefly laughed, but knew we had to immediately fix the wall lest we end up in line for DC (disciplinary committee) on Monday. Fortunately, Wendell knew how to repair and paint drywall. We repaired the wall, and the dorm supervisor was none the wiser. Crisis averted.

One early morning, several of my friends and I came home from working at a factory that made bolts. We decided to play a joke on our sleeping roommates. We bumped up the alarm time on their clocks, changing 6 am wake times to 3 am. And then we waited. As the alarms went off, our roommates arose, stumbled to the bathroom, dressed, gathered their books, and headed off to classes, none the wiser that they were three hours early. One by one, as they walked up the drive between the dorm and the school, they realized that they had been punked and made their way back to the dorm. We, of course, met them with hilarity and laughter.

Jack was one of my roommates. He was a Pharisee, writing people up for minor infractions of Midwestern’s code of conduct. Once written up, you had to appear before the discipline committee to answer for your heinous crimes. One day, Jack wrote Polly and me up for breaking the “no borrowing rule.” Polly had loaned me her unisex parka. This crime against humanity landed us in hot water. I believe we got ten demerits.

Afterward, I decided to get even with Jack. No turning the other cheek. I knew he had been going to a local restaurant to visit with a waitress he was sweet on. This was a violation of Midwestern’s rules. One night, I had a friend of mine, Peggie, call Jack on the pay phone in the party wing hallway, pretending to be the waitress. I made sure Peggie called after curfew. Sure enough, Jack fell for the ruse, telling the “waitress” he would come to see her right away. Hormones raging, Jack didn’t have a car, so he had to borrow someone else’s automobile, breaking the no-borrowing rule. Off Jack went in a borrowed car after curfew to see the waitress. Of course, she was not working that night. Perplexed, Jack returned to the dorm, only to find the dorm supervisor waiting for him. Mission accomplished, another Baptist Pharisee humbled and chastised. Jack never wrote me up again after this experience.

I have many other fun times I could share: playing Rook and UNO in the snack room; bowling in the dorm hallway, playing basketball with Dr. Malone, hanging bras on Ralph and Sophie’s door, and spending several days stranded in the dorm without electricity during the Blizzard of ’78. While I cannot absolve Midwestern for the harm it caused, I must not forget all the good times I had while living at 825 Golf Drive in Pontiac, Michigan. While I eventually matured into a man better suited for the spiritual wing, I never lost my love for playing practical jokes and having fun times.

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

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Celebrating Forty-Five Years of Marriage: The Rehearsal

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

The day before our wedding on July 15, 1978, I picked up the baby-blue tuxedos at the wedding apparel shop, met my groomsmen, and we caravanned southeast from Pontiac, Michigan to Newark, Ohio. The trip should have taken about four hours, but I decided we would take the scenic route instead. This little detour added two hours to our trip. My groomsmen, soloist, and ushers were NOT happy with me. 🙂

Finally, we arrived in Newark. I had rented two rooms at a cheap motel, two blocks from Polly’s parent’s home. After settling in, I decided it would be a good idea to try on our tuxes — which should have been done while we were still in Pontiac. We quickly found out that one of my groomsmen’s pants was the wrong size. Panicked, we drove to Polly’s parent’s home, hoping Mom could let out the seat of the pants. She was able to do so, but the pants had a single stitch line holding them together — a precarious situation to say the least.

Polly and I got into some sort of argument while we were there. The subject has long since been forgotten, but the picture in my mind of Polly stomping up the stairs is not. Mom said Polly was quite stressed out and suggested we avoid each other until the rehearsal dinner. Good advice.

We had an expensive catered rehearsal dinner, KFC, at Moundbuilder’s Park — a Native American burial ground (Newark Earthworks). The highlight of the dinner was one of my groomsmen, Mike, singing the first two stanzas of the Battle of New Orleans, complete with physical animation:

In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans

We fired our guns and the British kept a coming
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to running
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Mike also sang a song about Daniel Boone, you know the song that says “Daniel Boone was a man, was a big man, But the bear was bigger so he ran like a nigger up a tree.” It was the 70s. I doubt many in our party would have been okay with this song today.

Afterward, we drove to the Newark Baptist Temple for our wedding rehearsal. No memory of significance comes to mind about the rehearsal. Polly and I said good night to one another, anticipating with joy and excitement our big day.

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

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Celebrating Forty-Five Years of Marriage: The Engagement

bruce polly gerencser midwestern baptist college 1977
Bruce Gerencser, Polly Shope 1977

In late August 1976, Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser moved into the Midwestern Baptist College dormitory. Polly planned to catch her a preacher boy and I planned to prepare for the ministry. Polly hailed from Bay City, Michigan, but had spent the previous four years in Pontiac while her father completed his education. After graduation, Polly’s father moved his family to Newark, Ohio so he could begin a new job as the assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. The Baptist Temple was pastored by Polly’s uncle James “Jim” Dennis, a 1960s graduate of Midwestern. Polly’s parents moved into an apartment after moving to Newark, and it was from here that Polly packed up her meager belongings in a 1972 AMC Hornet and drove four and a half hours north to Midwestern’s dormitory.

