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Tag: Northwest Ohio

Dear Salesman, Don’t Assume Every Prospective Customer is a Christian

pay attention

Dear Salesman,

You came into our home today to sell us your company’s product. We received a flyer from your company last week, touting its new, low-priced rental program for your equipment. We’ve been wanting to buy or rent your product for some time, so the new rental program was all the motivation necessary for us to call your company and schedule a sales call. What follows in this letter is a mixture of advice and critique. I hope you will learn from what I have written.

You arrived promptly for the sales call — and that’s a good thing. Tardiness — especially without notification — is a sure way to get us to reject out of hand what you are selling. If my wife and I, who are just as busy as you are, set time aside for your sales pitch, we expect you to arrive on time. And if you can’t, we expect a telephone call or text message. Last week, I offered for sale two Amazon Fire TV Sticks on a local buy-and-sell forum. The first person to say he wanted them asked if I could wait until Friday for him to pick them up. I said, sure. Friday came and went without the man picking up the Sticks. So, I offered them to the next person who wanted them. She promptly came and picked up the Sticks. The next day, the man who stood us up sent me a Facebook message, asking if he could come and pick up the Sticks. I told him no; that I had offered them to someone else. The man became upset with me, suggesting that I was a terrible person. I took a few moments to educate him on the value of timeliness and keeping your commitments. All that did was aggravate him further. The man told me that he would never do business with me again. Little did he know that I don’t give people who don’t keep appointments a second chance; even those who use the lame excuse that their grandmother was in the hospital and no one had a cell phone. He and his siblings were Millennials, so there was no chance in hell that one of them didn’t have a cell phone. So as a salesman, you get one point for being on time. Unfortunately, as this letter will detail, our interaction with you cost you quite a few other points.

You parked on the street in front of our home, directly in front of the two-foot by six-foot sign for my business, Defiance County Photo. It’s hard to miss, with its blue frame, but somehow you missed it. That’s why you were surprised when you found out I was photographer, and that I, in particular, did local high school sports photography (you proceeded to then spend way too much time telling me of your own photo prowess, complete with dick pics — also known as your “awesome” sports photos). Years ago, I tried my hand at sales. My dad was a salesman for several decades. He was as smooth as silk when it came to selling people things they didn’t need; things such as Kirby vacuüm cleaners and Combined Insurance Company supplemental medical policies. Unfortunately, I was not like my dad, and I failed miserably at selling stuff. I even tried my hand at selling the product you tried to sell us today.

One lesson I did learn from my foray into sales is that it is very important to pay attention to your prospective customers’ homes. How do they live? What’s hanging on their walls? Years later, I would use this technique in my selling of Jesus to sinners. As someone who’s been in sales for years should know, it is important to make a connection with customers. The easiest way to do that is to talk about them, and not yourself. Unfortunately, you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings as you walked into our home, and as a result you made assumptions about us that were invalid. You are much like the Amway salesman that came to our home years ago thinking that by mentioning his Cadillac sitting in our driveway and showing us his Rolex watch and diamond ring, we would be so impressed that we would immediately want to become salesman for Con-way. Nothing in our home — a mobile home — told this man that we were people who placed a premium on material wealth. He missed all the cues that our home, dress, and demeanor told him. You did the same, by not paying attention to us, and by spending way too much time talking about yourself; building yourself into a larger-than-life master of industry. One thing I have learned over my sixty-six years of life is to spot a bull-shitter from a mile away. Soon as you started regaling us with your exploits, I knew we were talking to a first-class, Grade-A biped manure spreader.

Had you been paying attention, you never would have repeatedly referenced the Evangelical God in your conversation with us. You wouldn’t have told us that God has a plan for everyone’s life or that the Christian God is in control of everything. You also wouldn’t have mentioned how my wife’s employer — for whom she has worked twenty-seven years — has gone downhill since its Evangelical founder died; that the third generation now running the company is only concerned with profits and the bottom line. What was it about how we lived, dressed, or carried ourselves that said to you we are Christians? There’s nothing in our home that even remotely suggests that we are Christian; no Jesus Junk®, no Bibles lying around, no Evangelical books in our bookcase; nothing that suggests that we are Jesus-loving, church-going Christians. I suspect you wrongly assume that everyone in rural northwest Ohio believes in the Christian God, so you thought it safe to use God to warm us up and entice us to say yes. Little did you know we are atheists. I wonder how uncomfortable that fact might have made you feel had you known.

