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Tag: Patriarchy

Jodi Heckert Pledged to Protect His Daughter’s Virginity, Now in Prison For Child Molestation

jodi heckert and daughter
Photo by David Magnusson

Jodi Heckert and his daughter appeared in a June 14, 2014, Slate Magazine article titled “Striking Portraits of Fathers and the Daughters Whose Virginity They’ve Pledged to Protect.” (While Heckert’s daughter is now an adult, I have decided to not publish her name.) The story features the photography of David Magnusson. As a photographer, I found Magnusson’s work to be stunning (and creepily disturbing), but I do wonder, based on several of his quotes in the article, if Magnusson really understands the American purity culture. For those of us who were once a part of the patriarchy movement, David Magnusson’s photographs are reminders of the many girls who are smothered by their God-fearing, hymen-worshiping “protective” fathers. Heckert, pictured above with his 13-year-old daughter, is one such father. In August of 2015, Heckert was found guilty of attempted child molestation and sentenced to ten years in prison.

jodi heckert inmate
jodi heckert prison record
jodi heckert prison record 2

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Here’s what Ayperi Karabuda Ecer had to say about Magnusson’s photographs:

David Magnusson’s focus is not on the individuals, it is on the relationship. The strength, the tenderness, the domination, and all the contradictions springing from adult men seeking promises which will guide young girls’ intimate lives and their infinite need for love and protection.

Each shoot takes up to an hour. That is no longer a “moment”; it is a long time to maintain intensity. Yet some of the fathers and daughters spend the hour physically clinging to each other.

The light is what makes this project visually coherent. All photographs are organized to be shot an hour and a half before dawn. Yes, it is beautiful. Many of the fathers refer to light in their interviews. One of them quotes Psalm 40: “I was plucked from a miry pit and sat into a marvellous light”, another thinks that “as Christians we’re supposed to be the light in the world.”

David Magnusson’s lighting appeals to those who pose but its airy subtlety also adds a surreal tone which contrasts with the solid convictions of the photographed. The setting seems to be from a fairy tale but we are confused by the cast.

David Magnusson knows that what is missing in a frame is as important as what is present. As fathers and daughters intensely try to embody the presence of God, one wonders what fears and hopes lie behind their mutual determination? Who are the men that inspire such fright and such need for protection? What past scars do the fathers want to redeem? Will these girls ever be able to love anyone more than their own progenitor? How much do our own demons suggest interpretations?

Purity is a personal visual project that offers a stage for intense emotions and questions.

As with all images, these carry different meanings depending on where and by whom they will be viewed. Ideally they need to be accompanied by the interviews and a balanced introduction.

But as with so many other images they will also be encountered divorced from initial purpose and control in an unpredictable journey.

Purity is a project about contradictions, love and domination, beauty and fear, relying on the very singular complexities of the photographic process.

Please take the time to view Magnusson’s photographs, and when finished please let me know what you think in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Duty Bound to Give Their Mothers Grandchildren

lori and ken alexander

We have too many friends our age (in their 60s) who have children that are either not married or are not having children. These friends WANT grandchildren desperately, but their children aren’t interested. Why is this?

….

God wants us to pass down biblical wisdom to our children and grandchildren. They aren’t going to get it from our culture. They will be told to be independent, travel, and make money instead of marry, bear children, and guide the home (1 Timothy 5:14). It seems that most young women are on birth control these days which is highly dangerous. It is even causing infertility. Women are most fertile in their late teens and twenties, then fertility goes dramatically down.

….

Women, you must teach your daughters the beauty of God’s ways. The greatest way you do this is by showing them. Show them that you love your husband, their father. Be an example to them of a joyful, godly mother. Sure, you are going to go through trials and sufferings. We all do. And sure, there will be many difficult days of mothering, but difficult isn’t bad. God’s path for us isn’t the easy, broad path. It’s the narrow path that leads to life!

Train your daughters to be homemakers from a young age. Teach them how to keep a home clean and tidy, to cook, bake, garden, can, iron, sew, and all that it takes to run a home. Let your husband work with your sons on becoming masculine men who will want to grow up to have families of their own. As your daughters grow older, go through my study guide with them so they can see clearly God’s will for them from His Word. Read the Bible to them from a young age. Have them memorize many verses. Pray with them daily. Take them church faithfully. Homeschool them. You be the one to raise and teach your own children so when they grow up, they will want a family of their own.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Many Never Will Become Grandparents, June 16, 2021

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander Tells Women How to Become Attractive to Their Husbands

lori and ken alexander

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

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

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

A few tips on building attraction with your husband:

1. Pay attention to what makes him moody.

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

3. Publicly embarrass him with compliments.

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

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

6. Love God more than you love him.

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

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

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

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

11. Live wisely and contentedly within his income.

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

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

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

15. Give him a back and neck rub.

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

17. Go on dates together if at all possible.

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

19. Be submissive to his leadership.

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

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

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

23. Take responsibility for your attitudes and behaviors.

24. Be caring and compassionate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Why Evangelical Beliefs and Practices are Psychologically Harmful — Part Two

submission

Part One

Evangelicalism is dominated by Bible literalism. God said it, and that settles it. There can be no debate or argument on the matter. An infallible God has spoken, and his infallible words are recorded in an infallible book — the Protestant Christian Bible. Whatever the Bible teaches, Evangelicals are duty-bound to believe and obey. While Evangelicals may argue about this or that doctrine’s finer points, calling oneself an Evangelical requires fidelity to certain established doctrinal truths. Christianity is, after all, the faith once delivered to the saintsJesus is, after all, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Psychological manipulation is a common tool used by Evangelical preachers to get congregants to do their bidding. I hear the outrage of offended Evangelicals now, screaming for all to hear that THEIR church is not like that, that their pastor is different. Maybe, perhaps, but I doubt it.

If their church or pastor really is different, it is likely because they are not really Evangelical. There are many churches and pastors who are really liberals or progressives who fear making their true theological and social identities known. Fearing the mob, these thoughtful Evangelicals hide their true allegiances. I don’t fault them for doing so, but such churches and pastors are not representative of typical Evangelical beliefs and practices.

