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Tag: Suicide

I Don’t Want to Die, I Just Want the Pain to Stop

pain to stopYet another visit to the doctor’s office, visit number eleven since November — primary care doctor, dermatologist, cardiologist, podiatrist, and today a visit to my orthopedic doctor. For the past six months or so, I have been having a problem with my right hip. I would get a dull ache in the hip and at times it would give out on me, sending me banging from wall to wall, much like a steel ball in a pinball machine. Over the past two weeks, the pain in my hip has gotten significantly worse, and on occasion I have been unable to walk without help or a cane. I thought, what the hell is going on now? Just what I need, another fucking problem to deal with!

My orthopedic doctor — a physician’s assistant — is a straight-shooting, no bullshit practitioner. He tells me the truth, and doesn’t promise medical miracles. I have osteoarthritis from my neck to my feet and in many joints in between. My doctor told me I have a wildfire spreading through my body. Surgery “might” help for some of your joint problems, he told me last time, but we could also make your problems worse and leave you in more pain. At a previous visit, he asked me how my right shoulder was. I have a labrum tear. I told him, it hurts, but I get by. He replied, see, here we are two years later and you are still getting by. If we had cut on you, things might have turned out worse for you. I appreciate his honesty.

The good news from today’s visit is that my hip is fine. The bad news is that the ever-narrowing disc spaces in my lower back are affecting the nerves that control my hip’s movement. Pressure on these nerves is causing my hip to give way. This is why when I sit for a long time, I can hardly stand straight and the hip doesn’t work as it should. Once I stand for a while and get straightened up posture-wise, the pressure on the nerves is decompressed and everything works as intended.

There are days when I just want to put an end to it all. People who suffer with chronic illnesses and endure unrelenting pain often have thoughts about suicide. Well-meaning people tell me that they are praying for me, or that I need to put mind over matter. I love it when someone tells me, you know, there are people who are worse off than you. And this helps how, exactly? There will always be people who are sicker than I am or have more pain than I do. And there are countless people who are in good health, and their biggest pain is a zit on the end of their nose or a backache from too much headboard banging. Each of us lives in a contained world unto ourselves. My health problems and my pain are mine alone to bear. Just think of Jesus’ suffering, Bruce. He did it all for you, Christians tell me. What, a day or so of pain, a long weekend, and then a pain-free body? Jesus had it easy I would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Let Jesus walk in my shoes for a while — not that he can, he’s dead. Conjuring up an imaginary suffering deity as a way to “encourage” those who are in real pain is not any more helpful than that same God spitting on the dirt making some mud, and using it to restore a blind man’s sight. Forget the theatrics. If Jesus is really the Great Physician, what’s he been up to for the past two thousand years? I know a lot of people who sure could use his help. His inattention makes me wonder if he is actually dead, and what’s really going on here is that the Christian church has been playing a con-game for the past twenty centuries. Just keep praying. Jesus will heal you — some day.

suffering and pain

People with chronic pain have often suffered for years. Their lives are an endless repeating of the movie Groundhog Day. I endure the day, collapse in bed, spending several hours getting to sleep, only to start the process all over again the next day. And pain is just one of the plethora of issues I must deal with every day. I am not complaining. I accept life as it is, doing what I can to lessen my suffering. I don’t expect my doctors to work miracles, nor do I anticipate waking up one day and finding myself miraculously healed. That’s not how things work in the real world. Thousands and thousands of prayers have been offered on my behalf, and I spent the better part of twenty years daily asking God for healing. As the mythical Christian God is wont to do, he remained silent.

When I write about suicide, people immediately worry that I am about to pull a David Foster Wallace. Not today, my friend, not today. All I am saying here is that chronic illness and pain drive people to ponder ending their lives. In fact, it is totally normal to have such thoughts. It’s not that I want to die — I don’t. I want to live. I want to watch more sunsets over Lake Michigan with the love of my life. I want to eat Polly’s food and make love to her. I want to hear Bethany laugh while watching a stupid movie. I want to go to stock car races and baseball games with my sons. I want share Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. I want to watch my grandchildren come of age, go off to college, and perhaps have families of their own. I want to watch the trees, bushes, and plants Polly and I have planted grow to maturity, covering our yard with summer beauty and shade. There are so many things I want to do, yet when my body is wracked with pain, all I can think is this: PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

You see, that’s what healthy people don’t understand. It’s not that people such as myself want to die, we just want the pain to stop. Oh, how I yearn for a day  — just one day — of waking up in the morning pain-free. Some of you reading this post know what I am talking about. You understand longing for a day without pain, yet you know such hope doth fantasies make. For the present, we live between the one certain cure — death — and a life of finding meaning and purpose. For me personally, writing, photography, family, and hoping the Cincinnati Reds will, one more time in my lifetime, win the World Series, are those things which give me meaning and purpose. When I devote my energies to those things. thoughts of suicide diminish. That said, suicidal thoughts will never, ever go away, and I have, through anguish and tears, thought on more than one occasion this year, ENOUGH! But today I say to myself, LIVE. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. For now, I focus on the things that matter, hoping they continue to provide reasons for living.

I know the goodness in you will urge you to try to encourage me in the comment section, a text, or an email. There’s no need, friends. This is just me talking out loud and being brutally honest about life. I may die today, but it will not be by my own hands. My sister has a project she needs her wise, aged, technologically savvy smart-ass of a brother to take care of (she reads my blog, so I just had to say that).  I can’t leave her in a lurch. And besides, NFL football starts soon. How about them Bengals?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

We’re Not Huggers

no hugsI grew up in a home where my parents rarely, if ever, showed affection to each other or their children. The Gerencsers weren’t huggers or kissers, and I can’t remember a time where my mom or dad said to me, I love you. I can’t remember a time when I was praised for doing well in school or in sports, nor can I remember being challenged to do better. The reasons for this are many. My mother was mentally ill my entire life. Mom spent two extended periods of time in the Toledo State Mental Hospital. She was prone to manic fits, and tried to kill herself more times than I can count. One time, I came home from elementary school to find Mom lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists. She survived, but two decades later she pointed a Ruger .357 at her heart and pulled the trigger. She did not survive her last attempt, dying at the age of fifty-four. My dad was involved in all sorts of less-than-legal behavior, including fraud and illegally selling firearms. Fortunately, he avoided prison. He died at the age of forty-nine.

My parent’s fifteen-year marriage dissolved during the spring of my ninth-grade year. The only conversation my parents had with me about their impending divorce was Dad telling me that he and Mom no longer loved each other. Mom? All she said on the matter was to tell me that she would never speak poorly about my father. Life moved on without either of them ever giving an honest accounting to their children about why they divorced, leaving us to come to our own conclusions about why they were no longer married. It was Mom who filed for divorce, yet I don’t know why. I suppose Mom’s mental-health issues, Dad’s nefarious financial dealings, and our Gypsy-like moving from town to town to town led to their divorce. That, and whispered allegations of Dad’s affairs with other women.

I can look at my past and understand why I am not outwardly emotional. For good or ill, I passed this on to my children. Does this mean that I am, in some way, broken or defective? I don’t know. All I know is that I try to be more emotionally engaged with my wife and children. I’m not afraid to express my love for them, but I’m never going to be the person that hugs everyone or wears my emotions on my sleeve. That’s just not who I am. For the longest time, I let happy-as-a-seal-with-a-ball emotional speed freaks badger me into being more emotional. For such clap-happy people, being emotional over everything from regular bowel movements to your daughter getting married is the standard by which everyone should live. Thus, when someone like myself doesn’t show the proper level of emotion for a given circumstance, I am viewed as being indifferent or not caring. This, of course, is patently untrue. I do care, about things that matter anyway. However, I’m never going to be the type of person who jumps up and down praising people for every life moment. I currently have five grandchildren who play public school sports, including a seventeen-year-old granddaughter who plays high school basketball. I attend ninety-nine percent of their games. Win or lose, play a lot or ride the bench, I am there. By attending their games, I am lending my support in ways my parents never did when I played baseball and basketball. From my perspective, presence is more important than superfluous words of praise. I try to encourage them, especially when they spend most of the game sitting on the far end of the bench. I’ve been there, so I understand how they feel about not playing. I remind them that there are two ways of looking at not getting much playing time. First, you can gripe and complain about it, or you can work harder at practice, and through your efforts force your coach to play you. Second, you can remind yourself you are actually on the team. You made it, and not everyone can say that. I might tell them things I noticed during the game and how they might improve their skills. But what I’ll never do is slobber all over them in praise. That’s just not the kind of guy I am. If they have a good game, they can expect to hear me say, good game. When they lose or strike out four times, they can expect to hear me say, tough game, you’ll get them next time.