My wife and I are kind and generous to a fault. We said nothing as you blabbered on about your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent mythical deity. After you left, my wife even complimented me — with a chuckle in her voice — for using the word darn instead of damn in one of my responses to you. You see, I pay attention to my surroundings. I don’t go out of my way to offend Christians. When my wife’s Evangelical parents come to our home to visit, we temper our language, change the TV channel to Hallmark, and play G-rated music. We don’t want to unnecessarily offend them; even though they find plenty to be offended over by our stocked liquor cabinet, their daughter’s worldly apparel, the atheist books on my bookshelves, our children’s lack of faith, and our lack of church attendance and prayer before meals (though we do allow Polly’s dad to say a prayer before meals). You might learn something from our behavior: that unless you know a prospective customer is a member of the Jesus Club®, perhaps it’s better to not assume. You came to our home to sell us your company’s product, not to sell Jesus. Had we known that Jesus was going to be part of the sales presentation, we certainly would not have invited you into our home.

There is much more that I could say about your interaction with us; stuff that should have resulted in us saying no thanks. But, thanks to me researching your company and its product, and thoroughly educating myself about what it does, we decided to buy your product anyway. While we were turned off by your sales presentation, including the part that treated us like aged imbeciles, we had decided beforehand that if the price in your company’s flyer was indeed correct, we were going to rent your product. So then, it was your lucky day, Mister Jesus Freak, that you ran into customers who could ignore your religious drivel, and instead base their decision on whether your product would meet their needs.

Next time you go into someone’s home to sell them your product, pay attention. Your next prospective customer might not be as thoughtful and deferring as we are. Perhaps it would just be better if you left religion out of your sales pitch altogether. There’s something dirty and shallow about trying to hook prospects with Jesus talk. While I suspect my wife and I are in the minority when it comes to not wanting to hear salesmen talk about their love life with Jesus, an increasing number of local residents are choosing to label themselves as NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. These prospective customers want to hear about your product, not your God. Keep that in mind the next time you start telling a customer about the God who controls everything. You might find out that the only God who controls something is the customer who has the power to say yes or no to your sales pitch; and for customers who aren’t religious, they are more likely to say no to someone who uses religion in an attempt to reel them in.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Are Factory Workers Mindless Drones Who Need “Smart People” to Tell Them What to Do?

sauder woodworking

I recently listened to a podcast that featured an interview with a scientist. The scientist extolled the virtue of education, especially science education. Everyone needs to think like a scientist, the thinking went. If not, they will end up working mindless jobs in factories. Such people don’t think for themselves. They want or need overlords to tell them what to do.

The scientist quickly caught himself, saying “not that working in a factory is bad.” In my mind, that was too little, too late. His statement revealed a bias that is common among “educated” people. Such people typically have no real-world experience with factory work. Had they any experience working the line at a factory, they never would have made such an asinine statement.

Instead of demeaning factory workers, how about valuing the work they do? Without them, our country would come to a standstill. If everyone was a scientist doing “cool” stuff, we would all die and our world would become uninhabitable. Look around your home, car, and businesses you frequent. Imagine what things would look like without factory workers (or other workers lacking college educations).

Polly, along with our oldest and youngest sons, works for a large local manufacturing concern. Both Polly and Jason have worked for the company for over twenty-five years. Jason started in groundskeeping and is now a mid-level manager. Polly is a shift manager for auxiliary services. Both are paid well and have good benefits. None of them works “mindless” jobs. Can factory work be monotonous? Sure, but don’t think for a moment that manufacturing jobs require employees to check their brains at the door. If factory work isn’t your cup of tea, fine. But, don’t demean people who play an essential part in the building and progress of our country.

One interesting side note is the fact that way too many people follow the scientist’s advice. They go to college, graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and enter the workforce, thinking they will easily find a job in their chosen profession. And when they don’t, what do they do? They end up working the very jobs the aforementioned scientist disparaged. Scores of people with associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees work factory jobs. Why? They quickly find out that they can make more money working in a factory than they can working in their chosen professions. This is especially true for people with social science or education degrees. Polly went back to college, thinking she might want to work in a different field. She quickly learned that the jobs that would be available to her upon graduation would pay $6-$8 less an hour than what she was making in the factory at the time.

I see this same kind of thinking when society belittles rural people. We are just a bunch of low-life, uneducated hillbillies. Yet without us — and I gladly own my tribe — those deprecating us would starve. By all means, city folks, grow your own crops, raise your own livestock. 🙂 Let me know how that works out for you. You need us even if you don’t like us.

