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Why Do Fundamentalist Christian Men and Women Dress Differently From Each Other?

how should a woman dress

This is a repost from 2015, edited and corrected. Susan-Ann White makes a “spectacular” appearance in the comment section. Please take the time to read the comments. Quite informative and entertaining. Ms. White is still alive and unwell. You can read her rage writing here.

Within Evangelicalism, especially on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum, women are considered subservient, second class, whoring Jezebels out to rob men and teenage boys of their virtue. Listen to enough sermons at the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB) church and you will likely conclude that seductive women are lurking in the shadows ready to expose a bit of leg and cleavage, bringing weak, helpless men to their knees and hopefully to their beds. After all, the Bible does have a story that warns of this very behavior:

…For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7)

Evangelicals have concluded that the only way to save teenage boys and men from whoring Christian women is to demand that women cover up their flesh and wear clothing that mutes their feminine shape. They are implored to dress in a way that will not draw any attention from the male species. Often, women are told not to wear excessive makeup or jewelry. Again, it’s harlots who paint themselves up and wear bawdy, gaudy jewelry, so Christian women should avoid wearing anything that gives the appearance of being an easy sexual mark. Again, justification for this demand can be found in the Bible:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2)

While most Evangelical churches no longer make an issue of how women wear their hair, some on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum do, requiring women to wear their hair long and/or put it up in a beehive or bun. As always, the BIBLE says:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (1 Corinthians 11)

Some Evangelical sects believe, based on the above text, that a woman wearing her hair long shows that she is in submission to her father if she is unmarried and to her husband if she is.  Some sects even go so far as to require women to wear a head covering, a doily-like piece of fabric which says to all who dare gaze on her that she is in submission to God, the church, her father, and her husband.

All of these things are used to keep women in their place. What is that place, you ask? Married, submissive, keeper of the home, bearer of children, and on-demand sex-machine. Post-high school education is often discouraged, and if a woman is determined to get a college education, she is often shipped off to an Evangelical Christian college to train for her MRS degree (as my wife Polly was). The end game is always marriage and bearing children.

On any given day I can go to Meijer or Walmart and I will see Evangelical families shopping. How do I know they are Evangelical Christians? One look at the mothers or the daughters is all I need. Their head-to-toe Evangelical burka or Little-House-on-the-Prairie garb make them stand out from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines around them. I can even determine which particular sect they are a part based on the way the women wear certain items of clothing or how they wear their hair. For example, Apostolic or holiness women, forbidden to cut their hair, often put their hair up in buns or beehives.

But, here’s the thing, if the unmarried boys or the fathers are in the store without the fairer sex by their side, they blend in quite well. Some Mennonite/Amish sects wear a certain style of pants, belts, or suspenders, but outside of that, the men look like any other man in the store. Why is it that the men are free to dress as men typically do, but women are forced to dress in a manner that says to the world that they are part of a religion that treats them like seductresses and appendages, the servants of men?

I’m sure pious Evangelicals will suggest that women dress and behave this way because they choose to do so. Anyone who thinks like this is ignorant of the conditioning and indoctrination that goes on in many Evangelical sects and churches. From the cradle to the grave, women are told what their place is in God’s divine order. They are constantly reminded of the importance of covering up their bodies so they don’t cause men to lust. Many of the people who read this blog were raised in this kind of religious environment, and they will tell you that the puritanical moralizing becomes very much a part of a woman’s life. It’s all they’ve ever known, so how can it ever be said that they freely choose to live this way?

Here’s all the proof you need. Look at women who leave/flee Evangelical sects such as those mentioned above. What are some of the first things they do after they leave? Get a new hairstyle, paint their nails, stop wearing dresses/culottes, start wearing makeup and jewelry, start wearing shoes with heels, show a little leg or cleavage. Perhaps in the quiet confines of the bathroom or the bedroom they look at themselves in the mirror wearing their new style of clothes and they smile and say “nice!” And once the proverbial horse is out of the barn, there’s no hope of corralling it. I know of no woman who ever returned to these types of restrictions once they were free of them.