i need a hugOne former member of our family is quite excitable, much like our cocker spaniel (who circles our dining room table half a dozen times every time we come home after being away for the day). She has what I call a woo-hoo! personality. She has many commendable qualities, but she and I have clashed over the years because of my refusal or inability to be as emotionally effervescent as she. When Polly asks about the meal she just cooked, I will often say fine or it was good. Polly knows that these words are the highest form of praise from me. They mean that she can put the meal recipe in the yes, make this again folder. Polly also knows that if I don’t like something I will tell her; not in a critical manner as much as saying, I‘m okay with you never making that again. This behavior of mine drove the ex-family member nuts. Why, if the meal was good, according to her, I should heap mountains of praise on the cook. No matter how many times I explained to her that that’s just not the type of person I am, she still expected me to all jacked up on Jesus and Mountain Dew (her Evangelical church has emotion-infused services that fuel her addiction to praise). When I take family photographs, repair computers for people, or fix this or that in our house, I don’t expect to be effusively praised for my efforts. A simple thanks is good enough for me.

We Gerencsers don’t hug, and that’s okay. We don’t need public displays of affection to know that we are loved by our spouses, parents, children, and grandchildren. The most hugs I’ve ever received from my children came when I was going in for testing for a lesion on my pancreas; a lesion, by the way, that is still there. I feared that I might have pancreatic cancer, and I expressed that fear to Polly and the children. Prior to the day of my testing, I received lots of hugs and expressions of love. In the minds of my children, perhaps for the first time, they saw their father as mortal and frail. Their hugs were greatly appreciated, but going through that every ten years or so is enough for me. I know my children love me, not by their words, but by their actions. And that’s all that matters to me. My wife and I’ve been married for forty years. We are not given to outward displays of affection. No one’s ever going to say to us, get a room. Yet, we have a passionate love life. Maybe it’s our age or the era we grew up in. I don’t know. We just prefer to keep the physical aspects of our relationship behind closed doors. Our lack of public physicality might lead people who don’t know us to think that we really don’t love each other, but nothing could be further from the truth. Polly and I have a deep abiding love for one another, and as long as WE know what we have, that is all that matters.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Idaho State Representative Brandon Hixon Commits Suicide

brandon hixon

Brandon Hixon, a former Idaho Republican state lawmaker, committed suicide this week. According to his ex-wife, Danielle Eirvin Hixon, Brandon was under investigation for sexually molesting two girls.  Hixon was a Christian. According to Ballotpedia, Hixon described his religious views this way:

I have always been a voice in the fight against abortion. I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and I do not support gay marriage. I support the freedom of religion, and recognize that we have many different faiths and beliefs around the state and district, however, this country was founded on Christian principles and that should never be forgotten.

CBS News reports:

The former wife of an Idaho Republican state lawmaker who shot and killed himself this week says he was under investigation for molesting two girls, including a young female relative who was abused for more than 10 years. Brandon Hixon died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at his home, the Canyon County Coroner’s office told CBS affiliate KBOI.

Former colleagues at the Idaho Statehouse have offered kind words about Hixon, but his ex-wife Danielle Eirvin Hixon said the suicide robbed her family’s hopes of finding justice and closure though the legal system.

She told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that she told police about the abuse and that her husband raped and inappropriately touched one of the alleged female victims for about 11 years.

“Brandon made people believe that he was a stand-up, morally correct person,” said Hixon, who was married to the former lawmaker for 10 years until their divorce in 2016. “But behind the house walls, he would cheat on me and molested children.”

Scott Graf, spokesman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said Wasden’s office had no comment on the investigation.

Hixon – a three-term Republican from Caldwell – had resigned from the state legislature in October after news emerged that he was the subject of a criminal investigation involving possible sexual abuse, though no details were made public.

His ex-wife said she had been told by investigators not to disclose details about the case until charges were filed against her ex-husband, but that the reason to keep the information confidential ended with his suicide. She said she and two other people had been scheduled to testify before a grand jury on Wednesday.

….

“I had no idea it was happening,” Danielle Eirvin Hixon said of the alleged abuse, adding that the girl who told her “kept it quiet for so long.”

The second alleged victim was not related to the lawmaker, she said, adding that she learned about that girl from the girl’s mother.

….

Records also show that the former lawmaker was previously the focus of a separate police investigation in 2014 after he was accused of inappropriate touching. He denied the accusations and told police he was worried they would harm his political career. It’s unknown if the new investigation, ongoing since Oct. 5, was connected to the earlier case.

Danielle Eirvin Hixon said comments by lawmakers praising her ex-husband’s character prompted her to speak up about the abuse allegations. She said she wanted people to know her side of the story.

“I say he was a coward by taking the easy way out,” she said of his suicide.

….

Where the Calvinistic Rubber Meets the Road: Is Dr. Ian Campbell in Hell?

ian campbell

Last January, noted Scottish pastor Ian Campbell committed suicide by hanging himself after being admitted to the hospital for a drug overdose. Campbell, a member of the Free Church of Scotland — a Calvinistic sect — pastored Point Free Church in Point, Isle of Lewis. According to the Point Free website, Campbell:

contributes to the e-zine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Reformation21, and is a frequent contributor to Ligonier ministry’s Tabletalk magazine. He is a weekly columnist for the local paper, the Stornoway Gazette.

Now that her husband’s body is lying cold in the grave, Campbell’s wife has publicly stated that her pastor husband had sexual affairs with seven church women. In a March 5, 2017 Daily Mail article, Neil Sears had this to say about Campbell’s alleged affairs:

When a leading church minister died in unexplained circumstances on the Isle of Lewis, the close-knit community was in shock.

Tributes to Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell, 53, came from around the world, while shops on the island closed for his funeral in January.

But it has emerged the father-of-three hanged himself after his 54-year-old wife Anne accused him of having up to seven affairs with churchgoers at the same time.

And now she has called on their church to kick out the women for adultery – even hiring herself a public relations professional.

The Free Church of Scotland, often referred to as the ‘Wee Frees’, is investigating while the accused women are understood to be instructing lawyers to help declare their innocence.

Dr Campbell was a leading light in the church – which has strict teachings on the sanctity of marriage and ethics of suicide – in Stornoway.

The minister had been a senior official in the Free Church and minister of the Point Free Church in Lewis, which is off the Scottish mainland’s north-west coast.

….

A source said: ‘It is said Anne was suspicious about Iain’s activities, and confronted him at the manse [a Scottish vicarage] allegedly after finding compromising emails in his computer trash files.

….

‘Anne is wanting all this to go in front of a church court and for them to throw them out of the church for adultery.

‘It will cause havoc with their marriages and the entire Free Church.

‘Even though she’s a widow people are saying Iain had a difficult home life and there’s a lot of anger towards her.’

A source close to senior church figures said: ‘There was never a whisper of a rumour about affairs until after he died – on such a close-knit island they would have been very difficult to keep secret.

‘Yet Anne has supplied names of these alleged mistresses to the church. If she is right, he had been leading an extraordinary double life for years.

‘This is a widow talking about her own late husband.

‘It’s now in the hands of senior Free Church ministers on the island – James Maciver, who conducted the funeral, and Callum Macleod.

‘This is a terrible human tragedy it is difficult to resolve.

‘A dead man can’t be disciplined and can’t defend himself.

‘Suicide is wicked, but it is possible he feared he was about to be ruined. I am hearing there is real evidence to back up these extraordinary claims.

‘But the greater fault would be with Dr Campbell who, as a minister, had a duty of care.’

They said that, if the women admitted affairs, they may be allowed to continue receiving communion. But the source added: ‘It would never be forgotten on the island.’

The women accused of affairs or their families refused to comment or made denials.

In an obituary for Dr Campbell, long-serving Free Church minister Professor Donald Macleod had written: ‘Too late, we know that he was in pain, and sometimes pain is more powerful than faith, and more powerful than reason, and altogether too much for the balance of our minds.’

….

A spokesman for the Free Church on Lewis confirmed the allegations had been made, saying the church was ‘taking these very seriously and acting on them’.

Last night a public relations professional hired by learning support assistant Mrs Campbell made no attempt to deny any details of the story, but said: ‘The family has lost a husband and father.’

According to the Scotland Herald, Campbell not only committed adultery, he also fathered a child with a woman who is not his wife. The Herald also alleges that these allegations could reach as far back as the 1990s.

There are no winners in this story. If reports are true, Campbell was living a double life, one that his wife had knowledge of before he died. While it is likely that his suicide was related to the threat of being exposed as an adulterer, we will never know for sure, because Campbell didn’t leave a note. It’s clear that Campbell’s wife Anne is hurt and angry and she is taking it out on the women who had sexual relationships with her husband. Anne Campbell’s allegation are sure to cause great havoc and damage, both in and outside of the Point Free Church. Worse, the Campbell’s adult children must not only mourn the death of their father, but also deal the fallout from their mother’s allegations.

Campbell’s duplicitous life and suicide are a real conundrum for Evangelical Calvinists on both sides of the pond. Ministerial colleagues, parishioners, and friends all praised Campbell for his devotion to Christ during his fifty-three years on earth. Campbell wrote numerous books, along with articles for Calvinistic publications. He was loved and well-respected. Now that it is known that Campbell committed suicide, and according to his wife he was screwing his way through the female church membership, I wonder what lengths Calvinists will go to square what he said with how he actually lived and ended his life.

Calvinists believe that Christians must persevere to the end to be saved. Despite all of their talk about grace, Calvinists preach a conditional salvation that requires those who say they are Christians to live lives of good works until death. Those who don’t persevere until the end — people such as myself — never were true Christians. (Actually, since I am still among the living, it is p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e that I could return to the faith, that is IF I am one of the elect.)  I wonder how Calvinists will square Campbell’s ‘works’ with their theology and the clear teachings of the Bible. Consider:

There is nothing ambiguous about Galatians 5:19-21:

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

or 1 Corinthians 6:9,10:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

It is with stories such as this one that the Calvinistic rubber meets the road. Campbell and his fellow Evangelical preachers — in Puritan-like fashion — view themselves as proclaimers of God’s standard of morality. Asked if homosexuals or same-sex married couples are Christian and will go to heaven when they die, I am sure that, to the man Campbell and his Calvinistic brethren would say no. Will they say the same about Campbell, a self-murderer and adulterer?

We Love Stornoway published (link no longer active) the following obituary for Campbell:

The tragic death of the Reverend Iain D. Campbell has cast a gloom over the island of Lewis such as it has never known in my lifetime; and the gloom is not confined to Lewis.  Iain was a well-known figure in Evangelical circles throughout Britain, and beyond, and tributes have already come in from the USA and elsewhere.

‘He could have adorned pulpits in the largest cities in the world,’ writes Dr. Geoff Thomas of Aberystwyth, ‘or become a professor in an American seminary, but he valued the community which nourished and nurtured him, and he shared their values.’  To that community he dedicated his life, and from it he drew the strength that supported his wider ministry.

….

Iain D. Campbell was a brilliant communicator, in constant demand as a lecturer and conference-speaker.  He had a quite extraordinary fluency of speech, but the fluency was disciplined by clarity, precision and careful arrangement.  The delivery was effortless, though often passionate, the mastery of the subject complete, and while there was no trace of arrogance he spoke with the Bible-derived authority of a true preacher.

But he was also a master of the written word, as his many publications show, and the Free Church recognised this by appointing him Editor of its magazine, the Record, not only once, but twice.  He was still serving in this capacity at the time of his death, and one of the most poignant memories we shall carry is that his very last issue (the February one) contains a photo of him in the prime of a splendid manhood, looking perfectly at peace with himself and the world.  His editorship avoided controversy, but it reflected faithfully both the growing diversity within the Church and its links with the wider Christian world; and his own contributions consistently dealt with the profoundest themes at a level which was well within the compass of an intelligent laity.

Iain D was a rare combination: an academic and a natural preacher, and all who knew him assumed that sooner rather than later he would be appointed to teach at the Free Church College.  Such opportunities did indeed arise and I, for one, devoutly wished to see him as either a colleague or a successor.  My attempts to persuade him failed, to my chagrin, and now to my lasting regret, but the College’s loss was Point’s gain.  He was inducted there on 21st August 2009, and as in his previous charges of Snizort (1988-95) and Back (1995-2009) his preaching quickly rekindled enthusiasm for the Christian message, and people who had lost their spiritual appetite found themselves once again looking forward eagerly to their Sundays and to preaching which fed their minds and stirred their souls.  Thanks to the marvels of modern technology these sermons were heard all over the world and within hours of his death an American pastor was writing, ‘I never met or heard Dr Campbell in the flesh, but I knew him from sermon audios, and the sermons I heard told me all that I needed to know of the man. The reason for his high reputation was obvious.  He was a man of transparent piety, for whom the Bible and the God of the Bible was a Being with whom he was familiar.  The Bible irradiated everything he said, and every application he made of Biblical truth seemed so searching and personal, even though he did not know those whom he addressed.  He knew men’s deepest needs and he addressed them with gentleness and compassion as one who felt for them, and wanted them to have the comfort of Christian peace.  His death is a loss, not only to his immediate family and to the congregations he pastored, but to the wider church across the world.’

….

Iain D would have risen to eminence in any profession (and once toyed with the idea of becoming an SNP candidate for the Scottish Parliament), but he chose the Christian ministry, and in that chosen field he became a giant.  Yet, for all the consummate ease with which he presented himself in public, he was a very private man who seldom shared his feelings, and he exuded such an aura of calm competence that none of us thought to ask, ‘Are you OK?’  Now, too late, we know that he was in pain, and sometimes pain is more powerful than faith, and more powerful than reason, and altogether too much for the balance of our minds.  Bereft of him, we are traumatised, our hearts bleeding, our minds stunned and our prayers turned into protests.

I find myself swirling in a vortex of questions, narratives, disinformation, regrets and fears. St. Paul assures me that ‘God works all things together for good,’ but never has my faith in that great promise been so severely tested.  How He can turn this grievous loss into good, I see not.  But grace shone brightly in the life of Iain D. Campbell, such grace does not let go, and if it leads me home we shall soon be with the Lord together.

The obituary stated that Campbell was “a man of transparent piety.” Evidently, not. The obituary also said Campbell “knew men’s deepest needs.” To that, all I can say is, indeed.

While men such as David Robertson have attempted to cut off public discussion of Campbell’s immorality, this story remains a hot topic in some Calvinistic circles. From my perspective as a former Evangelical Calvinist and a pastor, this story is a reminder that preachers can and do have secret lives. (The same could be said for all of us.) It seems clear, at least to me, that Ian and Anne Campbell’s marriage was troubled and that Ian found love in all the wrong places. As mentioned numerous times in the Black Collar Crime series and other posts, Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, elders, deacons, and Sunday School teachers — supposedly pillars or morality and virtue — can be every bit as “worldly” and “sinful” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

These men of God preach thundering sermons about the sins of Adam’s race, call on all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, yet they themselves cannot live according to what they preach. Campbell leaves a legacy that says, now that his adulterous affairs have been exposed, do as I say, not as I do. In other words, Campbell was a hypocrite. And that would be fine, if it weren’t for that fact that Campbell, along with his fellow Calvinistic pastors, pompously dare to demand that everyone live according to the anti-human moral precepts and teachings of the Bible. When these so-called mouthpieces of God are found out to be less than their bio suggests, it is certainly fair for unbelievers such as myself to point out the hypocrisy. If Evangelicals don’t like having their sins exposed to the light of day, I suggest that they quit exposing what they believe are the moral failures of believers and unbelievers alike and admit that they are every bit as “fallen” as the rest of us.

From an atheistic and humanistic perspective, I feel sad for Anne Campbell and her children. The stain of their father’s and husband’s sin and death will be with them forever. Anne Campbell will always be viewed as a woman who extracted some sort of payback by exposing her husband’s affairs. Silent while her husband was living, Anne has unleashed her scorn and wrath on those who dared to let her husband into their beds. It will be interesting to see if the Point Free Church can survive this scandal.

Ian Campbell’s body lies in a grave, returning to the earth from whence it came. His secrets and his tragedy live on, but he does not. There is no hell, so no eternal punishment of fire and brimstone await. The only hell is that which Campbell left behind.

Note

The Free Church of Scotland, a Fundamentalist sect that is Calvinistic and Evangelical in belief, has one hundred congregations with a total membership of about 12,000.

My editor sent me the following  comment:

Humans are such complex characters. It is probably unfair that we ask more of certain people than we do of others – clergy, office holders, others in high positions – and of ourselves. Of course, we despise certain characteristics in ourselves, even as we continue to engage in the despised behaviors. But we expect those to whom we admire, and those who have sought high positions, to be better than we are. I am reminded of your post just yesterday when your congregant objected when you admitted you knew what it was to lust after a woman.

I concur. It is time for Evangelicals to stable the moral high horse, and rejoin the human race. Then posts such as this one won’t need to be written. The story then is that of a bad marriage, a scorned woman, and a man who couldn’t keep his pants zipped up. It is probable that Campbell’s religious beliefs fueled his suicide attempts. Campbell broke his marriage vows, as countless people do, but such lapses don’t normally lead to suicide. Throw religion, particularly Evangelical Christianity, into the mix and that changes everything. Imagine the depths of Campbell’s guilt, fear, and shame. It is not hard to imagine a follower of Jesus, in a moment of despair, turning to suicide.

Depression and Lightening the Load

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I have battled depression most of my adult life. For many years, I denied that I was depressed, attributing my melancholy to God testing or trying me, Satan tempting me, or God punishing me for this or that sin. My religious beliefs told me that depression was a sign of a backslidden, sinful, or rebellious life. After all, the Bible says in Isaiah 26:3:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee [God]: because he trusteth in thee.

Psalm 43:5 states:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

The Apostle Paul — a First Century Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer — had this to say:

 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And if these verses weren’t enough, there was always the “look at all Jesus suffered just so you could be saved and go to Heaven someday!” Compared to what Jesus went through, my depression was nothing.

I had numerous colleagues in the ministry, but talking to them about my depression was not an option. Talking to them meant admitting I was weak or “sinful.” I never considered seeking out the help of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. How could I? I had preached numerous sermons on the aforementioned verses, and on my bookshelf sat books such as Psycho-Heresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity by Wayne and Deidre Bobgan and PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz. No, I concluded that I was the problem.

I now know that having a Type A personality and being a perfectionist and a workaholic didn’t help matters. No matter how hard I worked, I never measured up. The church growth craze of the 1970s and 1980s only exacerbated my depression. The ministry was reduced to a set of numbers: attendance, souls saved, and offerings. Push, push, push. Like a crack addict seeking his latest fix, I focused on attendance increases and souls brought to Jesus to push my depression into the background. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, declining attendance and a lack of “God working in our midst” forced my depression to the forefront. I spent countless nights alone in the darkness of the church building praying to God, pleading that he would fill me with his Spirit and use me to bring in a large harvest of souls. In the end, no matter how hard I worked or how much I sacrificed— money, family, and health — it was never enough. Success was a temporary elixir that soothed my depression, but its effect soon wore off and I retreated for the thousandth time into the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

depressionIn 2005, two years after I left the ministry, I told Polly I needed professional psychological help. It took me another three years before I was willing to pick up the phone and make an appointment. At first, finding a “Christian” counselor was important to me. Once I found one, I then had second thoughts about people seeing me entering his office or noticing my car in the parking lot. I live in an area where everyone knows me — both as a pastor and now as an atheist. It wasn’t until I deconverted that I began calling counselors, hoping to find a non-religious, secular counselor. Fortunately, I found just the right person to help peel away the layers of my life, allowing me to finally embrace my depression and find ways of handling what Dexter the serial killer called his “dark passenger.”

Readers who have been with me since the days of blogs named Bruce Droppings, NW Ohio Skeptic, The Way Forward, and Fallen From Grace have helplessly watched me psychologically crash and burn, only to rise again out of the ashes like a Phoenix. Surprisingly, the current iteration of my blog has been active for 18 months, besting the previous longevity record by 6 months. Let’s Party!!

In recent weeks, numerous readers have written to express their concern about my health and declining level of literary output. I deeply appreciate the fact that people care and that they are discerning enough — having studied the Bruce Gerencser species — to know when I am teetering on the brink of the abyss.

I mentioned earlier today on Facebook that I feel like I have tied a knot on the rope of my life and I am desperately trying to hold on. There are days when I feel my grip slipping, leaving me to wonder if I can make it through another day. I do what I can. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.

Health problems continue to drive my depression and virtually every other aspect of my life. Tuesday I attended my granddaughter’s softball game; Wednesday, my grandson’s baseball game. I shot hundreds of photographs, hoping to leave for them a reminder of a Grandfather who loved them very much. They don’t understand it as such right now, thinking that I am an annoying old man who is always taking their picture, but someday, perhaps when they have children of their own, they will be glad that I — for a few hours on a summer day long ago — endured great pain to see them play. As it stands today, I am bedfast, hoping to recuperate enough from the previous two days to attend a dirt track race with several of my sons on Saturday.

As depressives will tell you, small problems often pile up for them and turn into full-blown depressive episodes. I mean, suicide level, I can’t deal with this any longer. My counselor — who is also my friend — is keenly aware of how quickly things can pile up for me. Starting with chronic illness, unrelenting pain, loss of mobility, and decreased cognitive function, my plate is quite full before I even get out of bed — that is, if I can get out of bed.

Recent events have filled my plate as I would on Thanksgiving Day. What’s one more helping of ham, turkey, and candied sweet potatoes, right? While I find it too painful to write about many of the things that have been added to my plate, I have talked to my counselor about how overwhelmed I am with life. His advice was quite direct. He told me that I like to help people and that my family sees me as some sort of “fixer,” but now declining health is forcing me to stop taking on everyone’s problems and burdens. It’s time for me to focus on what is best for me, and not what’s best for others. I am not sure how well I can heed his advice, but I am trying.

Last year I wrote about my father-in law who — contrary to our advice — had hip surgery. Six months later he is still in the nursing home and it likely that he will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. I have had moments when I have wanted to scream, God dammit, I warned you that this could happen, but I know nothing good would come from such an outburst. My father-in-law will never return home to the house where he lived for 40 years. It was sold today, and now the hunt is on for a suitable apartment. But I won’t be joining in the hunt.

Having been blamed for countless things thing have befallen my in-laws, I can no longer be their go-to person when problems arise. One of my sons got a taste of their blaming when he helped them get a new car. They don’t like their new car, so whose fault it that? Not theirs. My son is to blame. This storyline has been played out numerous times over the 40 years Polly and I have known each other. I took away their daughter and now she no longer believes in God or goes to church. Who’s to blame? I am. They blame me for ruining their grandchildren, infecting them with my godlessness. In their minds, if Polly had just married the right preacher boy none of this would have happened. Year after year, I have lived with their slights and insults — mainly coming from my mother-in-law —  and being told that I wasn’t good enough for their daughter or that I was “different.” Several weeks ago my mother-in-law — unsolicited — took it upon herself to give a running report to my two youngest children about my past sins. Why? I have no idea.

When hearing of my latest attempt to assist them — selling their house and helping them find an apartment — my counselor advised me to stop doing so. You have too much on your plate, he told me, to have to also deal with their problems. Besides, they are your wife’s parents, not yours. If they are going to blame someone, let them blame her! I took his advice, decoupling myself from their train wreck. I still want what is best for them, but I can no longer be the target of their blame when things don’t go as planned.

I have written all this to say that I must continue to find ways to “lighten my load.” My health will never be as good as it is today, and someday I will likely be unable to leave my home. In the interest of improving the quality of what life I have left, I must identify the unnecessary things that are weighing me down and cast them aside. This is not easy for me to do. Giving in has never been my strong suit. I hate to let go of things (and people) who have been very much a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am in the process of identifying what matters to me and how best to spend my time doing these things. As things stand today, writing and photography are number one and two on the list. I have sold my library and woodworking tools, knowing that I will never enjoy these things again. I still collect Library of America books, but I do so because I want to leave them for my grandchildren — several of whom are ravenous readers. I am left with my writing and my cameras. How long I can continue to productively write and shoot photographs is unknown. For now, I am holding on to the knot at the end of the rope.

It goes without saying that above everything I could ever do or own, I deeply love my wife, children, and grandchildren (and yes, my daughters-in-law and son-in-law too). As illness and pain whittle down my life, I am learning that what matters most is love and family. The praise of congregants and the approbation of fellow clergy are but distant memories. I would trade all of them for one day without pain. We silly humans so often focus on things that don’t matter. Age brings perspective, and what really matters — at least to me — fits on a small Post-it note. And even now, I continue to mark through things on my list. I suspect that when death claims me for its own, my list will contain a handful of names and the words “they loved me until the end.”

Bruce Gerencser