When you feel that people look down on you and view you as less than, what do you do? You look for people and groups that accept and respect you (even if they do so for political reasons as Trump and the Republicans are doing). Yes, rural people tend to vote against their own interests. What is never asked is WHY? Why has the Democratic Party lost rural America? Perhaps one of the reasons is that rural folks have been listening to what Democratic leaders say about them. “Oh they want our votes, but they think we are stupid hicks, deplorables, or dangerous gun owners.” None of us like to be talked down to, to be demeaned for who and what we are. We have now reached a point where rural people are outraged over how the government in general mistreats them. Sure, some of their outrage is misinformed, but much of it is not. Until Democrats shut the hell up and LISTEN, they will continue to suffer election losses.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Living in the Land of God, Guns, and the GOP: Local Evangelical Car Repair Ad

god guns trump

We live in rural Northwest Ohio, fifty miles west of Toledo and forty-five miles east of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is our home, even though we have lived in central Ohio, Southeast Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, California, and Texas. I was born in nearby Bryan, Ohio. My Hungarian grandparents owned a one-hundred-acre farm three miles north of my home. Since 2007, we have lived in the one-stoplight town of Ney, population 356. Over the years, I worked for two local churches, one in Montpelier, another in West Unity.

As a young man, I couldn’t wait to get away from rural Northwest Ohio with its flat land (an overpass is a hill) and social and cultural monoculture. Yet, time after time over the years, I returned to my home, finally making peace with its bland, boring, slow way of life. Now that pervasive health problems have boxed me in, I know I am “stuck,” with no other option than to live out my days in the land of God, Guns, and the GOP.

Lest I leave readers with the impression that I am just sitting around waiting to die, let me be clear, I love living in rural Northwest Ohio. I am a homegrown boy, intimately familiar with my surroundings. I love the watch-the-corn-grow rhythm of life. Yet, wanderlust is ever with me, calling me to waters and hills far beyond my home. I know I am living in the last home I will ever inhabit, so I have to content myself with road trips and vacations to other places. My six children and thirteen grandchildren live nearby, allowing me to be involved in their lives as much as I physically can. Yet, I can’t help but hope that my grandchildren will leave this place we call home and explore the world.

I am an atheist in a place where few people are. I have met fewer than ten locals over the past fourteen years who identify as atheists or agnostics (and some of them are still in the closet). I am sure there are more atheists around me, but the economic and social costs are such that atheists often keep their unbelief to themselves. Evangelicalism rules the roost, even at mainline churches. There are three hundred churches within thirty or so minutes from our home. Jesus is everywhere (yet nowhere because he’s dead) — literally. And the local culture reflects this. People assume you are a Christian. People assume you attend church. People assume you believe the Bible is the Word of God. People assume you believe God created everything. The pressure to conform to religious norms can be overwhelming. While I refuse to conform, I totally understand why some local atheists choose to play the “game” instead of being tarred and feathered as an unbeliever.

Let me give you a good example of how pervasive Evangelical Christianity is in rural Northwest Ohio. What follows is a front-page ad on the Defiance Crescent-News’ website for Auto Servant, a Christian car repair business in Defiance.

auto servant ad

Auto Servant has a Facebook page for its business. Here are some of the posts made on the page:

Christmas

Merry Christmas! From all of us at Auto Servant! We are so thankful for God our father to send His son Jesus Christ! And to lead us all with the Holy Spirit! We are so thankful for all our friends and family and customers! You are the best people in the world! We truly appreciate you all and all you do. For all your prayers and support! We are very grateful for you all! God bless you!

Thanksgiving

We are so thankful for God our father! Our Lord Jesus Christ! Our guidance Holy Spirit! Thank you Lord for all you have done for us and our families! You are the center of who we are! Thank you to all our wonderful family and employees. You are the best! Thank you to all of our wonderful customers and friends! We truly appreciate you all so much! God has put amazing people in our lives! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Easter

Praise God- though the last few days- we were unsure/ now we know/ God has risen! Death has been defeated! Jesus you change everything! Chains fall- fear gone- Jesus you change everything!

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! Thank you Lord for your sacrifice and for the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for us! We pray for Your protection over the USA!

Easter

Celebrating the greatest comeback in HISTORY! God bless you all! Thank you Lord Jesus for sacrificing so much for us!

It’s clear from its newspaper ad and Facebook page that the owner of Auto Servant has a certain demographic in mind for its services — Christians. On one hand, this is a smart business model. Using words and imagery that says to local Christians: “Hey, I am part of the same tribe. Get your car fixed here,” is smart and likely profitable. Auto Servant is not the only local business that uses this model. Crosses, fish symbols, and Bible quotations are common. Go to these businesses and you will find Christian kitsch everywhere. Again, these things say to Christian customers: “Hey, I am one of you. Spend your money here.”