Were you once part of an Evangelical church/sect that restricted how women dressed, wore their hair, etc? How did things change for you after you left? Please share your story in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Evangelical Beliefs and Practices are Psychologically Harmful — Part Two

submission

Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Cult 101: Jack Hyles Teaches Parents How to Indoctrinate Their Babies

jack hyles praying
Jack Hyles Praying

If you are unfamiliar with the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from How to Rear Infants:

Children should be taught that God has given to them a preacher. That preacher is God’s man to lead them, to teach them, to preach to them, and to guide and instruct them concerning their lives. It is important for a family to have a man of God just like it is important to have a family doctor, a family dentist, etc. For that matter, it is even more important! The parents should never criticize God’s man but should train their children to love and respect him.

This can be done in many ways. One of the most important ways is to lead the child to pray for the preacher many times a day. Every time he bows his head to say grace or to say his “Now I lay me” prayers, he should pray for his preacher. He should get an early impression that one of the most important persons in the world is God’s man, his pastor.

The nursery workers at First Baptist Church have little bibs made for the babies. On each bib is printed, “I love my Preacher.” This is very important.

The child should feel that he has a friend in the pulpit and that that friend loves him and is very wise. The time will probably come when the parents will need the pastor in the rearing of the child. It often is true that a time comes when the only hope of saving the child is the pastor. If the parents have been critical of him or have a negative attitude toward him, the children will develop such an attitude and will not come to the pastor when they need him in a period of crisis…

…When I was an infant my mother started a little ritual. Every night she would put me on her knee, hold her Bible in front of me and say, “Son, the Bible is the Word of God.” Then she would ask me to repeat after her those words. Three times she would do this. Then she would tell me that Jesus is the Son of God. I would have to repeat it after her. Again she would say it and again I would repeat it. A third time she would say it and a third time I would repeat it. She then told me that I should always believe those two great truths. Now I do not recall when she started it; I do know she started this practice long before I could comprehend what was going on, but as far back as I can remember I can see my mother teaching me that Jesus is God’s Son and that the Bible is God’s Word.

She would then mention some kind of sin and warn me concerning its evil. One night she would take a whiskey ad. She would hold it up before me and say, “Whiskey – bad, bad, bad, bad! Whiskey – bad, bad!” Then I was required to say, “Whiskey – bad, bad!” She would then get a frown on her face, tear up the ad, throw it on the floor and stomp on it. She would shout, “WHISKEY – NO, NO! WHISKEY – BAD, BAD!”

Mother was trying to associate bad words with whiskey. I do not know when she started this. I do know it was before I realized it, and the association between the words “whiskey” and “no” made a lasting impression on my mind and life…

This excerpt illustrates the fact that indoctrination in cultic authoritarian sects and churches begins as soon as children are born.

Jack Hyles was a pathological liar, known to exaggerate his pastoral feats. The stories told in this excerpt are likely exaggerations.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Hustling for Jesus: Christian Home-Based Businesses

christian business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the entire article here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

IFB Pastor Jack Hyles Tells Unsubmissive Woman to Kill Herself

Jack Hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

This is every man’s right. Each has only one life to live. God looks down and sees that every man is incomplete. God gives a man a woman, and that woman is supposed to complete that man. If you fail to do it, it won’t be done. If he dies without ever having it, it’s because you didn’t give it to him. You have taken from him what is every man’s right. Every man’s right is to have a completer. That’s why God made you!

A lady came to my office not long ago and I gave her this truth. She said, “I’m not going to do all that stuff.”

I said, “I’ll give you an alternative suggestion.”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Go over here to the bridge over the Chicago River and jump off.”

“What?”

“Go jump in the river.”

“Why?”

I said, “You’d go to Heaven, and your husband wouldn’t have to live in hell!” Listen to me, especially you young ladies, you unmarried ladies, you ladies who haven’t been married long. I’m trying to help you. I’m not trying to take any freedoms away from you. I’m trying to give you a liberty that you’ll never enjoy unless you become what God has made you to be.

I said to that lady in my office for counsel, “Look, you are standing in the way. Your husband is a good man. He’s not going to have anybody else. You’re standing in the way of your husband ever having a completer. You’d be a lot better off, young lady, in the early days of your marriage, if you would go over and jump off the bridge so your husband can have in his lifetime someone to complete the circle.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Women, the Doormat of the Church

women doormat

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Many years ago, I was watching the Old Time Gospel Hour on TV. At the time, the Old Time Gospel Hour was the flagship program of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell.