In particular, women face the brunt of Evangelical preaching against sin and disobedience. What do Evangelicals believe the Bible teaches about women?

  • Women are weaker than men.
  • Women are intellectually inferior, requiring men to teach and guide them.
  • Women are to submit to their husbands in the home and to male leadership in the church.
  • Women must never be permitted to have authority over men.
  • Women must dress modestly so that they don’t cause weak, pathetic men to lust after them.
  • The highest calling of women is to marry, bear children, and keep the home.
  • Feminism is a Satanic attack on God’s order for the church and home.

Think about this list for a moment. Are Evangelical women equal to men? No! Women are, at best, second-class citizens. They must never be put in positions where they have control or power. Such places are reserved for men. We dare not question this. After all, it is God’s way.

Is it any wonder that many Evangelical women lack self-esteem and think poorly of themselves? How could it be otherwise? Everywhere they look, women are progressing, free to live their lives on their own terms. Yet, here they sit, chained to an ancient religious text and a religion that denigrates women and views them as little more than slaves or chattel.

I am sure there are many Evangelical women who will vehemently object to my characterization of how they are treated by their churches, pastors, and husbands. In THEIR churches women are quite happy! They LOVE being submissive to their husbands as unto the Lord. They LOVE being relegated to cooking duty, janitorial work, and nursery work. They LOVE having no higher goals than having children, cooking meals, cleaning house, and never having a headache.

The bigger question is, WHY is it that many Evangelical women think living this way is normal and psychologically affirming — exactly what God ordered for their lives? Evangelical women don’t want to disobey God or displease their husbands or churches. Whatever God, pastors, male church leaders, and their husbands want, Evangelical women give. This is their fate, and until the light of reason and freedom changes the course of their lives, Evangelical women will continue to bow at the feet of their Lords and do their bidding.

Once women break free from Evangelicalism, a thousand horses and one hundred arrogant, know-it-all preachers couldn’t drag them back into the fold. Once free, they realize a whole new world awaits them. With freedom comes responsibility. No more defaulting to their husbands or pastors to make decisions for them. These women are free to make their own choices. They quickly learn that life in the non-Evangelical world has its own problems, and that women are not, in many cases, treated equally there either.

Over the years, I have watched numerous women break free from domineering, controlling Evangelical husbands. I have also watched women flee patriarchal churches and pastors. Some of these women went back to college to get an education. No longer content to be baby breeders, maids, cooks, and sex-on-demand machines, they turn to education to improve their lot in life. Often, secular education provides a fuller view of the world and opens up all kinds of new opportunities for women.

Sadly, this post-patriarchal life often leads to family problems. Husbands who have worn the pants in the family for decades don’t like having their God-ordained authority challenged. This is especially true if the husbands remain active Evangelical church members. Many times, unable to weather dramatic changes, these mixed marriages end in divorce. Evangelicalism was the glue that held their marriages together, and once it was removed, their marriage fell apart.

Some husbands and wives find ways to keep their marriages intact, although this is hard to do. Imagine living in a home where non-patriarchal mothers and wives are considered rebellious, sinful, and wicked by their Evangelical husbands, pastors, and friends. Imagine being considered a Jezebel. Evangelicals are not kind to those who rebel against their God and their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. The Bible says rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Biblical literalism demands that rebellious women be labeled as practitioners of witchcraft. Once considered devoted lovers of God, the church, and their families, these women are now considered to be pariahs — servants of Satan who walk in darkness.

I want to conclude this post with a bit of personal commentary.

For many years, my marriage to Polly was pretty much as I described above. I was the head of the home. I made all the decisions. I was in charge, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Polly bore six children, cooked, and kept the home. On and off, when finances demanded it, she worked outside the home. And in her spare time, she homeschooled all six of our children, including one child with Down syndrome.

Polly is a pastor’s daughter. Her goal in life was to be a pastor’s wife. She went to Midwestern Baptist College to get an MRS degree. Polly is quiet and reserved, and, thanks to 40+ years of Evangelical indoctrination, she is also quite passive. During the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, Polly heartily embraced her preacher’s-wife responsibilities. She was a dutiful wife who always exemplified what it meant to be in submission to God and her husband. Polly submitted to those who had authority over her, never saying a cross word or demanding her own way.

Twenty years ago, things began to change in our marriage. I finally realized how abusive and controlling I had been. Granted, I was just being the kind of Evangelical husband and pastor I thought I should be. I tried my best to follow the teachings of the Bible and the examples of pastors I respected. Regardless of the whys of the matter, I must own my culpability in behaviors I now consider psychologically harmful.

In November 2008, Polly and Bruce Gerencser — hand in hand — walked away from Christianity. For the first time in our lives, we were free from the constraints of God, the Bible, and the ministry. We were free to choose how we wanted to live our lives, free to decide what kind of marriage we wanted to have.

In some ways, very little has changed. Polly still cooks, but now she whips up gourmet meals because she LOVES to do so, not because it is her duty. I still manage household finances, not because I am the head of the home, but because I am better with numbers than Polly is. Both of us take care of household chores. I still do most of the shopping, but I no longer make the list. I am the numbers guy, someone who can figure out the price per ounce in my head. By the time Polly finds her calculator in that bottomless purse of hers, I already have the equation figured out. Each of us tries to do the things we are good at.

The biggest difference in our marriage is this: I now ask Polly, What do you think? What do you think we should do? Where do you want to go? On top or bottom? 🙂 We have learned that it is okay to have lives outside of each other; to have desires, wants, and hobbies that the other person may not have. The Vulcan mind-meld has been broken.

Polly recently celebrated 24 years of employment for a local manufacturing concern. Out from the shadow of her pastor husband, she has excelled at work. Her yearly reviews are always excellent, and she is considered an exemplary worker by everyone who works with her. Polly now supervises auxiliary department employees on second and third shift. She even has an office with her name on the door. None of these things would have been possible had we remained within the smothering confines of Evangelical beliefs and practices.