On the other hand, the United States is becoming increasingly non-religious. The fastest-growing religious demographic in the U.S. is the “nones” — those who self-identify as atheist, agnostic, or indifferent towards religion. People in this demographic are less likely to frequent businesses that use religion as a marketing tool (even if these businesses think they have a higher motive or purpose for doing so). As godless heathens, my wife and I deliberately avoid businesses that use Jesus to promote their stores. That’s why we don’t eat at Chik-fil-A or shop at Hobby Lobby. That’s why we don’t shop at some local businesses and would never take our car in for repair at Auto Servant. We simply won’t do business with stores that lead with the Cross.

We certainly frequent businesses owned by Christians. We have no problem with an owner’s personal religious beliefs as long she keeps her beliefs to herself. When we go to a business, we are there to fulfill our wants and needs. If we wanted to hear about Jesus, we would go to a church. Several years ago, an appliance repairman came to our home to fix our dryer. We knew he was a Christian, but he was known for providing excellent service, so we decided to have him repair our dryer. During the course of repairing our dryer, he took it upon himself — unprompted — to witness to us and invite us to his church. We said nothing. However, we will never do business with this man again.

We rarely shop locally these days. The reasons are many, but one reason is that we are tired of the constant Jesus-in-your-face business practices. Typically, we do most of our shopping in Fort Wayne, Toledo, or online. By doing so, we use our dollars as a protest to the practice of using Jesus/Christianity as a marketing tool. Will this choice of ours make any difference locally? Nope. And that doesn’t matter. This is a personal choice for us, one that reflects our values. A generation from now, I suspect local businesses will be less likely to parade Jesus and Christianity before potential customers. For now, Jesus is good for business.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Local IFB Pastor John MacFarlane’s Latest on “Reverse Racism” and “Miscegenation”

trump im not a racist

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in nearby Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. I attended First Baptist Church in the 1960s and 1970s. I was attending First Baptist when I left in August 1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan.

MacFarlane writes a public daily devotional on First Baptist’s website. I have featured his prose on this site several times. Last July, MacFarlane posted a devotional titled “Racism.” As you shall see, MacFarlane thinks race and ethnicity are one the same:

I am writing today’s devotional on June 10 while sitting in a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel room in Louisville, KY

…..

The culture of Kentucky is definitely different than the culture of Ohio.  I didn’t say wrong and I didn’t say worse.  I said different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I want to share with you a very politically incorrect observation.  Bear with me as I set this up.

In the little dining area of the hotel, the television has the morning news running to provide those enjoying their breakfast with some indigestion.  News is never good, it seems.  The news today featured:  the millions of ransom dollars paid by a company to someone who had taken their computer systems hostage; issues on the border and a Vice-President who has yet to act as the border czar;  Presidential missteps and mistakes; millions of COVID vaccines rapidly reaching their expiration dates;  race riots, BLM, protests, white privilege, and apologizing for our race.  That’s where my observations come in.How much of this is made up, contrived by those who aren’t content unless they are fighting?!?  

How much of this is stirred up by people whose nickname should be Maytag – always agitating?

Oh, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe racism is out there.  There are places where it is practiced in some despicable ways.  But deal with it there.  Don’t bring it where I’m at and introduce it like another strain of the Wuhan plague.  I have yet to be in a place where I’ve felt that tension and I don’t want to be in that place.  Get rid of it THERE…deal with it THERE…and certainly don’t bring it around me!

Let me introduce you to Betty, Earl, Millie, and Carl.   Every one of them had a much darker tan than I have!  In fact, this was true throughout the facility.  The Hampton Inn & Suites of Louisville, KY was an ethnic melting pot.  So what?They were the kindest people.

….

The Asian housekeepers were courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating if you asked a question.

There were mutual niceties and respect.  I didn’t feel treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin and I certainly didn’t treat or look at them differently because of the color of their skin.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

….

I never once felt uncomfortable or threatened.  I saw blacks treating whites respectfully, openly talking with each other.  I saw whites treating blacks the same way.  Never did I see anything that made me think that I needed to hide in fear.  Doors were opened for one another.  Common courtesies and manners were demonstrated between ethnicities

…..

We cannot deny our history and pretend that there are not some very shameful events from the past.  But I’m not living there.  If the past continues to shade our present – if we allow it to do that – we will never move on and achieve the equity that is allegedly sought.  Yes, atrocities were done.  However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.