Falwell was preaching about women and the Equal Rights Amendment.

I have never forgotten what he said:

We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women. We believe in putting women on a pedestal.

I remember thinking, at the time, that makes a lot of sense. The Equal Rights Amendment was viewed as an attempt to blur the lines between the sexes; to make our culture unisex, which was considered by Evangelicals to be a grievous, damning sin.

The Evangelical pastors of my youth and college years taught me:

  • Women are to submit to men.
  • Women are best suited to be mothers and keepers of the home.
  • Women are emotional and men are logical.
  • Women should be discouraged from going to college because graduating from college makes it less likely that a woman will be a good mother and keeper of the home.
  • If a woman is insistent on going to college and refuses to marry the nice boy who sits behind her in church, then she should go to a Christian college. Her career choices? Pastor’s wife, single missionary, or Christian school teacher.
  • Women are not suited for intellectual endeavors.
  • Women should not be involved in making major decisions. The decision-maker in the home is the husband. The decision-makers in the church are men, and political office is reserved for men.
  • Women are to conjugally perform whenever their husbands demand it. Being tired from feeding the children, changing diapers, cleaning the house, homeschooling the children, and making sure the king of the home’s every need and whim is met, is no excuse for not joyfully having sex for three minutes before her God-fearing husband falls off to sleep. If she doesn’t put out, she is risking her husband having an adulterous affair and it will be HER fault.

The above social strictures showed up in countless sermons. Is it any wonder so many Evangelical marriages are dysfunctional; that women schooled in such an environment have difficultly functioning in the real world?

Even in my marriage, I was a typical “I am the boss, chief decision-maker, you submit to me” husband. I made ALL the decisions. For twenty years this is how we “did” marriage. Gradually, as I became more liberal in my understanding of life, I realized how hurtful this was to women in general and to my dear wife in particular.

For many years, Polly found it hard to make decisions. She told me one time that she was “afraid to make decisions because she might make a wrong decision and then you’ll be mad at me.” I said “Yep. That’s the price of admission. Making decisions means you might piss someone off.” As a supervisor where she works, she is required to make decisions that inevitably leave one or more parties unhappy. When she comes home discouraged by the response of this or that person, I remind her of what Colin Powell said about leadership:

Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.

Bit by bit, I see Polly throwing off the bondage of yesteryear, but I do wonder if she’ll ever be totally free from teachings of the past — I know I’m not.  Submit. Obey. Do what your husband says. He is the head of the home. It is hard to shake such indoctrination.

Is marriage really a partnership when only one partner decides everything? Certainly, we each have strengths and weaknesses. I am not about to enter my wife’s kitchen. First, we will all starve. Second, she is a far better cook than I will ever be in ten lifetimes. On the other hand, I pay the bills, write the checks, and manage the money.  Thanks to my business background, I am good at handling money, bills, and debt, and I am able to analyze numbers on the fly. I do what I am good at and so does Polly. Our marriage is now a partnership of equals, each doing those things that best serve the partnership. (On a funnier note, she’d rather mow the grass and I’d rather clean the house.)

There is ONE area where I refuse to relinquish control: the remote control! It’s mine, dammit. Don’t touch it. If I died today, Polly would never watch TV again because she has no clue and little interest in how the remote works. She can run a sewing machine and do all sorts of intricate stitches, but ask her to change a TV program or set up a recording and suddenly she’s the young woman wooing her man, hoping he’ll do what she wants him to.

I digress…

How did Jerry Falwell’s superior rights for women work out practically in the church?

You be the judge. Does what follows seem superior to you?

  • Women sang in the choir and did special music numbers
  • Women played the piano and organ
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women worked in the nursery
  • Women taught children in Sunday school and Junior church
  • Women cooked food for potlucks and church meals
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women took meals to shut-ins
  • Women did any menial work at the church that needed done

This list looks very similar to what was expected of women at home.

Women were not permitted to be pastors, deacons, elders, or teach older children. They were not allowed to teach any group of people that had adult men in it. Doing so would violate the Biblical command for a woman to never usurp the place/authority of a man. After all, God/Jesus is a man, as were the apostles.  End of discussion.

Granted, there is great improvement in some sectors of the Christian church when it comes to how women are treated.  Women can now be pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, etc. Women teach theology at some Christian colleges. Thanks to feminism, women have a lot more opportunities than they did years ago. But the church still has a long way to go. Vast swaths of the Evangelical church still actively practice the repression of women. They sincerely believe they are following the teachings of the Bible when they do so. If God said it . . . end of discussion. As a result, thousands of churches continue to be man-only institutions.

One church I co-pastored wouldn’t even allow women to speak in a public congregational business meeting. If they had a question, they were required to whisper the question to a man and he would ask the question. I visited a Mennonite church years ago where the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Keeping to the mantra that women should never lead, when the congregation sang, the women always started singing one note after the men. That said, the singing was spectacular.

In the early 1970s, my mother gave me an important lesson in equal rights for all. She worked as a nurse’s aide for Winebrenner Nursing Home (now Birchaven Village), a Church of God-owned facility in Findlay Ohio. Female aides were paid less than male aides because the male aides did more of the “heavy” work. However, as my mom found out, both sexes did the “heavy” work.

So my Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner in federal court. At the time, to a fifteen-year-old Evangelical teenager, her behavior seemed silly and embarrassing. There were only a few coins difference in the wages, why bother? I thought at the time. I was so embarrassed when the lawsuit story hit the front page of the newspaper, complete with my mom holding a picket sign. But she was right. Winebrenner was discriminatory in their treatment of women. My mother filed a federal lawsuit under the Title 7 provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court agreed, and my mother won her lawsuit. While I was embarrassed while this was being aired out in public, I now see how brave my mother was; to stand up for what was right; to dare demand that women be treated equally.We still have a long way to go on the issue of equality. Women are still treated as inferior to men. The glass ceiling exists, regardless of whether troglodytes like Phyllis Schlafly can see it. Yes, things are BETTER, but we should not rest until we are a society that is blind to gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. Utopian? Perhaps. Justice and fairness require that we press forward even when it seems failure is certain. That’s one lesson my mom taught me, one that I will never forget.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian?

mans world

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

1 Timothy 5:14 says:

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

Titus 2:2-4 says:

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

keep women where they belong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chase sanborn coffee

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

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

del monte ad

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Woman Aren’t Equal to Men

keeping women in line

You may visit denominational churches and find women preaching, publicly teaching, or leading committees which frequently include men. This certainly seems fair given our modern, common social norms regarding gender equality. However, is this culture consistent with God’s Holy Word? We know what denominational churches [Shannon belongs to the Church of Christ] have to say about women preachers and leaders, but what does God say about it?

….

Some Bible believers may shrug off Paul’s command, contending this only represented his opinion or the norms of the 1st-century culture. However, please notice that this commandment was not rooted in Paul’s culture, but rather, the inspired reason sprang from the order established by two universal facts: The creation and the fall of man. The God-defined roles of men and women are therefore transcendent and apply to all of Adam and Eve’s descendants as far as the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin have spread.

….

Older women are to teach younger women to love and obey their husbands (Titus 2:3-5). This does not imply that this teaching was done in the assembly. It does not imply women can teach minor children the Word while the church is assembled. This does not imply that women can preach, teach, wait on the Lord’s table, lead prayer, or lead singing when men are not present. This does not imply that older women are to teach younger women the gospel or the doctrine of Christ. It does not imply younger women can teach what older women were commanded to teach. It does not imply women can teach the gospel by writing articles on the internet, in church bulletins, or by authoring sermon books, etc

….

In a generation and society where women are equal to men on so many levels, it is hard for many women to submit to man when it comes to handling God’s Word. Even so, God’s Word does not change from one generation to another. What was true for 1st-century Christian women is true for all other generations going forward. If anyone attempts to change God’s Word they shall be accursed!

— Al Shannon, Biblical Proof, Gender Based Responsibilities in the Church, August 19, 2018

Bruce Gerencser