In 2012, Polly graduated from Northwest State Community College with an associate of arts degree. (If her credits from Midwestern Baptist College — an unaccredited institution — had been transferable, Polly would have likely earned a master’s degree.) This was a huge undertaking on her part. Why did Polly go back to school, you ask? Because she could. And that’s the beauty of our current life. Freedom allows us to live openly and authentically. We no longer have to parse our lives according to the Bible. Both of us are free to do whatever we want to do. Having this freedom of spirit has allowed us to experience things that never would have been possible had we remained Pastor and Mrs. Bruce Gerencser.

Polly continues to break out of her shell, and I continue to learn what it means to be a good man and husband. We still have our moments. There are those times when both Polly and I find it quite easy and convenient to fall back into our former Evangelical ways. As those who have walked similar paths know, it is not easy to change attitudes and lifestyles which were decades in the making. I suspect, until death do us part, we will remain a work in progress.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

How the IFB Church Turned My Wife Into a Martyr

polly gerencser late 1990s
Polly Gerencser, late 1990s, carrying water from the creek to flush the toilets. An ice storm had knocked out the power.

My wife, Polly, and I were raised by parents who believed Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches preached the true gospel and adhered to the right doctrinal beliefs. Both of us spent our preschool years in non-Baptist churches, but neither of us remembers anything about these congregations. Our earliest religious experiences were with IFB churches. Both of us made our first professions of faith as kindergartners. I asked Jesus into my heart during junior church at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. Polly gave her heart to Jesus by her mom’s bedside. As teenagers, both of us “really” got saved and/or committed our lives to Jesus. I also believed that God was calling me to be a preacher, and Polly believed her calling in life was to be a preacher’s wife.

During our high school years, I attended a large public high school in Findlay, Ohio — dropping out of school after my eleventh-grade year. Polly, at the time, lived in Bay City, Michigan. At the age of thirty-five, her father felt called to preach and moved his family to Pontiac, Michigan to attend Midwestern Baptist College.  During her father’s four years at Midwestern, Polly attended Oakland Christian School — a large Fundamentalist high school. Polly’s father graduated from Midwestern in May 1976. He then moved his family to Newark, Ohio, to become the assistant pastor for the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. The Baptist Temple — as it is commonly called — was an IFB church pastored by Jim Dennis, Polly’s uncle. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis.)

In August of 1976, a full-of-life redheaded boy packed his meager belongings into his beater Dodge Dart and made his way north to enroll for classes at Midwestern. A beautiful dark-haired girl would do the same, making the five-hour trip north in a six-year-old AMC Hornet. God’s perfect will was aligning for both of us, and we soon began dating. It was not long before we both were smitten with the other. Six months later, on Valentine’s Day, I asked Polly to marry me. She said yes, and I put on her ring finger the $225 quarter-caret diamond ring I had recently purchased for her at Sears and Roebuck. We then wonderfully broke Midwestern’s rules forbidding physical contact between unmarrieds. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

Polly and I threw ourselves into our studies, knowing that we couldn’t — thanks to a college rule forbidding marriage as freshmen — get married until the summer of 1978. Polly’s mom used the intervening eighteen months to try to derail our marriage plans. In February of 1978, Polly’s mom let her know that she could not marry me. End of that, I am sure Mom thought. Little did she know that full-of-life Bruce had rubbed off a bit on quiet, reserved Polly. After giving serious thought to eloping, we decided to get married with or without her parents’ blessing. Polly told her mom that she wanted their blessing and very much wanted to have the wedding at the Baptist Temple, but if not, she was marrying her red-headed bad boy anyway. This was the first time that Polly ever stood up to her mom.

In July of 1978, we tied the knot at the Baptist Temple on a ninety-five-degree July day (the church did not have air conditioning). Polly’s dad and uncle performed the wedding. Our wedding entourage was made up of friends from college, close friends, and family members. It was very much an IFB affair, with one exception, anyway. The soloist for our wedding was a college friend of ours. Two of the songs we asked him to sing were We’ve Only Just Begun by the Carpenters and The Wedding Song (There is Love) by Peter, Paul, and Mary. These were the FIRST secular pop songs ever sung at a Baptist Temple wedding, and they were most certainly the last. For the past forty-two years, thanks to us using secular songs in our wedding, Baptist Temple couples must have their wedding music approved before it can be used. We truly made a “mark” on the church.

After our honeymoon in French Lick, Indiana, we returned to Pontiac to begin our junior year of college. The first week of classes, Polly informed me that she was pregnant. How could that be possible? We were using contraception! Of course, we never had any premarital counseling or instruction about birth control. We were just two dumb, naïve young adults who thought reading Fundamentalist Tim LaHaye’s 1976 book, The Act of Marriage, was comprehensive sex education.

Polly was quite sick during her pregnancy. Her obstetrician was a country doctor who thought it was good for her to gain as much weight as she wanted. All told, she gained sixty-eight pounds, some of which is still with her today. Polly’s health problems forced her to reduce her class load. I maintained a full class schedule while also working a second shift job at a Detroit-area machine shop — Deco Grande. In January of 1979, I lost my job, and we were immediately plunged into a financial crisis. Polly and I sought counsel from the college dean, Levi Corey, thinking that it might be best for us to drop out of school for a semester. The dean told us that it was God who led us to Midwestern, and he never uses quitters. We would hear the “God never uses quitters” mantra many times during the next few weeks. He suggested we borrow money to pay our tuition bill. We did, but that only staved off destitution for a short while. In February 1979, we dropped out of college, packed up our belongings in a small U-Haul, and towed them with a 1967 Chevrolet Impala to the place of my birth, Bryan, Ohio. I was twenty-one, and Polly was twenty.

Our experiences at Midwestern generally reinforced what we had been taught as youths. We were taught a John R. RiceThe Home: Courtship, Marriage, and Children patriarchal/complementarian view of marriage. The Sword of the Lord website describes Rice’s book this way: 

Too long have people had to depend on lewd and crude books, written by ungodly men or women, people who think more of the body than of the soul, writers who study more to excite human passions than to make godly homes. This book shows the normal plan of God about marriage, about children and the Christian principles of a happy home.

I was the head of the home, and all decisions were to be made by me. Polly’s role was to care for our home and children. A greater burden was placed on Polly because she was taught that since her husband was a pastor, she and her children would always come second to the church. Polly was often reminded, both in classes and from the pulpit, that she would have to make great sacrifices for the sake of the ministry; that she must never complain about her preacher husband’s tireless service to Jesus; that men greatly used by God always had wives who understood their husbands’ supernatural calling; that if she would humbly walk in her husband’s shadow, that God would greatly reward her after death. Being naturally passive and reserved, Polly adapted well to her calling, as did I, an outspoken, passionate, quick-to-make-decisions pastor. These teachings would, over time, turn Polly into a martyr.

After leaving college and moving to Bryan, we lived with my sister and her husband for a few weeks while I secured employment and found us suitable housing. Polly, at the time, was six months pregnant with our first child.

As hardcore Fundamentalist Baptists, our first order of business was to find a church to attend. We had been taught that missing church was a grievous sin, a transgression that brought swift judgment from God. Family and friends thought that we would attend First Baptist Church. After all, it was the church I attended before college, and it was pastored by a distant relative, Jack Bennett. My sister and her husband were attending Montpelier Baptist Church, pastored by Jay Stuckey. Polly thought First Baptist was an aging, dead church, with little to offer a young family such as ours. My feelings were a bit more conflicted because I knew many of the people at First Baptist, but I knew Polly was right. So, instead of going where everyone expected us to go, we started attending Montpelier Baptist Church.

Montpelier Baptist was a young church affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). The church’s pastor and his wife were a few years older than we, and many of the congregants were young adults. The nursery teemed with newborns, and there was an excitement in the air as, week after week, the church continued to grow. Pastor Stuckey was what I would now call a newspaper-headlines-preacher. He preached sermons about the end times, the rapture, and the Illuminati — the things you find in Chick Tracts.  For those who were interested in prophecy and evangelism, Montpelier Baptist was the place to be.

Several weeks after we started attending the church, Jay asked me to be his assistant, working with the bus ministry and the church’s evangelistic efforts. The position paid me exactly zero dollars and zero cents, even though I would, in a few weeks, find myself working at the church over thirty hours a week. Fortunately, I had secured a union job working at ARO in the shipping and receiving department, so money was not a concern.

Between the church and ARO, I was gone from home almost eighty hours a week. Polly was left alone most days, rarely seeing me until late in the evening or at church. I quickly became consumed with the work of the ministry, neglecting my wife for the sake of the supernatural call God had on my life. Polly saw my devotion to the church as the way pastors were supposed to be — sold out, on fire for Jesus. As my wife, Polly knew that God, ministry, and church came before her.

No matter how many hours I worked or how long I was away from home, Polly never said a word. She could see that God was blessing my work at the church. Thanks to my labor with the bus ministry and the church’s visitation program, church attendance grew rapidly. We were bringing so many children in on the buses that they had to sit on the floor at the front of the church. The crowded pews lent themselves to the congregation’s belief that God was doing something great at Montpelier Baptist Church. In October 1979, nine months after I started working with Jay, the church had a record attendance of five hundred. 

Three weeks later, Polly and I, along with our newborn son, would again pack up our belongings, this time so we could move to Newark, Ohio. During our time at Montpelier Baptist, it became clear that I was a workaholic; that I was unable to rest and relax when there was work to do for God. Shortly after our record attendance, I started having health problems that landed me in the hospital for several days. The doctor determined that my problems were stress-related.  During my hospital stay, Jay never came to see me. He never bothered to ask how I was doing. It was during this time that I was also facing a layoff at work. I went to talk to Jay about the difficulties we were having financially — thinking that the church might help us a bit since I was devoting so much of my time to its ministries — and he suggested I apply for welfare. Jay’s indifference towards us was quite hurtful, and later that day, Polly and I decided we would move to Newark. We went over to Jay’s home to tell him, thinking he would understand. He didn’t. Jay became quite belligerent (as did his wife), laying a guilt trip on me for wanting to leave. He so shamed me that I changed my mind about leaving.

A week or so later, it became clear that we were going to have to move. I went to Jay’s office to tell him we were moving, and he looked up from his desk and basically said to me, see ya later, and then went back to whatever it was he was doing.  By the end of the week, we had packed up our belongings and moved to Newark to live temporarily with Polly’s parents until I found a job.

In all of this, Polly was a passive bystander. It was my job to be the head of the home, to make all the decisions. She was taught, and believed, that her God-called preacher husband was led by the Holy Spirit and knew exactly what he was doing. I don’t remember her ever questioning our moves from college to Bryan and from Montpelier to Newark. She was content to follow me wherever I went, and whatever difficulties, burdens, and trials came her way, she would gladly bear them without a word of complaint. As far as patriarchal thinking goes, she was the perfect wife.

These experiences, and many others like them, turned Polly into a martyr. No matter what I said or did, she just smiled and obeyed — the perfect IFB pastor’s wife. Instead of giving her opinion or standing her ground, she quietly followed in my footsteps. It was not until we were in our forties that we realized this was no way to live; Polly was supposed to be my partner, not my slave.

The past 20 years of marriage have been transformational, to say the least. Our decision-making process has changed dramatically, and Polly isn’t afraid to express her opinion or say that this or that is a bad idea. Going back to college and graduating in 2012, and being promoted to second shift supervisor for her department at Sauder Woodworking have allowed Polly to step outside of my shadow, be her own person, and make her own decisions. Deconverting in 2008 helped too. Once freed from an authoritarian God and his rule-book, Polly was free to chart her own course and captain her own ship.