I was living at the time with my mother and her drunkard husband near Edgerton, Ohio. The previous year, after a tumultuous break-up with my girlfriend, I moved from Sierra Vista, Arizona to Bryan, Ohio. I spent the next year working as the dairy manager for Foodland, with the intent of going off to college in August 1976.

On the appointed day, I packed my belongings into a late-1960s Plymouth and drove two hours and thirty minutes northeast to Pontiac. I had two goals: study for the ministry and date lots of girls. As this story unfolds, you shall see that the latter goal never came to fruition.

The flirting between Polly and I began almost immediately. I was nineteen, and she was seventeen. While I had dated a lot before college, Polly had no dating experience. Both of us dated someone else for a week or two before our flirtations turned into me asking her out on a date.

Midwestern had strict rules about dating and physical contact between couples. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.) We had been dating for almost four months before we kissed for the first time.

It was not long before our relationship took a serious turn. “I love you” first came from my lips, but Polly quickly reciprocated. I had no doubt that Polly was the one for me, and Polly believed the same about that fiery redheaded country boy from Ohio. We spent as much time as we could with each other. Polly learned I loved to talk, and I discovered that she was quiet, shy, and reserved — traits both of us have to this day.

Six months in, we talked about getting married, knowing we would have to wait until the summer of 1978 to tie the knot. (Midwestern forbade freshmen from marrying.) I bought Polly a 1/4-carat diamond engagement ring at Sears and Roebuck for $225. I decided I would ask Polly to marry me on Valentine’s Day. Dating students were required to double date, so I asked fellow rule breakers John and Sandy to go out on a date with us. We planned to seal our engagement with a kiss, so we didn’t want to choose the wrong dating partners lest we end up getting campused or expelled for breaking the six-inch rule.

On the second Saturday night in February, we ate at a now-forgotten restaurant and then drove to a multi-story parking garage in Birmingham — a place frequented by dorm couples due to its dim, secluded environment. We drove to the top of the garage, and it was there that I asked Polly to marry me. She said yes! and we embraced and kissed, sealing our commitment to one another.

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

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Celebrating Forty-Five Years of Marriage: Wedding Day

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Wedding July 1978

It was a ninety-five-degrees in Newark, Ohio on our wedding day. The Newark Baptist Temple was not air-conditioned, but neither Polly nor I paid much attention to the heat. It was our wedding day. Almost two years had passed since we first met as dorm students at Midwestern Baptist College. With hormones raging from Midwestern’s Puritanical rules that forbade physical contact between dating couples, we were more than ready to say “I do.”

Polly’s uncle, Jim Dennis, and her father, Cecil “Lee” Shope performed the ceremony. One hundred fifty people attended our wedding. Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends from both sides were in attendance, as were members of the Baptist Temple.

Our ushers, Mike and Greg, made sure everyone was properly seated. At the appointed time, my groomsmen, Mike, Bill, Bill, and Wendell, and I walked out the door at the left front of the church and made our way to the front. Remember, the groomsman I told you about in my previous post that had to have his pants altered? He made it two steps out the door before the seat of his pants ripped out. Fortunately, Mike was able to keep his legs together, avoiding showing those in attendance his underwear.

Polly’s uncle, Art, volunteered to take photos of our wedding. He had purchased brand-new lighting equipment to do so. Unfortunately, as Polly and her bridesmaids, Liz, Kathy, Celicia, and Bev made their way down the center aisle, the equipment failed. As a result, we have no live photos of our wedding. One thing was for certain, the most beautiful girl in the world was walking down the aisle, and soon she would be my wife.

Our soloist, Mark, sang three songs: one written by the vice president of Midwestern, The Wedding Song by Noel Paul Stookey, and We’ve Only Just Begun by the Carpenters. Our song choices caused quite a scandal due to their secular nature. Polly’s uncle was livid over our songs, and going forward all couples married at the Baptist Temple had to have their music approved beforehand.

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The simple ceremony went off without a hitch. Rings exchanged, vows made, and a kiss for luck, we were on our way.

Afterward, we returned to Polly’s parent’s home for a meal. My parents met hers for the first time. We didn’t stay long. Consummation awaited. We drove to Springfield, Ohio to spend our first night as a married couple, and then to French Lick, Indiana to spend a few days. And then it was back to Midwestern to prepare for our junior year of college. Seven months later, I was laid off from work, Polly was six months pregnant, and we dropped out of college due to financial reasons. We packed up our belongings and moved to the place my birth, Bryan, Ohio. Truly, we had only just begun.

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

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Bruce Gerencser