Is it possible that some people aren’t happy unless they are stirring a pot, creating a fight, and spreading animosity and hatred?  Once again, please hear what I’m saying.  I know racism exists.  But creating a national narrative that teaches racism is everywhere and that if you’re white, you’re automatically a racist is nothing more than a vicious, vulgar lie and I personally resent and am angered by the accusation.

Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  From this original couple sprang every ethnicity there is.  There are not multiple races.  We are all of one race and that race is humanity.  Ethnicities are just the spices of life that the Lord has added to keep us from becoming dull and boring.

Celebrate the ethnicities.  Respect them.  Refuse to place one above another.  Make the playing field level.  That’s the way God does it.

….

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another.  We definitely don’t need sensitivity training.  It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.If it’s a fight people want, take them to the cross where the greatest fight ever was fought and won – by a JEW, nonetheless!  Praise the Lord!

You can read my pointed response here.

You would think that MacFarlane would recant his previous post and make amends for his overtly racist language. Alas, he is an IFB preacher, so no honest reflection is forthcoming.

Today, MacFarlane doubled down on his (deliberate) misunderstanding of race and ethnicity:

Where do I begin with Biblical application?!?  Let’s start by addressing the obvious – racism.  I know.  We are sick to death of hearing about this because of the media hype and the cancel culture.  But we have to acknowledge and admit that racism does exist.  There is a rapidly growing Antisemitic spirit in America.  Jews in large cities like NYC are targeted for violence.  There is racism against blacks.  And there is a reverse-racism against whites.

….

Let’s add to this by talking about miscegenation.  The vast majority of you reading this are the product of miscegenation.  I am a product of miscegenation.  From what I understand, my grandmother was a full-blooded German.  She married a Scotsman who was part Irish.  They had my dad.  He married a woman who was part Irish, British Anglo-Saxon, and hillbilly!  That combination had me.

What is my “cultural identity?”  What is my heritage.  I really don’t have one.  I’m Heinz 57.  I’m a mutt.  I’m a mixed breed.  And my culture/heritage is mine.  It’s new.  Better yet, I’m saved!  That’s an entirely different culture/heritage that doesn’t fit with any that are in this world.

As I read Scripture, one heritage and cultural identity was to be protected and that was the Jew.  Amazingly, it has been preserved through the centuries so that during the Tribulation, 12,000 from each tribe will still have their heritage intact and will make up the 144,000.

As I noted in my previous post about MacFarlane’s views of race and ethnicity, the good pastor doesn’t believe racism exists in rural Northwest Ohio (please see Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio?). Oh racism exists “somewhere,” just not here in white/Republican/Evangelical Northwest Ohio. Today, MacFarlane mentions for the first time “reverse racism” against whites. I thought, yet again, OMG, John, did you really say this out loud?” MacFarlane is an avid Trump supporter — the man who has done more to advance the intellectual bankrupt idea of “reverse racism” than David Duke.

MacFarlane defines “miscegenation” as people of different ethnicities marrying each other. I am beginning to wonder if MacFarlane has access to a dictionary. Had he bothered to look up the word miscegenation, he would have learned:

miscegenation

Wikipedia defines “miscegenation” this way:

Miscegenation is the interbreeding of people who are considered to be members of different races.The word is derived from a combination of the Latin terms miscere (to mix) and genus (race) from the Hellenic “γένος”. The word first appeared in “Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro,” a pretended anti-Abolitionist pamphlet David Goodman Croly and others published anonymously in advance of the 1864 U.S. presidential election. The term came to be associated with laws that banned interracial marriage and sex, which were known as anti-miscegenation laws.

Interbreeding of different races John, not whites marrying whites. Surely MacFarlane knows this, so I assume his fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between race and ethnicity (and I understand “race” is a complex issue) is driven by his right-wing theological and political beliefs; that and the fact that he has spent most of his life living in white-as-a-KKK-sheet rural northwest Ohio.

Unfortunately, I will likely be the only local person to call into question MacFarlane’s harmful misunderstanding of race and miscegenation — along with many other political and social issues.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, Do You Still Feel a “Tribal” Pull When Coming in Contact with People Different From You?

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.

Kel asked:

As part of a minority group in my home country, I feel that religion, in this case Christianity, provides me with a sense of belonging. It helps since a lot of people of my own ethnicity are Christians, too.

Even after I started questioning my Evangelical faith – though I won’t consider myself an atheist – I can still feel a surge of (“Christian”) zeal when confronted with Evangelicals’ “tribal enemies” or unfamiliar situations (people with different religions, etc.). Strangely, I am never bothered by online atheists though . Probably because they never threaten me with their version of Hell.

My question is: as a humanist, do you still experience this “tribal pull” when you see unfamiliar people with different customs or religions? Especially if they seem threatening.

Kel asks an interesting (and difficult) question: “as a humanist, do you still experience this ‘tribal pull’ when you see unfamiliar people with different customs or religions? Especially if they seem threatening.”

The short answer is no. Now let me explain. I grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) home. I was saved, baptized, and called to preach at an IFB church in Findlay, Ohio. I attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and spent twenty-five years of my life pastoring IFB/Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

If the IFB church movement is anything, it is anti-culture, separatist, and White — very, very White. The communities I lived in and churches I pastored were very, very White too. And Christian. It was assumed by one and all that everyone was Christian, even if, as an IFB preacher, I tried to evangelize my neighbors for being the wrong type of Christian.

What I have described above is typical for the rural Midwest (even though Ohio is technically in the East). While I have lived in large racially diverse communities — San Diego, Tucson, San Antonio, Yuma, and Pontiac — the bulk of my life has been spent among people who look just like me. My Fundamentalist religious beliefs, then, fit well with my cultural identity.

Thirteen years ago, I walked away from Christianity, and in doing so, I abandoned my cultural identity. However, long before my deconversion, my politics began to change. I went from being a flag-waving, right-wing Christian nationalist to a Democratic socialist. I left the Republican Party in 2000, and even though I am still a registered Democrat (due to our broken two-party system), I am far too liberal and pacifistic for most Democrats. I voted for Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020, not because I liked the candidates, but because I considered Donald Trump an existential threat to our Country. He still is.

I am an atheist, humanist, socialist, and pacifist in a part of the country where people who believe as I do are as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker. Thus, I remain a separatist, at odds with most of the people around me. My neighbors, for the most part, have never been my tribe. Thanks to the Trumpism that has infected rural Ohio, it is my neighbors I fear, not “outsiders” — as if anyone “different” would willingly move to the White land of God, Guns, and the GOP. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for the fact that our six children and thirteen grandchildren live twenty minutes or less from us, Polly and I wouldn’t live here. We have few friends and often feel like we are black swans in a bank of white swans. We just don’t fit. Yet, we enjoy the slow pace of country life. We feel “safe” — that is until the Trumpists and militias take up arms against the government and seek to harm those who believe differently from them. Thanks to me being a public figure who is well-known locally, we won’t be hard to find when extremists come looking for commies, socialists, and atheists.

As I ponder Kel’s question, I can only think of one instance where I felt a “tribal” pull when coming in contact with someone “different.” Shortly after 9-11, Polly and I went grocery shopping at Meijer in Defiance. I was pastoring a small Evangelical church in West Unity, at the time. As we turned the corner to walk down the next grocery aisle, we suddenly and frightfully stopped. Not far from us was a young Muslim couple (they could have been Indian). She was wearing a face covering, and he was wearing a turban. I thought, “Are these people terrorists? Are they suicide bombers”?

As a humanist, I accept that I will always be considered an outsider. I am the “different” person in Kel’s question. Perhaps I need to ask local right-wing Christians what they think and feel when they come in contact with me.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Let’s Play Smear the Queer

smear the queer

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I attended a high school football game in which the fans on both sides of the field stood with hands over hearts as the band played our post-9/11 national anthem — God Bless America. This largely Evangelical, conservative, Republican crowd views religion and patriotism as one and the same. In their minds, the United States is a uniquely chosen and blessed nation, a people whose God is the deity found within the pages of the Bible. I doubt that any of these uber-patriotic Christians thought, as they stood to praise Jesus, that what they were doing turned faith into a political football to be tossed to and fro, according to the whims of our political elites. From their perspective, the United States has always been God’s Country®. Other religions are grudgingly permitted, and even atheists are allowed the freedom to live as they please, but no one should ever doubt that there is one true God, and J-E-S-U-S is his name.

Once the crowd was finished masturbating to the American flag and our country’s phallic “greatness,” they settled in to watch two-plus hours of rock-em-sock-em, mano-a-mano organized violence. Christianity quickly faded into the distance as each side cheered their team, calling on them to pummel their opponent into submission. Players were encouraged to hit hard, incapacitating their enemy. So much was on the line: future tales of gridiron glory and a conference championship awaited the team with the most points at the end of the game. As the game wore on, one team got the upper hand and handily beat their rival into the ground. From both sides of the field, the people who just an hour or so ago were singing praises to their God were now screaming and cursing at the officials. One offended fan even went so far as to attack one of the officials because he was fat, leading my son to say, what does the official’s weight have to do with the call he made?