There are times when both of us lapse into our former IFB ways. We are not much different personality-wise from when we got married 42 years ago. Sure, we have mellowed with age and our priorities have changed, but what’s really changed is our values and how we treat each other. Both of us can say that our marriage today is better than it ever has been. We deeply love one another and realize that we are lucky that our marriage survived decades of IFB indoctrination. We are far from perfect, but strive to be a better friend, lover, and spouse to each other every day. Now, if we can just quit fighting over the blanket. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Hustling for Jesus: Christian Home-Based Businesses

christian business

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

Suzanne, who blogs at Every Breaking Wavehad this to say about her experiences with home-based Evangelical Christian businesses:

One of the things that the ladies kept trying to pound in my head during those early days, besides telling me that I should use “To Train Up A Child” to discipline my very ill child, was that if I was going to be a good Christian submissive wife I was going to have to not work outside of the home. Which was foreign to me, I’d always had some sort of job outside of the home, even if it was part-time, and mostly tried to work at a time when Jim could take care of the kids so that they didn’t have to go to daycare.

This was the first time I’d heard of the family economy. I did this for a year or two, did the quilting, to make some money while I was incapacitated by the fibro. But eventually, I did go back to working outside of the home, to the disappointment and derision of the ladies of the church. I just kept telling myself that they didn’t know any better, none of them had college educations and it seemed like a waste of my own education to not work.

But like any good cult, eventually, the messages being replayed over and over again went into my head and I started seeking a way to do the home-based economy thing, find something I could do. When I started making flags it seemed like the perfect answer, most of what I made was either an air-brushed design or something like a 9 foot long half round lame flag with an inset of glittery chiffon or a specially shaped, painted, stoned, flag that was one of the kind. One of the most popular ones I sold was a half-round flag with a flaming sword appliqued into place and bejeweled and stoned with a hand-worked sword hilt on the flag handle.

What I’m trying to say is that the flags were one of a kind, hand made, designs I’d come up with, more like art work than anything mass-produced. I charged accordingly, because, none of those things I’m talking about are quick and easy. Sometimes I’d have close to sixty dollars in materials alone in the flags.

At first, I sold quite a few, and I’d get contacted frequently to make something special, or perhaps an entire set of flags just for a church. Did so well and had enough orders that I quit my job as a systems admin at an insurance company. Home-based economy, honoring God, etc…

…With the flags and large banners I ran into a snag after a few months, a snag I’ve seen played out again and again and again in the Christian home economies in many different divisions.

It would go something like this. I’d be at a teaching conference, or someone would see my now-defunct website and start asking questions about one of the items. Most of the time this was about the half round 9 foot long flags with a half-round center of glitter bedecked chiffon, not an easy item to make, but one that I’d managed to come up with a nearly foolproof method to make. I had my own pattern I’d made, and my own special technique for appliqueing in the center, while cutting away the solid lame in the center. It wasn’t easy, but it was my way to do it that worked every time.

The problem with this particular highly-coveted flag is that you needed a minimum of 5 yards of very expensive materials. It was usually about sixty dollars for fabric in that particular one. The ones that contacted me proclaiming what Good Christians™  they were also were the very ones that demanded either a) a big discount or b) to know exactly how I made that flag so they could make their own. Why? Because the $90 I was charging was thought to be too much for this item that took lots of expensive fabric and the expertise to make.

Many times I’d give in with a sigh, sketch out how to make one if I was at a conference, or explain via email. Usually what happened is that the person would get so far into the project, screw it up and then demand I fix their mess. For free. Most of the time when I looked at what they’d done I’d have to point out that they’d mangled the delicate fabric so badly that they’d have to start from scratch again. Would have been way cheaper just to buy from me in the first place.

Eventually, I’d sell the pattern, but people would still balk at spending ten bucks for a pattern and demand I explain for free.

And the people who were whining and demanding were also screaming out what Good Christians™ they were so I owed it to them because I was a Christian.

I got to see that Good Christian™ dynamic at work in just about every place, public secular business, or Christian business, people saying that since they were doing the work of the God they deserved a discount or freebie, who would not let up until they got their way. Vyckie Garrison and I have had discussions about the Good Christian discount whine.

To add insult to grievous injury every single freakin’ time I’d come up with a new design, something I’d sketched out, made the pattern for, and then made the sample and posted it on my website within a week I’d see a badly executed copy made from discount fabric of my original design up on Ebay for a cheaper price. To me, that is what separates true artists from the artisans. Artists do it because it’s inside of them, artisans are just looking to make a buck.

Even as sales were decent after awhile I got most burned out by the attitudes of entitlement, the begging, whining, demanding a discount, and the general intellectual thievery. I stopped making flags for anyone but myself, or when someone who’s seen one of mine and is willing to pay without whining. Just readied a big box of flags going on a missions trip to Cuba next month.

One thing I started to notice during my years at good old Creek Church, the tendency of the Creekers and other Good Christians™ to take advantage of people, press every advantage, and try to drum up business by means fair and foul. For example, just about everyone that sucked up to the Pastor’s wife bought Pampered Chef merchandise and many ladies at the church signed up to sell beneath her every single time she started putting the pressure to people over being Good Christians™ helping out each other.

It was as if none of them thought hard work and conviction was enough, they had to press every advantage and try to game the system each and every time. Some of them still are, hence Mrs. 5 by 5 fleecing two different sets of the elderly she did the books for out of over 20K. Today I saw her with another new senior citizen that has a small business and I’m going to see if I can talk to her newest employer’s relatives before she steals from this woman…

… Here’s what I learned in the last twenty years plus years dealing with Fundigelicals and their businesses/home-based economies:

(1) If they can take some small advantage of you, then they will. If you call them on it they will claim it’s their right as Christians to be entitled to more or they outright deny they’ve done it.

(2) They believe if they can whine, beat you down, demand, threaten or haggle long enough you will give in to their sense of entitlement and give out something for free or deep discount. Why? Because Christian! Because Bible!

(3) If you happen to not totally agree with their flavor of True Believer then they might refuse to serve you and/or jack up the charges.

(4) They act like they have some sort of moral superiority over you all the while behaving badly.

You can read the entire article here.

Suzanne’s wonderful rant and roll got me thinking about my own experiences with Evangelical Christian home-based businesses/Christian businesses, and a church that considered establishing such businesses as a command from God. Let me share several stories with you.

First, let me say I don’t have a problem with people starting home-based businesses. It’s a great way to make money. But, when such businesses are wedded to religious ideology, that’s where I have a problem. While Polly and I were ardent homeschoolers for over twenty years and came into contact with a number of families who had home-based businesses, we never had the desire to have one. The money was a lot better in the “world.”

In 2005, while we were living in Newark, Ohio, we attended Faith Bible Church in Jersey (Pataskala), Ohio. Polly and I really loved this church, and we thought maybe, just maybe, we had found a church to call home.

Faith Bible was a growing patriarchal Calvinistic, Reformed church filled with young families with lots of children. Everyone home-schooled, the women were keepers at home, and while all the men worked, home-based businesses were quite common. I suspect Faith Bible had a lot in common with the church Suzanne mentions in her post.

One day after church, our family was fellowshipping with several families and the discussion turned towards our family. It was assumed that we were like they were, that Polly was a keeper at home and that I was in the world making money to support my family. When Polly let it be known that she cleaned offices for State Farm and that I was unable to work due to physical disability, the air was sucked out of the room and the friendly discussion stopped. It was quite clear that the manner in which we were trying to keep our heads above water was disapproved of, perhaps even regarded as sinful. From that moment forward, everything changed for us. We felt a sense of distance from other church attendees, and it was not long before we decided to attend church elsewhere (we attended Faith for many months).

It was not uncommon for families at Faith Bible to have a lot of children. Polly and I have six children, and in most churches that would be an exceptionally large family. At Faith Bible, we were just one large family among many. With families being so large and women not being permitted to work outside of the home, home-based businesses became an easy way to supplement family income.

Churches such as Faith Bible have a distrust of the government. They are quite conservative, vote Republican, and think the government should stay out of their lives. The Terry Schiavo case was in the news while we were at Faith Bible, and I vividly remember a discussion that went on one night at a men’s meeting. Everyone, well everyone except me, was against allowing Schiavo’s husband to terminate life support. I found it ironic that the men felt the government should step in and stop Schiavo’s husband, yet, to the man, they thought the government should stay out of their lives. I did appreciate the respect the men afforded me, even though I voiced an opinion they considered immoral. I suspect I was quite the topic of discussion later.

What better way to stick it to the man, to get the government out of your life, than to operate a cash home-based business? There are few government rules or regulations that apply to home-based businesses. Often, such businesses fly under the radar. They often don’t have the proper licenses or permits, pay taxes, or file tax returns. This illegal behavior is justified as “not giving the immoral, godless government any more money than we have to.”

Suzanne mentioned what is commonly called “getting the Christian discount.” Years ago, my Fundamentalist Baptist (please see John and Dear Ann) grandfather operated an airplane engine repair shop, T&W Engine Service, at the Pontiac Airport (now Oakland County International Airport). Tom Malone, chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College — the college Polly and I attended in the 1970s — owned an airplane that was housed at Pontiac Airport. One day, Malone’s plane was having engine problems, and he asked my grandfather to take a look at it (he knew Grandpa was a Fundamentalist Christian). Grandpa did, told Malone what was wrong, and how much it would cost to fix it. Malone asked for the “Christian discount.” After all, he was doing the Lord’s work. Shouldn’t a Christian businessman want to help out a pastor? Grandpa told Malone that there would be no discount. Malone was quite upset that Grandpa wouldn’t give him preferential treatment.

I pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. I can’t tell you the times I had a business owner ask me if I wanted the “pastor’s/church discount.” In every instance, I said NO! Just because people are Christians or pastors doesn’t mean they deserve discounts. Yet, some Christians and pastors have no problem begging for Jesus. Like Tom Malone, they say they are doing the Lord’s work, and shouldn’t EVERY business owner want to give God’s special people a discount?

While businesses often grant Christian discount requests, it doesn’t mean they like it. They are pragmatists, fearful that if word gets out that they aren’t giving discounts, they will lose customers who are Christians. Pastors can ruin a business just by gossiping about it at “prayer” meeting or mentioning them in a sermon. Maybe they will, but in my view, it’s better to lose customers than to do business with those who try to extort you in the name of God. A political example of this was John McCain being stuck with Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. McCain hated Evangelicals, but fearing the loss of the Evangelical vote, he gave Republicans the “Christian discount” and made the IQ-challenged Palin his running mate. We know how that all turned out.

I, for one, do not frequent businesses that use the fish (ichthys) symbol or cross to advertise their companies. By using these symbols, they are saying to me that Christian business and Christian money has more value than mine. From time to time, I will run into Christians in store parking lots selling their wares. Often, they try to convince me to buy by giving me a guilt-laden speech about the money going to support their Christian family, their church, their youth group, orphans, or overseas missionaries. I NEVER buy from people who use Jesus to make a buck. In fact, I go out of my way NOT to buy from them (and mock and insult them if they try to pressure me into buying).

I pastored one church where I had to ban home-based sales marketing during church services. From Mary Kay and Avon to Pampered Chef and Tupperware to Girl Scout Cookies and Amway, church members tried to get other members to buy their wares or attend their parties. I began to think that the church was turning into the story in the Bible about the money changers in the Temple. I saw myself as Jesus cleansing the Temple. As I look back on this, I now realize that my preaching helped to promote such an environment. I was a complementarian — a traditional-family, women-not-working-outside-of-the-home preacher, so church women, for the most part, didn’t work. This created a huge problem because most of the families were quite poor and they NEEDED two incomes to make ends meet. Wanting to honor the commands of Bruce Almighty®, they turned to home-based businesses to supplement their incomes. Rarely did their home-based businesses generate as much income as they would have made in the evil, sin-filled, secular world.

Several churches I pastored had Christian business owners that also home-schooled their children. In every case, the children became a free or poorly paid workforce. One such business was totally staffed and operated by children. What upset me the most was that the children would be running the business during the times they should have been home doing their school work. Their parents told me that their children did their school work in the evening. They used A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education) materials, so very little parental involvement was needed. This family never properly registered with the state or local school officials, so they were pretty much free to do whatever they wanted. Still, I am surprised no one ever reported them. I suspect one reason they weren’t is that the children were quite engaging, a pleasure to be around. It was hard not to see them, though, as a rural Ohio version of a sweatshop.

Let me reiterate, I am not against home-based businesses. I am all for people making money and providing for their families. What I am against is the religiosity that is connected with many of these endeavors. Putting out a booklet that lists all the home-based or traditional Christian businesses in the area is a sure way to make sure they never get one dime from me. I expect the people I do business with to compete in the marketplace. I expect them to play by the rules, have the proper licenses and permits, and pay taxes.

Just in case some Evangelical is getting ready to whine and complain about my unfair characterizations of home-based businesses, I am not saying that all home-based Christian businesses are like those mentioned in this post. However, many of them are, as are businesses owned by Evangelical zealots.

Over the years, numerous Christians have called me up to schedule an appointment to share with me a wonderful, God-honoring way to make shit-loads of money — okay, they didn’t say shit-load. A.L. Williams, Amway, Excel, and more vitamin-weight loss-better health MLM programs than I can count. In every case, they are no longer in business. Evidently, God failed to bless their hustling for Jesus.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Feminism to Blame for Whatever is “Wrong” with Men

lori and ken alexander

God didn’t give men high sex drives so they could watch porn and masturbate, commit fornication with multiple women, or delve into homosexuality and pedophilia. No, God gave men high sex drives so they would want to marry and be fruitful and multiply. Many women will bemoan the fact that there are no good men left because they have all gone astray, therefore, there isn’t anyone for them to marry. The problem stems from feminism. When women stopped being feminine and doing what God calls them to do, men stopped being masculine and doing what God calls them to do.

….

Feminism taught women to hold off getting married and pursue higher education and careers instead. Essentially, they were told to become men. In order to do this, they were taught that they must become liberated with your bodies and enjoy sex outside of marriage (fornication) by using birth control. THIS was and is the feminist message that young women hear! What happens when most of the young women decide to delay marriage, sleep around, and use birth control? Men no longer have a healthy sexual outlet in marriage and instead find sexually available women to meet their sexual needs or resort to porn or other sinful activities.

When women left their God ordained role, men left theirs. When women because immodest and promiscuous, men stopped having the goal of getting married and having children. And culture is being destroyed while everyone suffers. Women weren’t created for men’s roles and men weren’t created for women’s roles. It’s as simple as that. When women want to become men, chaos ensues. Chaos will always ensue when God’s will is ignored.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, When Women Leave Their God Ordained Role, September 15, 2020

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

More Bad Marital Advice from the Transformed Wife

the burning bed

Rarely does a week go by that Lori Alexander, the operator of the Transformed Wife blog, doesn’t dispense bad marital advice to her devoted patriarchal followers. Sometimes, Alexander tasks one of her supporters to give the sermon, as was the case yesterday when Celina Eve vomited up her advice for new wives.

Here’s what she had to say:

1. Never say no to sex. It’s the glue that will bond you together through thick and thin. Even on the days where you’re not into it, put your husband’s needs above your own. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

2. Take a humble place in your marriage and submit to your husband’s headship. Discuss things once and then then let him have the final say. Respect him. Build him up to others. Never tear him down. Be sweet towards him and hold your tongue. Pray daily for him and don’t argue with him.

3. Keep a clean and tidy home and stay on top of your housework daily. Even after little ones come, make it your habit that when you go to bed that the dishwasher is running, the floors are mopped, the counters are cleaned and the washer and dryer are running. Load your coffee maker the night before. (I have six children and four of them are under the age of six and I still do this daily. It feels wonderful to wake up to a sparkling clean home every morning!)

4. Keep a vegetable garden. Plant fruit trees if you can. Keep backups of everything in your home for your family’s needs; look and think ahead. Look well to the ways of your household.

5. Be loving and kind to your parents and in laws but don’t let them dictate anything regarding your marriage or your family. Never run to them when you have marriage troubles. Never vent to anyone about your marriage, ever.

6. Find an older godly woman who has a biblically healthy marriage and has raised a family. You’ll need a living example as a young wife yourself.

Certainly, many of us would agree with some of the advice dished out by Celina Eve. However, mixed within the good we find anti-woman patriarchal ideology. Celina Eve, as does Lori Alexander, believes women are weaker vessels, in need of protection by men — be it their fathers, pastors, or husbands. Unmarried women are expected to learn to be housekeepers, seamstresses, cooks, and baby breeders. Attending college or working outside of the home is NEVER an option. Wives are to set their sights on pleasing their husbands in every way possible. That’s why virtually every one of these kinds of posts begins by reminding women that they are to give their husbands sex whenever, wherever, and however HE wants it. Day or night, sick or not, wives are expected to lie back, spread their legs, and let their husbands plow them for five minutes or drop to their knees and suck their dicks. Mission Accomplished! Praise Jesus!

Celina Eve reminds wives to be sweet as fresh cherry pie on a summer day. Always be sweet to your husband. Never argue with him. Let him have his way — always. Why? Because he is the head of the home. He has God-given authority over his wife and children. End of ALL discussions.

Are you married to an asshole or a judgmental prick? Show him respect, even if he doesn’t deserve it. Why? Because he’s the boss. God put him in charge, and disagreeing with the boss is a sin.

Celina Eve wants wives to know that she has six children — four under the age of six — and that she has all the time she needs to keep her home sparkling clean. Why, if she can do it, you can too! Notice that there is no division of household labor. None. Wives are expected to have sex on demand and have quiverfulls of children. Six children? No big deal. Momma Celina can handle it all. (I suspect she home schools too.)

What, exactly, in this way of life, do husbands do? Glad you asked. Husbands fuck, go to work, eat, take baths, shit, and sleep. Maybe, if they aren’t too busy serving God at the church, these patriarchs might mow the yard, do some home repairs, and more fucking. Always more fucking. Why? Because in the sex act, the man shows that he is dominant over and in control of his wife. He’s the arrow and she’s the target.

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

It’s hard to argue with number four, except for the fact that rarely is it the patriarchal mom alone who is caring for the garden, doing all the domestic work, babysitting, etc. My wife and I had six children. At one time, we lived in a 12×60 foot hillbilly mansion with children aged newborn, two, four, nine, twelve, and fourteen. Not only did Polly take care of ALL the domestic chores in our home, she taught in our Christian school (grades K-3), daily washed bucket loads of shitty cloth diapers (for a time using a wringer washer), attended church three times a week, went out on street ministry, helped at the weekly nursing home service, and helped plant/weed a truck- farm-sized garden. And there’s more. We heated our mansion with a Warm Morning stove that required stoking with wood and coal. What did I do? I worked eighty hours a week at the church.

The order of importance in our marriage fell out something like this: God, the ministry, winning souls, teaching children, and then, maybe, just maybe, Polly. She never complained, but truth be told, if she had divorced me and left me with the kids, I wouldn’t have blamed her.

Of course, our three oldest children had a lot of responsibility in our home. From babysitting to splitting wood and from being gophers for their father to spending hours tilling and weeding our garden, our older boys learned at an early age to w-o-r-k. Granted, they have a great work ethic today, but earning it came at the cost of their childhood. It’s impossible to operate a large patriarchal household without children taking on duties that should have fallen to their parents. (And I am not against children learning to work, having domestic chores, etc.) While our children would say that they had happy, enjoyable childhoods, I suspect their perspectives are skewed. If we had it to do all over again, things would have been different. Alas, there are no do-overs, so what our children are left with are lots of s-t-o-r-i-e-s; stories about slave labor, working in the coal mine — their word for slaving for their preacher father — endless church services, and poverty.

Celina Eve tells wives to never, ever criticize their husbands or their marriages. Never, ever talk to anyone about how your husband treats you. Is he an insufferable prick who treats you like a prostitute? Pray for him. Is he verbally or physically abusive? Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. No matter what he says or does, smile and offer him a slice of pie — or sex.

This way of thinking traps many wives in prisons from which there is no escape. Divorce is a sin against the thrice-holy God, they are told. Patriarchal wives who separate from their husbands or divorce them are almost always viewed in a negative light by family and their fellow church members. Churches and pastors tend to side with husbands. In their eyes, wives who dare to escape or do basic things such as seeking employment outside of the home or getting an education are viewed as unsubmissive or rebellious. Ask former patriarchal wives how many times they heard their husbands or pastors warn them about their ungodly rebellion against God’s divine order for the home. I guarantee you they heard such rebukes more times than they can count.

Some women, conditioned by years of patriarchal instruction by their parents and pastors, come into marriage quite submissive already. Taught that this was God’s ordained way for them, rarely did they rock the boat. Other women, however, lacked years and decades of conditioning. It was left to their husbands and pastors to break their spirits, to push and mash them into conformity to the Biblical standard. As long as these devoted wives saw no way out, the patriarchy was safe. However, if they ever got a glimpse of what freedom and self-worth looked like, husbands better be prepared to sleep with one eye open lest their enlightened wives reenact the movie, The Burning Bed.

Here’s to burning Sealy Posturepedic mattresses . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can 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.

Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian?

mans world

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Why would any woman want to be an Evangelical Christian? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety: the right to vote, equal pay for equal work, the right to use birth control, the right to have an abortion, the right to divorce. While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made toward that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only. The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is that Christian patriarchal thinking still permeates our society.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women weaker vessels. The Bible teaches that women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Simply put, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children, and as women age, they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be good wives.

1 Timothy 5:14 says:

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Titus 2:2-4 says:

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

keep women where they belong

The Bible teaches women are to keep silent in the church:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:11,12

The Bible also regulates how women are to dress and wear their hair:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. I Timothy 2:9,10

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 1 Corinthians 11:5,6

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

The Bible teaches that women are to be in subjection to their husband:

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Peter 4:5,6

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24

The Bible teaches that having a wife is a sure way to avoid fornication:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-3

And finally, the Bible says women were created for men:

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 1 Corinthians 11:9

And this is just the New Testament. The Old Testament portrays women as chattel, not much different from livestock. Women should be thrilled to have all the liberties the New Testament gives them (this is sarcasm, by the way).

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Liberal and progressive Christians try to make all these verses go away by saying they are no longer applicable or that they must be interpreted in their historical context. Fine, let’s do the same with Jesus. A case can be made for Jesus being no longer applicable, and surely we must interpret the teachings of Christ in their historical context. Of course, this would result in Jesus being more irrelevant than he already is. I am all for people moving away from Evangelical Christianity. I do, however, wonder if liberal and progressive Christianity is the long-term answer. A halfway house? Perhaps. But a long-term solution to the continued subjugation of women? I have my doubts.

Millions of women attend Evangelical churches that believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The churches they attend proudly claim themselves to be bible-believing churches. Some churches follow the above-mentioned verses to the letter while other churches pretend the verses are not in the Bible. The latter are bible-believers lite. If they taught these verses as written, there would be empty houses and beds by nightfall.

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Many Christian women, those not indoctrinated by Bible-thumping pastors and husbands, ignore the verses mentioned above. They tend to love Jesus and say screw the rest. Many women are not into theology. Theology is what men do, their male overlords tell them. Best to let men do the hard thinking. Cook the meals, clean the house, do the laundry, and spread your legs whenever your husband asks. That’s your calling, Pastor Blowhard says.

I am of the opinion that many women embrace Evangelical Christianity and continue in the church because of the social and family connections they have with others in the church. They are willing to put up with being considered second class citizens as long as they can maintain those connections. I suspect this is due to the maternal instinct that most women have. Others have been so indoctrinated by the men in their lives that they actually think they are inferior to men and meant to be their husbands’ slaves. I’ve had more than a few conversations with women who cannot or will not see that they deserve far better lives than they now have.

Some Evangelical women realize they’ve been taken captive by the Bible, a book men use to dominate and control them. Remember the “hell hath no fury” line that talks about a woman scorned? Once a woman realizes she can be free from the control and domination of men . . . watch out! Many women, once free, leave Christianity altogether. Others make their peace with God and the church, often seeking out expressions of faith that are not demeaning to women. If their marriages survive, they adopt an egalitarian way of life. Marriage becomes a shared relationship. Gone are the religious and social strictures meant to keep women in their place.

For those of you who have left Christianity, how did your marriage and the relationship with your husband change?

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

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Bruce Gerencser