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Tag: Rural Ohio

Toys and Houses

guest post

Guest Post by Tammy

Let’s talk about toys. 

(Editor’s note: And houses. And shopping. And minimalism. As is the custom of this author, she rambles.)

My earliest memory involves a toy. I’m sitting on a floor of red and black square tiles in the kitchen of our mostly underground home, in about 1964. The home was a rectangle, with a long hallway in the middle down the long axis, effectively dividing it into two areas. The area to the east was the parent’s bedroom, then the living room, then the gun room. We called Dad’s workshop the gun room because it was where he worked on his guns. I think he was rebuilding old muzzleloader guns back in the early 1960s, although my memories are unclear. The gun room was always locked when not in use, and I didn’t even go in there when he was working there. It was clearly my dad’s private space. He kept the door open, but still.

The hallway was useful for many things, including playing “Mother May I” with our babysitters. And racing toy cars. And it made a wonderful circle in the house, around which we could chase each other. 

The other side of the house, to the west, was the kids’ bedroom (yes, I shared a bedroom with my two younger brothers, which didn’t bother me much. I just yelled at them to “get out” when I needed alone time.), then the junk room, then the shared bathroom/laundry room, then the kitchen. In between the bathroom and the kitchen was the entryway to the house. This was my favorite part. It was a long set of wooden stairs up to the surface of the world. It was like coming out of a hidden burrow each time we went outside. The wall between the stairway and the kitchen had a window without glass. We called it the kissing window. Because Dad would climb two stairs, stick his head through the window, and Mom would kiss him goodbye from the kitchen. We stored little items like keys and such on the windowsill. I can’t imagine why a window would be in that location but I loved it.

The bathroom was unique in that the toilet area was a foot higher than the rest of the floor. It was probably to accommodate plumbing, but it was truly a throne in my eyes.

The outside of the house was about 3 feet above ground level, with a flat roof covered in many layers of tar paper. The entrance stood up above the roofline, and when the snow drifts gathered around the house it was easy to imagine that the entrance was a tiny little building all on its own, barely big enough for one person to stand in. Decades before my parents bought it in 1959, someone else had built it as the first part of a whole house construction project. They lived in it, hoping to someday add the upper stories to the basement. That day never came. 

My dad drew many iterations of plans for the new house. The new house was at least a decade in the planning stages, and then another five or so years in building it. I was an adult before I realized that a big house could be built in under half a year if you hired some help. My dad did most of the work on the new house himself. I helped him with the bricks. Over the course of several summers, I carried bricks and mortar to him while he laid the bricks. I also thought that bricking a house always took several years. I sang songs to him while we worked. His favorite was “This land is your land.” I had no idea of its colonialist message back then, celebrating the stealing of land from the original Americans. I just liked the song.

(Late footnote per the author’s sister Jackie: “This Land Is Your Land” is more of a communist/socialist song, written in opposition to “God Bless America”, a true colonialist anthem. She cited sources. She is correct. The author confused two anthems about her native land. The author believes that colonialism and socialism are, however, equally vilified depending upon which news channel one watches.)

My dad was always a champion of Native Americans. He often talked about how horribly we Europeans had treated them, sometimes with tears in his eyes. He read a lot about history, especially about the land around his farm and where he grew up. When Roots was on television, it was a family event each night of the miniseries. He also instilled in us how horrible slavery and racism are. We had some adopted black cousins, and I was always proud of that fact as a kid. I was eager to see more skin colors in my world.

I was an innocent and gullible child. When it was time to start digging the foundation of the new house, Dad took the whole family outside to look at the hill that he was about to start digging into with his bulldozer. He had marked out the outline of the new house in chalk on the hill. The back half of the house was two stories above ground, and the front half was only one story above ground. This half-basement plan made the house warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and also less susceptible to holding too much moisture like basements tend to do in swampy northwest Ohio. This was all clearly taught to us by our father. He wanted us to understand these things. He also demonstrated to us and to our visitors how the walls of the basement house were not straight. He would hold a wooden yardstick (always to be respected because, on the rare occasions when we were spanked, it was with that very yardstick) up against the wall of the living room, and the wall was at least six inches closer to the yardstick in some places as compared with others. It was clear that we should not complete the other man’s long-ago idea of adding stories on top of the basement house. The walls would fall in.

So we were out there looking at the chalk lines. And my mom turned to me and said, “Tammy, go over there and wash the dishes.” I thought she wanted me to go into the basement house and start the dishes, and I didn’t want to miss out on the first scoop of dirt that Dad was almost ready to take out of the hill! But she was in fact pointing at the imaginary kitchen in the new house. And I realized that I had been gullible once again. I was about ten years old and expected more of myself by that age.

Speaking of walls falling in, I was the sole responsible oldest person in the house when the water was falling in through those walls. My parents, with my youngest brother Joe, went to Toledo one evening and left me and my brother Rick home alone. There was a rainstorm, and then there was a lot of rain, and then something happened that had never happened before. The rain started pouring down the walls around the window in my bedroom. It was flooding the house, and as the oldest child and the person in charge, I was trying to figure out what to do. I got a bucket and old towels and started mopping up the water and dumping it down the shower drain. Rick continued to watch television. I continued to mop. After many buckets of water, I called my Grandma Stuckey. I needed help. She came over and stayed with us until our parents and Joe got home. Grandma didn’t seem to mind the flood. She just sat with us in the living room and I felt so much better. In retrospect, I think there were drains in the floors, seeing as it was a basement, and mopping was not necessary until the rain stopped refilling the puddles on our floors.

Back to toys.

So I’m sitting on the kitchen floor and Rick is sitting to my left. He’s only about a year old. He can’t walk yet. But he’s strong. I’m over three years old, but he seems stronger! He has a big plastic blue spoon, a toy for use in a sandbox. He is hitting the toy box with the blue spoon. Quite vigorously. I’m intimidated. I’m also shy. I also know he won’t understand my concern. So I moved away from him and let him hit the toybox. My first memory. Self-preservation.

I got a really cool Christmas gift one year at Grandma Stuckey’s house. I think it was from one of my young aunts. I had lots of aunts. But there were three young ones on the Stuckey side who ranged in age from six to ten years older than me. They were the best because they weren’t busy with their own husbands and kids! Joan, Donna, and Elaine. I’m sure it was one of them who got me this most wonderful Christmas gift. High heels! They were plastic, translucent, with a bow, and so very elegant. And they fit my feet! I walked around in those high heels for a very long time.

I also had a full set of plastic dishes, along with a little stove, refrigerator, and some other kitchen appliances. I played with them a lot. I usually liked them. But there were so many of them! Keeping them all organized was so hard. I didn’t even know how many there were in total. They were a source of fun and stress all at the same time. I liked toys that were more unified. Fewer pieces. Ideally one big piece. So easy to organize and keep track of those types of toys. So I’ll tell you a secret if you don’t tell my mom. I would dump all the plastic silverware and plates and bowls on the floor. I hoped my brothers would walk on them and break them. Then I could throw some away and have less to keep track of and less to pick up and less to organize. I would never break them on purpose. That would be so bad. But accidents do happen.

Minimalism was a part of me from the beginning. I liked playing “Girl Scout,” It involved one of my mother’s scarves and a blanket and a cookie and a doll. Brothers were welcome if they wanted to join me. The idea was to wrap myself in the blanket, tie the scarf around my head, and sit with my doll on the grass while eating the cookie. I had everything that I needed. All that stuff in the house was not necessary, and I could look at the sky and live outdoors on the grass. It made me so content to sit there with only a few things.

When I was older, I would take long walks on the farm. I often walked through the woods behind Dad’s shop, on the paths that he mowed with the lawnmower every summer. Once I got all the way through the woods and across a small creek, where there was a meadow. I would lie down in the meadow and look at the sky. All I could see was clouds and the meadow grass blowing around me. It was perfect. I needed almost nothing to be happy and no one knew where I was.

I wonder if the draw of minimalism comes from feeling overwhelmed. Too much stuff, too many people, too much noise – I just wanted less of everything.

Mom was ready to pull her hair out when I was in junior high. She took me shopping for clothing a few times a year. As I got older, I was more resistant to going. I don’t know that I ever refused her (I always wanted to be a good kid and get along with everyone) but I distinctly remember telling her that I don’t need more clothing. I told her that I had a pair of jeans, so why would I need a second one? Many of our shopping trips were all-day events, with various aunts and cousins joining us. It was a day of grand plans. A few different shopping malls in Toledo were involved. 

My favorite thing was always lunch. I could sit down for a while and refuel. I remember being so tired in the stores. I would sit on the floor sometimes while waiting for others to finish their shopping. We tended to shop in a large group, so I had lots of people showing me clothing and asking me if I liked it. Then they would bring it in different sizes to the changing room for me. It was concierge-level service. But I had no idea what clothing I liked. I didn’t know if I liked it when I tried it on. I couldn’t really tell if it fit or looked good on me. There were so many opinions from everyone else that I couldn’t find mine. So I bought whatever my mom thought I should buy. After wearing things a few times to school, then I knew what I liked.

All of this shopping was with the Stuckey aunts. We never shopped with the aunts on the Wyse side, and I never asked why not. There were just some things that were as they were, not to be questioned.

I wonder if I had low blood sugar as a kid. The meal was such a relief. A physical relief, like I was going to fall over soon. I didn’t talk about this much, in my memory. Maybe my mom thinks otherwise! Anyway, I hate shopping to this day and online shopping is the best invention ever. In very small amounts as too much clothing causes one to want to throw it on the floor and hope someone rips it apart so the closet isn’t so full …

As an adult, I went shopping once with my sister-in-law Elaine. We went to a large discount store in Toledo, and I planned to buy some dress shirts for Jim. It’s so easy to buy for men. They have consistent sizing between brands and don’t even need to try things on most of the time. Elaine and I were walking around the store, and after several minutes she said, “You don’t have to stay with me. You can look around on your own, and we’ll meet up at the cash registers when we’re done.”

I then realized that I had been following her, probably because I didn’t like to shop and I thought that was how you shopped with another person. I was over two decades old before I realized that the aunts who had stayed close together as a large group, always within each other’s view throughout the entire shopping experience, were an anomaly. Elaine was gently redirecting me to a different way of shopping. I was probably annoying her. And I hate shopping. So there’s that.

When I was a preschooler, I remember lining up my stuffed animals on the back of the couch before taking a nap. They all needed to be sitting beside each other, looking out over the living room. Then I could go to sleep. A few decades later, there was a little boy named Aaron who lined up his dozens of stuffed animals in a similar manner before going to sleep. Only they shared his bed and each one had to have his eyes clearly visible above the blankets so they could see what was happening as he fell asleep.

My favorite toy ever was a 10-speed bike. I saved up about $100 and Dad took me to the bike shop. I think he paid half and I paid half. It was the coolest thing available in the 1970s. I rode that thing everywhere. I would ride it the eight miles to Archbold for marching band practice. Ride eight miles, march and play music for 3 hours, and ride home for eight miles. I often rode around the country mile on our farm, just for fun. I don’t remember telling my parents that I was doing that. I wonder if they ever thought they’d lost me.

In MYF (Mennonite Youth Fellowship, the best part of the entire church experience in my opinion) we had a biking/camping weekend with an organization that set those things up for church groups. I was in the four-person group with two high school guys and Sam Wenger, who was the pastor of the church whose kids combined with ours for youth group activities. This was before I knew that he would be my future brother-in-law. Sam told me to lead the group. So I did. I didn’t want them to be bored with a slow girl leading the way, so I made sure to go fast enough the whole time. Years later, after Sam was my brother-in-law, he told me that he chose me so that he would be able to keep up with the younger people. And I went so fast that he could hardly manage to stay with our group.

And my other memory of favorite toys are not toys at all, but pets. We had a few cocker spaniel dogs. We would have a litter or two of puppies from them every summer and would raise them to a few months old and then sell them to people from the nearby cities. We had so much fun with those puppies. I sat outdoors with them many times, playing with them for hours. One time I leaned back in the grass, and a bee stung my right hand. But the puppies were so much fun that I just pulled the bee’s stinger from my hand and kept on playing.

I also had a baby goat named Peggy, who climbed all over my dad’s car. And a baby raccoon named Racky, who I fed with a baby bottle. I had scratches on my arms from where Racky held onto me as I fed him. And there were chickens, geese, and turkeys. And we hatched eggs in the incubator my dad made. We had baby chickens, baby ducks, baby geese, baby turkeys, baby quail, and maybe more that I’m forgetting. 

My first experience with grief was when my dog died. I was about twelve, and I cut some fur from her to remember her color before Dad buried her. It broke my heart. But there’s a grief experience that I don’t remember, except from the stories my mom tells me. My dog was named Do-Do, both O’s are pronounced with a long sound like in the word “So.” I named him. I think it was because he was trying to get the clean laundry off the clothesline and my mom called him a Do-Do. Like a dodo bird.

He died when a car hit him when he went on the road. Dad buried him behind the shop and put up a gravestone that was still there when I was in high school. I repeatedly said to my mom afterward, for many months, “Member Mommy? Do-Do died? Daddy cover up Do-Do? Member Mommy?”

All of our family pets were buried there over the years. When Jackie’s cat died a few years ago, in about 2015, I believe that she took it to the same site for its internment.

So there you go. A long rambling story about toys and all the other things that my mind wandered to while thinking about them.

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

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

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The One Reason I Might Quit Writing

writing a letter

Polly and I have been married for forty-four years. We are blessed to have six children and thirteen grandchildren. In 2004, we moved back to Ohio from Yuma, Arizona so we could be closer to our children. We had moved to Yuma for health reasons. My sister thought the weather would be better for me. She graciously bought a home for us to live in, charging us rent well below the market rate. It was, by far, the biggest and nicest house we have ever lived in.

I started working for Allegro Medical, managing their Yuma office. I also managed the network and serviced the computers for my sister’s husband’s cardiology practice. Additionally, Polly and I cleaned the practice’s offices. By this time, my fibromyalgia had progressed to an ever-present reality, leaving me in pain and frequently tired and fatigued. This would be the last full-time job I would hold.

We lived in Yuma for seven months. We visited scores of churches, never finding a place to call home. While we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with my sister and her husband, after seventh months, we decided to move back to Ohio. Why? We missed our children. While I would have been better off physically (and economically) staying in Yuma, the emotional pull of home was too much to overcome. In September of 2004, we moved to Newark, Ohio — the home of Polly’s parents.

After living in Newark for ten months, we packed up our belongings and returned to rural Northwest Ohio. After living in Bryan and Alvordton for a bit, in 2007, we bought a fixer-upper in Ney — where we live today. All of our children and grandchildren live within thirty minutes of our home. All of them are gainfully employed and all of them except one own their own homes. Our grandchildren are enrolled in schools in four different local school districts. Polly and I are both in the sunset years of our lives. We knew when we moved to Ney that this would be our last move. This is home.

I am known locally for my atheism and liberal/socialist politics. I have written numerous letters to the editors of the Defiance Crescent-News and the Bryan Times. I have a unique name, so when locals talk about “Bruce Gerencser,” they are talking about one person: me. Out of eight billion people, I am the only “Bruce Gerencser.”

As my children and wife can attest, I have always been outspoken, a passionate crusader, and defender of others. This was true when I was an Evangelical pastor, and it is true today. Because I am so well-known locally, my children over the years have been accosted by people who disagree with me and want them to defend something I have written or said. This has happened at the local community college and their various places of employment.

I told my children that they are free to say that they don’t know me. I don’t want them to have to carry my burden. When locals accost me in public or flip me off as they drive by my house, I understand that this is the price I must pay for being who and what I am. I just wish that people wouldn’t expect my children to defend me. I am not hard to find. My email address, street address, and blog are but a click or two away. Why not go to the source instead of going after my children? So far, none of my children has disowned me. 🙂

Some of our grandchildren are now high school age. Two of them are in eleventh grade, another in ninth grade, and two of our granddaughters are in middle school. They, too, must now bear the burden of being Bruce Gerencser’s grandchildren. Several of my grandchildren have had teachers and administrators ask if they are related to me — and not in a good way. It seems that my letters to the editor and infrequent blog posts on local issues irritate the hemorrhoids of some teachers and administrators. Instead of talking to me directly, they quiz my grandchildren. To what end? Are they judging my grandchildren based on something I have written, never considering that they might not agree with me? You see, in the Gerencser family, we are freethinkers. Family members hold a variety of opinions, many of which I disagree with. I don’t expect my children or grandchildren to toe some sort of ideological line. I am a passionate, opinionated, educated curmudgeon. I make no apologies for being who I am.

I recognize that my liberal/progressive politics, socialism, pacifism, atheism, and humanism are out of step with the beliefs of most local residents. Evangelicalism and right-wing Republican politics rule the roost. Seven out of ten voting locals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Not one Democrat holds a local political office. Often, Republican candidates run unopposed. Why should Democrats bother to run for office, knowing it is impossible for them to win.

When your religion and your political party have dominated the local scene for what seems like forever (I am old enough to remember when union Democrats were major players in local politics) you forget that there might be people who think differently from you. Or maybe you don’t care. This is the case for a history/government teacher at Defiance High School.

Last week, one of my granddaughter’s teachers decided to go after me by name while she was sitting in his class. He has mentioned my letters to the editor to her before, but this time he took class time to personally attack me. What upset him, you ask? My letter to the editor about the feral cat problem in Defiance. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Defiance Has a Feral Cat Problem, Mayor Mike McCann Says Killing Them is the Solution.) This teacher thought my letter was silly, suggesting that I should find better things to do with my time. His behavior was inappropriate, but not surprising.

Evidently, this teacher didn’t read any of my letters on religion, atheism, humanism, politics, war, marijuana legalization, sexual abuse, and other issues. He evidently is also unaware of my blog and my weighty writing on a variety of subjects. For whatever reason, he wanted to publicly take me down a notch or two.

Part of me wants to make an issue of his boorish behavior, but I have my grandchildren to think of. I don’t want them to be judged or harmed for something I have said or written. If that ever becomes the case, then I will stop writing. I don’t think that will ever happen. My older grandchildren are proud of the work I do, even when they don’t always agree with me.

I do want to make an offer to the teacher in question:

  • Invite me to one or more of your classes to talk to them about my political, religious, and social views. I will gladly answer any questions they might have.
  • I will publicly debate you on any issue — even the designated hitter rule for Major League Baseball. Please have your people contact my people and we will set it up.

It’s easy to take cheap swipes at an old man from the safety of your high school classroom. I am more than happy to defend and debate my beliefs anywhere, any time.

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

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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:


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!


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!!!!


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!


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

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Life in Rural Northwest Ohio: Defiant Anti-Maskers

freedom 2

Earlier today, my wife and I, along with our daughter, went to the medical clinic in Bryan to get our annual flu shots. In, out, done. We later got drinks at McDonald’s and sandwiches at Arbys and then took a short drive down the country roads where my Hungarian grandparents lived and died almost sixty years ago. Just beyond the farm runs Beaver Creek, swollen over its banks from several days of rain. A bit farther down the road, we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. We stopped, rolled down our windows, and watched bluejays, annoyed at the bald eagle’s presence, divebombing him. Nature — a wonderful distraction from a nation that seems to be on the precipice of lunacy, financial collapse, and civil war.

The bald eagle moved on, tired of the blue jays disrupting his afternoon siesta. Polly put the car in gear and pointed it towards home, five miles away. She drove slowly, allowing the both of us to survey what was new in our neighborhood. Not much. A pool closed for winter. A new roof here, new siding there. Flooded farm fields, with soybeans and corn ready to be harvested. Life moves slowly in the country. We like it this way.

Our conversation turned to our visit to the medical clinic — a place I have been going to for fifty-plus years. The clinic has a strict mask policy. No mask, no treatment. Polly told me of a new sign at the check-in counter, a list of behaviors that will NOT be tolerated. No doubt, this list resulted from anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers being outraged over Parkview’s mask mandate. Less than half of locals are vaccinated, and non-mask-wearers far outnumber people who care about their neighbors in places such as Walmart, Meijer, Menard’s, or Chief. Only local medical facilities require masks.

In the corner of the waiting room was a Trump supporter — a defiant anti-masker. He was wearing a red, white, and blue flag print mask with a statement about FREEDOM printed on the front. I say “wearing,” but only in the loosest sense of the word. His mask was pulled down, not only below his nose and mouth, but below his chin. Yep, he was a “patriotic” American who didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone or anything except his Trump-inspired FREEDOM. He knew he had his dick (and morality) hanging out for everyone to see. His face dared his mask-wearing neighbors to say anything. Hell, in rural northwest Ohio, this “patriot” may have been carrying a concealed weapon. I said nothing, but I wondered how long it would be before his FREEDOM delivered his aged, decrepit body to the front door of the ER across the street. Then this “patriot” will wish he had done differently.

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

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


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

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OMG Pastor MacFarlane, Did You Really Say There’s No Racism in Rural Northwest Ohio?

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. I attended First Baptist during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This would be the last time I regularly attended the church. After Polly and I married, left Midwestern, and moved to Bryan, we chose not to attend First Baptist. Instead, we joined Montpelier Baptist Church, upsetting many of the people at First Baptist. In their minds, First Baptist was the “family” church. Mom Daugherty, the mother of three of my uncles, told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged at First Baptist. Interestingly, the church’s pastor at the time, Jack Bennett (married to my uncles’ sister), made no effort to retain us as members. Due to my mother’s mental health problems and “sinful” lifestyles, Bennett always treated me like the ugly, redheaded stepchild. Given the opportunity to become the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist, I took it.

John MacFarlane was a nine-year-old boy when I went off to Midwestern in 1976. John grew up, felt the call of God, and enrolled in classes at Tennessee Temple, graduating in 1991. After pastoring Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan for three years, John returned home to work as Jack Bennett’s assistant. After Bennett retired, John became the pastor of First Baptist, a position he has held ever since.

John is White. He grew up in a White family, attended a White church, and spent K-12 in a White school. John is a lifelong resident of Williams County, Ohio. According to the 2010 US Census, Williams County is 95.9% White. And this is progress compared to Williams County demographics in the 1950s-1970s, I didn’t know of one Black person who lived in the county. Bryan, Ohio is one of the most White cities in America. Rural Northwest Ohio is the epitome of whiteness and White privilege. This is the world John MacFarlane (and Bruce Gerencser) was born into, grew up in, and lives in today.

I have sketched MacFarlane’s history for readers to provide context for what follows. MacFarlane publishes a daily “devotional” for church members and others to read. I am one of those “others.” Remember, John is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He lives, breathes, and shits IFB beliefs and practices. John is a product of IFB indoctrination, as was I for many years.

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled Racism. As I read John’s post, I stopped and said, “OMG, John, Did you REALLY say this out loud?” I couldn’t believe he said what he did. As you shall see, his post is racist, bigoted, and ignorant. I am not shocked by what MacFarlane believes. Thousands and thousands of White rural Northwest Ohio residents believe as he does. I doubt that he will have one church member object to what he wrote. What I AM shocked by is that MacFarlane actually said what follows out loud on a public blog.

Here’s what MacFarlane had to say:

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!

Do you see why I said “OMG, John. Did you REALLY say this out loud?” He did, and what follows is my response.

First, there is a difference between ethnicity and race. Black and White are not ethnicities; they are races. John parrots young-earth creationist Ken Ham on race, and biologically, he’s right. However. MacFarlane wants to de-colorize our world. In his uber-White mind, we are all the same; that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful.

Second, John admits that racism exists out there, somewhere (cue Fox Mulder of the X-Files), but not in the lily-white enclave of rural Northwest Ohio. In 2020, I wrote a post titled, Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio? Having spent most of my life in White rural Ohio, I can say with a high degree of certainty that racism not only exists in rural Northwest Ohio, but that White privilege and systemic racism are very much a part of our culture. Oh, we are nice country folks who will bake you an apple pie and help put a tire on your car, but underneath our niceness lurk racist ideas and beliefs. (Please see Typical Example of Racism in Rural Northwest, Ohio.)

I could share scores of stories that would illustrate my point: that racism and white privilege abound in rural Northwest Ohio. But, instead, let me share one story from my teen years at First Baptist:

In the mid-1970s, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan. I can still remember the day that a woman who once attended the church and moved away, returned home with her new Black husband. Oh, the racist gossip that ran wild through the church: why, what was she thinking . . . marrying a Black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.

In 2008, months before Polly and I deconverted from Christianity, we visited the Methodist Church in Farmer. We had been attending the Ney United Methodist Church — which would be the last church we attended before leaving Christianity; but since the Farmer and Ney churches were on the same charge, we thought we would visit the Farmer church.

As was our custom, we arrived at the church early, so much so that we caught the last ten or so minutes of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly White woman. She was telling a story about her grandson who played football (at college, I believe). She complained that her White grandson was not getting much playing time. Why? The coach gave the “Black” players more playing time. The inference was clear: her grandson wasn’t playing as much because he was White (not because the Black players had better skills).

I am shocked that in his 50+ years in rural Northwest Ohio, MacFarlane hasn’t seen racism or White privilege. Evidently, if the KKK is not burning a cross on the Williams County Courthouse square, no racism exists. John is truly colorblind. The only color he sees is White.

Third, MacFarlane thinks that racism is in the past, that all those racists are dead. Time to move on. Unfortunately, our racist forefathers’ beliefs live on in the lives of White residents of rural Northwest Ohio. I was a racist for many years. I have worked hard to cleanse my mind of racist thinking. While I like to think I am no longer a racist, I am still a White man in a White community with little interaction with people of color (unless I go to Fort Wayne or Toledo). Unlike MacFarlane, I believe the United States has yet to come to terms with its racist past. I support Black Lives Matter (not necessarily the group, but the idea) because I believe many people of color continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I own the fact that my White privilege can and does cause harm to people of color.

Fourth, MacFarlane regales us with stories about the “nice” Blacks and Asians. Why, they were “courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating.” Why did the race (ethnicity, to use John’s word) of these people matter? Was it surprising to MacFarlane that Blacks and Asians were respectful and treated him well? JFC, John, it was their job. I worked in the service industry for years. I also pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a result, I became an expert at smiling at rude, nasty assholes, helping them with their needs. The Blacks and Asians who waited on and helped Pastor MacFarlane and his family were just doing their jobs. Their race had nothing to do with their treatment of the MacFarlanes.

Finally, MacFarlane posits a solution for racism (that doesn’t exist in rural Northwest Ohio):

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.

MacFarlane posits that the answer for racism is Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement for human sin. If everyone would just get saved, why, racism (and violence, hatred, and fighting) would simply and magically disappear. Racist White Christians wouldn’t need sensitivity training, and Blacks — thanks to J-E-S-U-S — would then be equal. No need for anti-discrimination laws. No need for marches and speeches. No need for an honest reckoning over our racist past. No economic or educational help for people of color who have been marginalized and harmed for four centuries. Jesus paid it ALL, time to move on to the 1950s.

MacFarlane forgets that most American Blacks are Christian, many of whom are Evangelical. If Jesus is the cure for racism and marginalization, why haven’t things changed for people of color (in general)? The White Jesus is not the answer for what ails us, we are. Until Whites own their racist past, White privilege, and the systemic racism that plagues our country, it is impossible for us to truly become a land ruled by justice, equality, and equity.

MacFarlane wants us to deal with racism and White privilege where it exists. I am, John, and I am looking right at you. You may sincerely believe what you have written here, but your words reveal a bigoted, racist “heart.”

Note: MacFarlane is a Trump supporter, thus the out-of-right-field mention of “Wuhan plague.” I don’t know if John is an anti-vaxxer.

Other posts about John MacFarlane and First Baptist Church:

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

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

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

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Bruce Gerencser