After the game, as I walked to my car, a man and his son passed by me. As they did, the father asked the son what he had been doing during the game (many children “attend” football games, but don’t actually watch the event). The boy replied we were playing smear the queer. I thought, oh my God, here we are in the 21st century, and a boyhood game is STILL called, with nary a thought, smear the QUEER. The boy’s father said nothing, giving tacit approval to his son’s disparaging use of the word “queer.” I suspect the boy has never bothered to consider that using the word QUEER (or any other pejorative word for LGBTQ people) might be offensive. But the father knew better, and yet he said nothing. (and I know some LGBTQ people call themselves queers. That doesn’t mean non-LGBTQ people should use the word in a pejorative way.)

I am not surprised by the things I observed. After all, I live in rural northwest Ohio, a land primarily inhabited by heterosexual white Republican Christians; a land that gives white preference its color; a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world. While I thoroughly enjoy watching (and photographing) high school sporting events, I find the cultural trappings surrounding these contests to be disheartening. I know that most fellow locals have never ventured far from the farm fields, manufacturing facilities, and Christian churches of northwest Ohio. They are simply living out what they know, rarely, if ever, exposed to the complex, contradictory world that lies outside their borders. When those who live in a particular locality never come in contact with people different from them, and when the few who are different are dismissed and marginalized, it is no surprise that the locals think and behave the way they do. In their world, smearing a queer is just another childhood game; a game, however, that says much about place where it is played.

It goes without saying that not every local is as described above. I am deliberately painting with a broad brush. Over the past fifteen years, I have met a few liberal-minded locals who value pluralism and multiculturalism; people who know something about life beyond the flatlands and cornfields of rural northwest Ohio. Personally, I love the place I call home, even if I am not loved back. I appreciate the slowness of small-town life. I love living in a town where I never have to worry about being burglarized or murdered, and if I leave my car unlocked it will still be in the drive come morning. I don’t want readers to think that I hate where I live. I don’t. This is my home. My children and grandchildren live here, and it is for them I continue to confront local bigotry, racism, and religious extremism. I want them to have a better tomorrow.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Rural Northwest Ohio: Living in TrumpLand

Scores of Trump signs and flags permeate the landscape of rural northwest Ohio — almost six months after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Nearly seven out of ten local voters voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections. President Biden is hated despite handing out thousands of stimulus dollars to local families and millions of welfare dollars to farmers. In the minds of most locals, socialists, commies, atheists, “illegals,” AOC, the Squad, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer are pawns of Satan, evil people who must be repelled at all costs.

Ten or so miles north of where we live, a Trump worshiper planted the following signs on Highway 15:

trump supporter rural northwest ohio (1)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (2)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (4)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (3)
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce, Do You See Young People Leaving Christianity in Rural Northwest Ohio?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

ObstacleChick asked:

Where you live in evangelical conservative land, are you seeing younger people leaving religion as polls seem to indicate in the US?

I live in rural northwest Ohio. While I have lived in Michigan, California, Arizona, and Texas over the years, rural Ohio is my home. I understand country thinking, chafe when city-slickers call us ignorant hillbillies, and generally appreciate the cultural values of country life. That said, as I have moved leftward politically and embraced atheism, I have increasingly found the God-Guns-Republican ethos of rural folks to be stifling and frustrating.

Older locals, with a few exceptions, view me as a curiosity — someone they can’t figure out. I have been told on more than a few occasions, “Bruce, how can you be so smart, yet so dumb?” Those who were congregants of mine or know my Evangelical background are shocked that someone of my education, experience, and faith could ever turn his back on Jesus and start worshiping Satan — “Satan” being a catchall for atheism, liberalism, progressivism, communism, socialism, and other -ism’s their pastors have deemed anti-God.

Over the years, I have been repeatedly eviscerated by local Evangelicals and conservative Catholics in letters to the editors of the Bryan Times and the Defiance Crescent-News. Some of these Jesus-lovers have turned to lies and distortions to “prove” that I am Satan incarnate or a communist infiltrator. One man said that I was lying about my ministerial past, and that he had reported me to the state of Ohio for illegally performing weddings (which he did not actually do).

One day, I received an email from this man’s nephew. He informed me that he considered his uncle a blooming idiot. This 20-something man told me that he didn’t attend church; that he was an atheist. Over the years, I have received numerous emails and social media comments from younger locals. With the exception of one woman — a local pastor’s daughter — these young people voiced their discontent over the right-wing/conservative nature of rural northwest Ohio. Many of them no longer attended church or still went to services on Sundays because they had to.

Based on these anecdotes, I have concluded that local young people are increasingly disaffected from the religious beliefs and politics of their parents and grandparents — especially those who had opportunities to move away,go to college, and experience the world outside of homogeneous rural northwest Ohio.. I see this same disaffection with most of my children. Regrettably, one of my sons has become a gun-toting, Trump-supporting, white supremacist — who is now flying a militia flag and the Christian flag from his front porch. Except for him, my children have liberal/progressive values. Not all of them are atheists, but none of them, except for our white supremacist son, attends Evangelical churches. I suspect all of them will vote for Biden on election day. Even Bethany — our daughter with Down syndrome — if she could vote, she’d vote for Biden. The other day a Trump ad came on TV. Bethany booed and said, FUCK TRUMP! She is certainly a product of her environment.

Generally, local churches are losing younger congregants, especially when they go off to college. Churches are dying on the vine, though local Christians would try to argue that this is untrue. “Look at Xperience Church in Defiance,” they would say. “Xperience is growing by leaps and bounds! See, Jesus is alive and well.” However, as someone who has studied Evangelical church growth since the 1970s, I know that just because a few new Evangelical clubs are growing doesn’t mean the rest of the clubs are okay. In fact, where do churches such as Xperience get most of their new members? Transfer growth — Christians moving from one church to another. (Please see The Fine Art of Church Hopping.) Xperience Church has pillaged other congregations to fuel their explosive growth, Interestingly, some of the churches that have suffered the greatest loss from Xperience stealing members are those who did the very same thing to mainline churches in the 1970s and 1980s. You see, it is immoral capitalism that drives Evangelical church growth. Xperience Church just so happens to be the newest hamburger joint in town. Everyone loves visiting a new restaurant — especially here in rural northwest Ohio where Applebee’s and Chipolte are considered upscale fine dining. (Please see Dear Evangelical, Just Because You Quote the Bible Doesn’t Make Your Comment True, “We Accept Anyone No Matter What,” Local Evangelical Says.)

Looks, then, are deceiving. Yes, some local Evangelical churches are growing. However, the question remains, WHY are these churches growing? Where are there new members coming from? Since virtually everyone in rural northwest Ohio is a Christian, this growth can’t be driven by conversions. What’s driving this growth is people deciding they prefer Wendy’s over McDonald’s. The good news is the fact that many young people have decided they don’t like any of the offerings from local hamburger joints, choosing instead to cook at home, become vegans, or seek out rational, progressive restaurants. When you have had a Five Guys or Red Robin hamburger or eaten at a gastropub in Fort Wayne or Toledo, it’s hard to return to cheap, unsatisfying hamburgers sold on every corner in rural Ohio.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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I Love Black People, Said the Local White Man

i'm not racist

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I followed a discussion among rural northwest Ohio white people about racism. The discussion was quite entertaining. None of them admitted to being racist, and many of them felt that, whatever racism there may have been in the past, it no longer exists (or it is just the product of a few racist outliers).

One man, wanting to show how proud he was not to be a racist, informed everyone that he lived near some black people and they had a really nice house and yard!

As I said, there is no racism around here.

And there’s not, if you think racism=KKK (though the recent rise of local white supremacists groups is starting to change my thinking on this).

What we do have is a latent, subtle racism that shows up in comments like the one I just mentioned. He was surprised that the blacks who lived near him had a nice house and yard. Why? Are blacks somehow predisposed to having trashy houses and yards?

Using this kind of logic, I could make the same statement about white people. Near my ex-daughter-in-law’s home in Defiance, there are four or so homes that WHITE people have thoroughly trashed. All of the houses are rentals, owned by white slum lords who rent to people who don’t care about where they live.

So, what’s up with these white people?

Or, we can stop thinking like this, and realize that some “red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight” people are pigs (shameless use of Jesus Loves the Little Children). Some landlords are slum lords who don’t care about their communities. Their only objective is to maximize their profits and hope the house burns down in a few years.

I know a good bit about poverty, When I lived with my mom in the 1970s, we were on food stamps and AFDC. I know the shame that comes from using food stamps at the local grocery, or having to get welfare eyeglasses. But, despite the poverty, my Mom kept a clean home — too cluttered for her son with OCPD, but clean, nonetheless. We took care of what little stuff we owned.

These life lessons my Mom taught me, Polly and I taught to our children:

  • There is no shame in being poor
  • Work hard
  • Take care of what you own
  • Keep your bedroom/car/house/yard clean

Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you have to make your surroundings look like the county landfill. Taking care of what’s yours and showing respect for the property of others are issues of character, not of race.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser