Menu Close

Tag: Six Inch Rule

How Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches Deal with Unwed Mothers

fornication is a sin

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

If you are unfamiliar with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, please read the following posts:

The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook

What is an IFB Church?

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Lingo, A Guide to IFB Speak

The IFB River Called Denial

An Independent Baptist Hate List

Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps

How to Start an Independent Baptist Church

Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher

If I were to ask you what Independent Fundamentalist Baptists value most, many of you would say things such as: Jesus, the B-I-B-L-E, hard preaching, and potlucks. However, these four articles of the IFB faith pale in comparison to the one thing valued above all others: the virginity of teen girls and never-married women. Valued above Jesus? Yes, even above Jesus. Intact hymens are the holy grail of the IFB church movement. This fact is best illustrated by a dating couple who came to an IFB pastor and asked if they only had “butt sex” would that mean the woman was still a virgin? The pastor, of course, told them that anal sex was the same as vaginal sex. But why would this question even be asked? Why would anyone think that anal sex (or oral) was not “real” sex? Because in IFB churches, the only hole God made for sex is judiciously protected against the insertion of anything besides tampons. No penises, fingers, vegetables, or battery-operated devices are allowed. (And on the extreme end of the IFB church movement, some pastors believe that married couples should only engage in vaginal sex — missionary position — while thinking how wonderful it would be if Bro. Billy Bob’s sperm hooked up with Sister Mary Lou’s eggs.)

abstinence

From their teen years forward, IFB girls hear repeated warnings about having premarital sex and losing their virginity. These girls are told that only whores have premarital sex and that those who let boys score with them are like dirty rags fit for the trash. I have heard countless sermons — and preached a few myself — that focused solely on causing teen girls and unmarried women fear, guilt, and shame. While the young horn dogs of IFB churches, along with their wandering-eyed fathers, hear purity sermons from time to time, most of such sermons are directed at what IFB churches believe is the weaker sex. Women are reminded that they are the gatekeepers. It is up to them to protect not only their own holy virginity, but that of the boys and men. This is why there are so many rules about how women dress. The goal is to destroy their visage and beauty, those things that cause teenage boys to have wandering thoughts about youth group girls instead of their pastor’s weekly Biblical tirade.

Despite the Baptist burkas, hot-and-heavy sermons, and puritanical rules governing dating and male/female interaction and physical contact (there are no gays in IFB churches), unmarrieds do have sex. And thanks to Just Say No sex education, some girls do become pregnant.

In IFB churches, there’s nothing worse than one of the church girls getting pregnant (especially the preacher’s daughter). Whether the girl is fourteen or twenty-three, it matters not. Becoming pregnant without the benefit of marriage is a deep black stain on the mother-to-be and the church, the girl’s parents, and her pastor. By spreading her legs before marriage and “allowing” Deacon Noah’s son to plant his seed, she has repudiated everything her church, parents, and pastor believe about the sanctity of sex.

With such extreme thinking, wouldn’t it be best for all sexually aware IFB girls to be put on the pill? That way, the threat of embarrassment and scandal for IFB churches, pastors, and parents is eliminated. Makes sense, right? Why not take preventive measures, especially since any honest IFB preacher knows that more unmarrieds than not will eventually do the “dirty” deed. When I was asked this very question years ago, I told the questioner that allowing girls to use birth control was akin to saying that it was okay to have sex. This same logic was used for drinking alcohol, using drugs, and other behaviors deemed sins. JUST SAY NO was the only proper response to temptation and sin. It didn’t matter that most married adult IFB church members failed to just say no when they were single. (Ask your pastor or his wife if they were virgins on their wedding day.) All that mattered was maintaining the virginal illusion that when young IFB couples walked down the aisle, their lives were living testimonies to the rightness of IFB doctrine and practice.

I want to conclude this post with several anecdotal stories from my days as a student at Midwestern Baptist College and as a young IFB pastor.

As many of you know, the college I attended in the 1970s had (and still has) a strict no-contact-with-the-opposite-sex policy. If you are not familiar with this policy, please read Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule. While an infinitesimally small number (I knew of four) of unmarried students kept the six-inch rule, the rest of us broke the rule with gusto. While some students could keep their virginity intact, other students scampered around the bases and slid into home. Those caught breaking the six-inch rule were usually campused (not permitted to leave campus) on a first offense. Further offenses, pregnancy, or whispers of sexual romps in cars, motel rooms, or the dormitory laundry room were harshly met with immediate expulsion. Not only were offenders shamed in front of their fellow students, many of whom were guilty of the very same sexual “crimes,” they were shipped home to their IFB churches, parents, and pastors to face further humiliation.

fornication

My first ministerial position post-college was as the assistant pastor of a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation in Montpelier, Ohio. During my seven-month stay at Montpelier Baptist Church, one of the girls in the church became pregnant. The pastor decreed that she and the father of the baby were to wed immediately. (My sister went through a similar circumstance, marrying at the age of fifteen.) Not only were they to promptly wed, but only immediate family could attend the wedding, and the girl would not be permitted to wear a white dress. The pastor told the pregnant girl that the color white was reserved for girls who were virgins on their wedding days. Her mistake was confessing her sin. Had she quickly and quietly run to the altar as other church women had done, she could have worn white and maintained the virginity illusion.

Years later, I attended a church service where a “loose” pregnant teen was brought before the church congregation and made to profess her wickedness publicly. Once she was sufficiently shamed, church members came to the weeping, shaking girl and embraced her, praising God for cleansing the girl from her sin. I do not doubt that many of these hugging super saints were guilty of the very same sin years ago. Sufficiently distanced from their own mortal sins, these holy saints of God likely felt no irony or guilt as they continued the shaming ritual.

Some IFB churches choose to make pregnant teens disappear. IFB parents who find out their daughters are pregnant will usually immediately (and frantically) contact their pastors to find out what they should do. Knowing that their daughters’ “sins” will sully their churches’ testimonies (and abortion is not an option), parents often choose to ship their pregnant teens to IFB group homes. These homes, which are frequently little more than prisons or reeducation camps, purportedly turned whores, sluts, and fornicators into blood-washed, white-as-the-driven-snow lovers of Jesus, the King James Bible, and the IFB way. Often, their babies are given up for adoption.

I hope readers raised in IFB churches will share their own experiences in the comment section. I have written here sounds out of this world to many people, but these stories and practices are repeated daily in countless IFB schools, colleges, churches, and homes. Since the IFB church movement prides itself on being the same today, yesterday, and forever (if it was good enough for Jesus and Paul, it’s good enough for me), the shaming rituals and abuse of years ago are often practiced today.  As long as church teenagers keep having sex, there will be bastard children and women to ritually humiliate. Indeed, the IFB deity is an awesome God.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Short Stories: The Preacher Goes to the XXX Movie House

xxx

I grew up in rural Northwest Ohio. We didn’t have XXX movie houses or strip clubs. In Bryan, Ohio, only two establishments sold adult magazines. I was nineteen and a student at Midwestern Baptist College before I perused my first pornographic magazine. I suspect many of the young men studying at Midwestern had similar experiences. Our rural, small-town cultures sheltered us from the perversity found in big cities, as did the hellfire and brimstone preaching of the churches we came from. Sexual naïveté ran wild at Midwestern, and the college’s answer was to regularly preach against sexual sin, hoping that doing so would keep students from sexual temptation.

Pontiac, Michigan was a dirty, dying industrial town. Its downtown area had numerous adult entertainment establishments, including a XXX movie house that played the latest pornographic movies and hosted amateur night stripper contests. It was not uncommon to see a dozen or more prostitutes plying their trade on downtown Pontiac street corners. One woman who comes to mind was a rather large woman with huge DDDDDDDD breasts. She would briskly walk the streets braless, breasts bouncing chin to belly button. It was quite a sight to behold.

As you might surmise, downtown Pontiac was a magnet for young, virile, horny Baptist boys. The personal contact rules (please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule) at Midwestern forbade physical contact between dating couples. No hand-holding. No kissing. No hugging. No nothing. Students were required to stay six inches away from their boyfriends/girlfriends at all times. Of course, students broke the six-inch rule with impunity, causing all sorts of guilt and fear. The good news was that Jesus was only a prayer away. That’s the Baptist way: sin, ask for forgiveness, promise never to sin again — wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a great way to live.

One night, after much prayer and temptation, I decided to check out the fine art films at the XXX movie house. I parked away from the theater, thinking that if anyone who knew me drove by, they wouldn’t see my car. As I walked from my car to the movie house, I could “feel” the “Holy Spirit” telling me, Don’t do it, Bruce. God says it’s a sin. The Bible says it’s a sin. Your pastor says it’s a sin. Your dorm supervisor says it’s a sin. Your preschool Sunday School teacher says it’s a sin. All these voices in my head, but one voice stood above all others — mine. I wanted to do this. I was curious about what was behind the theater’s doors. And so I made my way to the theater’s entrance, paid my admission, and found a seat at the back of the theater.

The first act of the night was an amateur stripping contest. Local young women — some of them prostitutes — stripped and paraded back and forth on the stage. This was the first time I had ever seen a woman naked. I battled conflicting emotions. On one hand, I felt guilty. I was breaking the law of God, and I was violating college rules. On the other hand, I felt excitement — sexual excitement. It was my first time seeing a woman’s body in all its glory — as naked as Eve in the Garden of Eden. What more can I say? After all of the women had performed, judges determined the first, second, and third place winners. The winners were given cash prizes.

Then it was time for the feature film. As with the amateur contest, the movie definitely exposed me to sexual things I had never seen before. Needless to say, I was fascinated by what I saw. I am sure some readers of the Evangelical persuasion are thinking, Oh my God Bruce, you were taken in by Satan’s greatest temptation — lust. I bet you couldn’t keep from doing this again, right? Sorry to disappoint you. This was my first and last trip to the XXX movie house in downtown Pontiac. I would later marry a beautiful dark-haired girl who was a wonder to behold in her own right. Why look from afar when you can see, touch, and well, you know . . .

The highlight of the evening came not on the stage, but as I was leaving the theater. As I exited and turned my head to the right I saw, much to my surprise, a graduate of Midwestern and deacon at Emmanuel Baptist Church (the church college students were required to attend). Our eyes met, and then both of us quickly turned away, pretending that we had never seen the other. This man and his wife were good friends of Polly’s parents. When their names came up in family discussions years later, I so wanted to say . . . boy do I have a story to tell!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Hey Girlfriend, When You Feel Tempted to Hug Your Boyfriend . . .

christian side hug

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

Hey girlfriend, when you feel tempted to hug your boyfriend, hug your dad, brother, sister, or an old lady in the church instead. Nothing quenches sexual desire like hugging a male family member or ancient Sister Bertha, right?

Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, had this to say to young women who doubted an invisible Jesus could meet their sexual longings and desires:

 Apparently I’m not the only one who has wondered how God can satisfy when all I want is a pair of strong arms to hold me close. Here’s what Rebecca wrote me:

“The biggest thing I think my crush can give me that God can’t is his strong arms wrapped around me. Although my crush has yet to hold me in his arms, his physical closeness sends shivers throughout my body. I know that God is always there for me . . . but sometimes my feelings get the better of me, and all I want to do is be wrapped up in my crush’s arms and attention.”

Grace added:

“I think what always gets me is that God isn’t physically there like a guy is. He can’t wrap his arms around me. Sometimes I just want that.”

And finally, Isabella said:

“I have often thought, I wish God could come down here and give me a big bear hug. Then I would really be in love with Him.”

But here’s the thing . . . He has come down! And while He was here, He picked up kids and cradled them in His arms. (You have to admit, that shows a tender heart—few guys walk around doing the same thing!)

I know He’s not physically here now…But one day soon, we will see Him. We will be with Him.

When Christ comes again to “marry” the Church, His Bride, He will likely hold us too…

…Now that is something to look forward to! Jesus Christ is not an idea; He is a Person. A Divine Person with arms and legs and beautiful probing eyes. He loves you. Enough to spread His arms wide in order to bleed so you might be healed. And if you have put your trust in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will soon see and know Him fully.

So in the meantime, as you wait for Him, by all means, hug! No, not your crush. Hug your dad. Hug your mom. Hug your brothers and sisters. Hug your friends. Hug those old ladies at church…

I wonder if Hendricks has heard about the Christian side hug, a type of hug sexually aware, virgin Evangelical young people can give one another without causing sexual stirring or lust?

Video Link

Rational Wiki describes the Christian side hug this way:

The Christian side hug is a means by which young Christians can show affection for each other without engaging in possibly tempting and impure front-to-front contact.

Instead of hugging face-to-face, the huggers stand side-by-side, and can be facing either the same way or in opposite directions. Unlike frontal hugging, side hugs minimize the risk of an eternal damnation which could result from possible incidental contact with a boob or penis of somebody to whom one is not married.

For extra affection, the side hug may be accompanied by a few non-contact blessing pats. If even the side hug is too intense, you can work up to it coyly with this elaborate sequence of gestures. There’s even a Christian side hug rap, which attracted the attention of The Young Turks. The degree of parody and satire intended in the rap version is unknown, but that doesn’t make it any better.

Several years ago, I wrote about the Six Inch Rule, a regulation used at Midwestern Baptist College — the college Polly and I attended in the 1970s — to keep young adults from touching one another. It proved to be a dismal failure. I don’t know of one couple who lived in the Midwestern Baptist College dorm when Polly and I did who didn’t violate the spirit and the letter of the six-inch rule. Something tells me — oh like common sense — that teenagers and young adults are still failing at keeping the touching prohibitions of Evangelical moralizers such as Paula Hendricks. Why, you ask? Simple. We are sexual beings and we desire physical, intimate contact with others. All the sweet, sexy Jesus in the world won’t quench human sexual desire. When it comes to choosing between sexual intimacy and Jesus, my money is on sexual intimacy.

jesus hug

What makes writers like Paula Hendricks so harmful is that they encourage teen girls and young women to act against their nature. They encourage them to repress their sexual desires. Sadly, when these girls later marry, they often bring a warped view of physical intimacy and sex into the marriage (and men can do the same).  Marriage is tough enough without starting life with sexual dysfunction. Instead of teaching teenagers and young adults to repress their sexual desires, they should be encouraged to responsibly act on their desires, starting with a hug or a kiss. If there is more to the relationship, then they can determine where to go from there. There are three bases between the batter’s box and home. Hendricks wants unmarried teens and adults to stand in the batter’s box, never moving or swinging when the pitch comes their way. No running to first, rounding second, sprinting around third, and sliding into home. Not a very fun or interesting game, yes?

Contrary to Paula Hendricks’ horrible advice, hugging is not a gateway to sexual intercourse. Teenagers and young adults can sexually experiment without having intercourse. And if they decide to slide into home base, the best advice to give them is on how to be sexually responsible and use birth control. Of course, this advice must be given to them BEFORE they are rounding third and heading for home. In fact, before they even get to first base, wouldn’t it be better to prepare single teenagers and young adults for their sexual future?

Hendricks now sports the last name Marsteller. She’s married, and I suspect is regularly playing baseball with her husband. I wonder if she touched her husband before they married?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule

the six inch rule midwestern baptist college

Imagine for a moment, that you are sitting in the pew of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. You are 16 years old and sitting next to you is your 17-year-old girlfriend. As with any normal teenager, you are sitting as close as possible to your girlfriend and the two of you are holding hands.

The pastor is getting ready to preach and he asks everyone to turn to 1 Corinthians 7:1,2. With a thunderous voice, the pastor says, THE BIBLE SAYS:

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. (1 Corinthians 7:1,2)

and THE BIBLE ALSO SAYS:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

All of a sudden, the pastor turns your way, looks at you and your girlfriend, and then slowly turns back to his sermon notes. You feel guilty, so you unclasp your hand from your girlfriends and you scoot a few inches away from her — safely avoiding fornicating in the pew.

Welcome to just-another-Sunday-morning service at First On True Faith Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church in Fundistan, Ohio.

In the real world, teenage boys and girls hold hands, put their arms around each other, and kiss each other. We also know that some of them engage in intimate sexual activity. But at First On True Faith Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church, any physical contact between unmarried teenagers or unmarried young adults of the opposite sex is strictly prohibited. And

The thinking goes something like this: fornication, the intimate sexual contact between unmarried people, is a SIN. Committing fornication requires physical touching, so the best way to avoid fornication is to keep unmarried teenagers or single young adults from touching each other.

Over the years, I am embarrassed to say, I told countless teenagers that no girl ever got pregnant without holding hands with a boy first. I repeatedly told them that holding hands leads to familiarity, and before you know it, you’ll be having sex. So the answer is this: no touching.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio and First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, my pastors and youth directors preached against boys and girls touching each other. Now, this doesn’t mean we didn’t touch each other, it just meant that we did our touching away from the sight of our pastors, youth directors, deacons, and other church adults.

We turned it into a game. The pastor said we couldn’t touch each other, so while choir practice was going on, we would find out-of-the-way places to neck. It was almost like a challenge: we dare you to catch us.

From the age of 14 until my wedding day, I kissed a few girls, put my arm around them, and held their hands. But that’s where it stopped. Both my wife and I were virgins when we married in 1978. I violated the letter of the no-touch rule, but I certainly kept it until my honeymoon (albeit, had we waited any longer to get married, we likely would have rounded third and slid into home).

Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College — an unaccredited IFB institution — in Pontiac Michigan. The college had a strict no-touch rule. The rule was called the six-inch rule (about the width of a hymnbook). Young men and women were expected to keep six inches away from each other at all times. Failure to do so resulted in severe discipline, including expulsion.

Living in a dorm filled with normal, hormone-raging, heterosexual men and women made the six-inch rule a real challenge. Most of us learned how to discreetly break the rule, and when we went out on double dates, we learned to date with couples who were six-inch rule-breakers as we were.

Sandra, a regular reader of this blog, shared in a comment about her time at Hyles Anderson College:

About the gateway issues with card playing . . .I’m not psychologist but I do believe if you restrict normal human behavior in one way, normal human behavior will come out in another. When at Hyles Anderson we were all told to not touch the opposite sex. I mean, no hand holding (which was fine with me and the IFB church I was in before I left for HAC). But no touching through a pen either, like tapping on a shoulder.

We are social beings and I do believe we need touch to stay alive. When at HAC, since all of the women were not allowed to touch a man on his hand or to tap his back with a pen, guess what happened? The dean of woman (Miss Belinda) said she noticed a LOT of petting going on between the women. In chapel, women would sit next to women and they’d pet each other’s hair, they’d stroke each other’s leg. And she was right – all of that behavior was happening. But my question is why? Probably due to the human need for basic touch. Since the women were not allowed to hug their own blood brother on campus, nor to hold hands for 5 seconds, nor to tap a man on the back with a pencil. . .is it any wonder that the women found a way to get physical touch in their lives? It is normal to want a hug and to rub someone’s bad when they are hurting. By repressing opposite sex touching, they encouraged same-sex touching and it was very evident.

Ponder for a moment being exposed to this kind of environment. Is it any wonder that people coming out of the IFB church movement often have to deal with emotional, mental, and sexual dysfunction?

When you are constantly told that normal human desire is sinful, you are bound to suffer psychological damage. Being normal heterosexuals, we could only suppress our desires for so long, so we found creative ways to get around the rules and the ever-watchful eyes of those charged with keeping us from fornicating.

As single students at Midwestern, Polly and I artfully evaded the no-touch police all but one time. Here’s what happened the time we got caught.

I was on the college basketball team. (Don’t read too much into that. The team was the equivalent of an intramural club.) One day during practice I slapped at a basketball and severely dislocated a finger. I was rushed to the emergency room and the doctor was able to fix the dislocation. I’m left-handed and the dislocation had occurred on my left hand.

Every male student was required to wear a tie to class. I found it very difficult to tie a tie with one hand, so one day I asked my fiancée to tie my tie for me. In doing so, we broke the six-inch rule. Someone anonymously turned us in for breaking the six-inch rule. We had to appear before the disciplinary committee to answer the charges against us.

We each received 50 demerits for breaking the six-inch rule. We were warned that if we broke the six-inch rule again, we would be expelled from school. Little did they know that we had been breaking it for quite some time.

Most dormitory students lived for the weekend. Students could only date on the weekends. Double dating was required and no student could go farther away than 10 miles from the dormitory.

Most students tried to adhere to the rules for a while. Some, like my Polly and I, kept the six-inch rule religiously until we went home for our first Christmas break. While home on Christmas break, we were allowed to act like normal young adults who were in love. We held hands, kissed, necked, and pretty much acted like any other couple mutually infatuated with one another.

Once the genie was out of the bottle, it was impossible to put her back in. When we returned to Midwestern in January 1977, we realized we could not continue to keep the six-inch rule. So, for the next 18 months, we sought out couples to double date with that had the same view of the six-inch rule as we did. We had to be very careful. Choose the wrong couple to double date with and we could end up getting expelled from school.

Rules such as the six-inch rule put the dormitory students in a position of having to lie and cheat just to be able to act like normal young adults. Many students ended up getting campused (not allowed to leave the campus or date) or were expelled because they broke the six-inch rule.

Fornication was quite common among dormitory students. There was always a lot of gossip about who was doing what, when, and where. During the spring of my sophomore year, many of us rented apartments in the Pontiac area. We were all planning to get married over the summer, and since apartments were hard to come by, we rented them as soon as we found them.

The apartments turned into a big temptation for some couples. They began using the apartments as safe places for sexual activity. I could give you the names of several well-known preachers and their wives who lost their virginity at one of these apartments. Some of these preachers are now known to rail against sexual immorality. It seems they have forgotten about their own immorality many years ago.

Is it any wonder that many of us who were raised in this kind of sexually repressed environment require counseling? Being told over and over that certain basic human needs and desires are sinful leads to overwhelming guilt and despair (and remember masturbation was also a sin).

This is one of the reasons why I think the IFB church movement (and Evangelicalism, in general) is psychologically harmful. 

How about you? Did you spend your teenage years in an IFB church? Did you attend an IFB college?  How did you deal with the no-physical-contact rule? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Basketball Memories: The Day Goliath Slew David at Midwestern Baptist College

bruce gerencser 1971
Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade, 1971. My slim and trim playing years, six foot, 160 pounds.

Regular readers know that I am a sports addict. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused all sorts of serious sports withdrawal symptoms for me. Why, just this past weekend, I searched the satellite for some sort of fix, only to find myself watching — I kid you not — a cherry-pit-spitting contest and lawnmower racing. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I played team baseball from little league through tenth grade. I was always good enough to make the team, but I certainly wasn’t an all-star. I suspect that the reason coaches gave me a second look was the fact that I was left-handed. That and I could run. I couldn’t hit a breaking ball to save my life, so my coaches typically used me to bunt and run like hell.

After high school, I played slow-pitch softball. My increasing girth made me a much better hitter, though I was slower afoot as the years went by. I was in my early thirties when, thanks to knee problems, I was forced to stop playing.

While baseball is my favorite sport to watch, basketball was my favorite sport to play. I enjoyed the physicality of the game, and skill-wise, I was a decent player. Again, being left-handed was a huge advantage in a game dominated by righties.

I attended three high schools during my playing years: Rincon High School in Tucson, Arizona, Riverdale High School in Mt Blanchard, Ohio, and Findlay High School in Findlay, Ohio. I attended Rincon for the last half of my tenth-grade year and Riverdale for the first few months of my eleventh-grade year. Riverdale, a small, rural high school, was a perfect spot for me to ply my basketball talents. Unfortunately, before practice started, the church family I was living with at the time decided it was time for me to move. This meant I had to move back to Findlay, a school in which I had no chance of making the basketball team.

At the time, Findlay High School was one the largest schools in Ohio. Hundreds of boys would turn out for basketball tryouts, hoping to land a handful of open bench spots available any given year. I didn’t stand a chance making the team, so I decided, instead, to play for Trinity Baptist Church in a hyper-competitive high school basketball league. This league allowed boys who didn’t make local high school teams an opportunity to play. I was one such boy.

My coach was my youth director, Bruce Turner. In a 2014 post titled, Dear Bruce Turner, I wrote:

You were my basketball coach. Trinity sponsored a team in the ultra-competitive high school church basketball league. One game I had a terrible night shooting the ball. I was frustrated and I told you I wanted out of the game. You refused and made me play the whole game. My shooting didn’t get any better but I learned a life lesson that I passed on to all my children years later.

All told, I played basketball for Trinity for three years.

In the fall of 1976, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. As a freshman, I was asked if I was interested in playing on the college basketball team. The very fact that I was asked to play should tell you all you need to know about the quality of Midwestern’s team — think intramural basketball. Midwestern, with an enrollment of 400 or so students, played other nearby small Christian colleges. My college basketball career quickly ended one day during practice as I was defending one of my teammates. As he went up to shoot the ball, I jumped, swatting the ball. Unfortunately, the middle finger on my left hand hit the ball, causing the finger to dislocate. Coach couldn’t reset it, so I was taken to the emergency room. Not only was the finger dislocated, but it was also jammed into the knuckle. The ER doctor, at first, couldn’t reset the finger either. Finally, he said, “Bruce, this is going to hurt.” He made sure the bed was locked so it couldn’t move, put his foot on the bottom of the bed, grabbed my finger, and violently jerked it back into place. And man was he right. Over the years, I had numerous sports injuries, but this one hurt like hell.

six inch rule midwestern baptist college 1970s

While this injury ended my Midwestern playing career, it almost caused me to get expelled from school. In a 2015 post titled, Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule, I wrote:

Another time I was written up for breaking the six-inch rule. The six-inch rule was a rule meant to keep unmarried men and women from getting too close to each other. Six inches is about the width of a songbook or a Bible and unmarried students were not allowed to be closer than a songbook or a Bible from each other.

I was on the college basketball team. One day during practice I slapped at a basketball and severely dislocated a finger. I was rushed to the emergency room and the doctor was able to fix the dislocation. I’m left-handed and the dislocation had occurred on my left hand.

Every male student was required to wear a tie to class. I found it very difficult to tie a tie with one hand, so one day I asked my fiancé to tie my tie for me. In doing so, we broke the six-inch rule. Someone anonymously turned us in for breaking the six-inch rule and we had to appear before the disciplinary committee to answer the charges against us.

We each received twenty-five demerits for breaking the six-inch rule. We were warned that if we broke the six-inch rule again, we would be expelled from school. Little did they know that we had been breaking it for quite some time.

During my sophomore year at Midwestern, the college’s athletic director — a friend of mine at the time and the soloist at my wedding — scheduled a basketball game with Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio — an NCAA Division III school. When I saw that Ohio Northern was on the schedule, I asked the athletic director, a Michigander, if he knew anything about the school. He did not. I suggested that he might want to rethink playing the game, but he assured me it would be fine. “Fine” turned out to be Midwestern’s basketball team playing George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn. Talk about slaughter.

midwestern baptist college vs ohio northern 1978 (2)

Today, I tracked down the stats for this game. Ohio Northern won by 107 points, 141-34. Ohio Northern made 66 field goals, accounting for 132 of their 141 points. This means they shot, at most nine free throws. As you can see, try as they might Midwestern’s team not only couldn’t shoot the ball, neither could they play defense.

Polly and I attended this game. I still remember the pall that came over the crowd as Ohio Northern eviscerated the home team. After the game, Dr. Tom Malone, the president of Midwestern and the pastor of nearby Emanuel Baptist Church, was livid over the loss. Malone, himself, was a cutthroat, physical basketball player. I played several games with Doc. He definitely subscribed to the “no blood, no foul” school of play — as did I. I have no doubt that he wanted to pummel the athletic director over Midwestern’s embarrassing loss to Ohio Northern. Expulsion was a real possibility, I thought at the time. Fortunately, the athletic director survived Doc’s wrath.

After Midwestern, I continued to play basketball into my early thirties. I typically played year-round, often two to three times a week in the winter. During the summer, I would play outside pick-up games. I suspect that it was playing sports that kept my weight relatively in check for so many years. As with softball, knee problems — which I battle to this day — put an end to my basketball career. I remember seeing an orthopedic surgeon in the early 1980s about my knees. He told me, “either quit or you’ll be in a wheelchair someday.” I ignored him for another year or so, but once I reached the place of having to crawl up the stairs to get to our bedroom, I decided to hang up my Converse sneakers and call it a day.

These days, my involvement with basketball is limited to watching my grandchildren play junior high and high school basketball and photographing boys’ and girls’ games for nearby Fairview High School. There’s still nothing like an exciting prep school game on a cold winter’s night. Here’s to hoping that such games will be played yet again in 2020-2021. I sure don’t want to be spending the winter months watching “sports” I have never heard of on ESPN.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser