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Tag: Worldliness

Leaving the Evangelical Bubble and Entering the “World”

Man hiding in box

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (KJV, 1 John 2:15-17)

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (The MESSAGE, 1 John 2:15-17)

As an Evangelical for fifty years, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I believed saved people — those bought and redeemed by the blood of the virgin-born, sinless, crucified, and resurrected Son of God, Jesus — should (must) follow the teachings, commands, and laws of the Protestant Christian Bible. I was an all-in kind of believer. And I expected my wife, children, and the members of the churches I pastored to be all-in too.

The Bible condemns “lukewarm,” cultural Christianity. For example, Revelation 3:16-17 says:

I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless. (The MESSAGE)

According to 1 John, God commanded me to not love the “world,” neither the things that are in the “world.” In Evangelicalism, particularly the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, the “world” was anything contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Well, that’s not true. The “world” was anything contrary to your pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. As an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years, I defined for congregants what it meant to “not love the world” through my preaching, teaching, and lifestyle. While my preaching moderated on this subject over the years, I always believed that Christians were to stand with God, the Bible, and their church against Satan and the world.

I stood against the “world” in my preaching and way of life, as did Polly and our six children. We certainly were, at times, hypocrites, but we genuinely tried to live lives separate from the evil influences of the “world.” This way of life governed where we went, what we wore, who we associated with, what we read, and virtually every other aspect of our lives. That’s why we were in our late 40s before we drank alcohol for the first time. Polly was 45-years-old before she wore her first pair of pants. Outside of our two oldest children attending public school for two years, all of our children either attended a private Evangelical school or were homeschooled. Our three youngest children were homeschooled from kindergarten through grade 12. We didn’t own a TV for the first 20 years of our marriage, and even after we let Hellivision into our home, I fought numerous “spiritual” battles over whether we should have one. (Please see The Preacher and His TV.) The TV and Satan won. 🙂

Being teetotalers, we tried to avoid businesses that sold alcohol. This proved to be an exercise in futility. If you only want expensive goods and lousy food, shop and eat at places that don’t sell alcohol. We finally gave up, believing that God would protect us from infection by the “world” when we occasionally shopped or ate at worldly establishments.

Our lives were surrounded by God, Christians, the Bible, and the church. We lived in a bubble that insulated us from the “world.” I have had lifelong atheists (just today) tell me that Evangelical Christians are stupid, ignorant, and numerous other pejorative words (missing the fact that they were insulting me). I have had atheists tell me that there must have been something wrong with me for it to take 50 years for me to leave Christianity. What these atheists fail to understand is that many people are born into Evangelical families. They grow up in Evangelical homes, attend Evangelical churches every time the doors are open, attend Evangelical colleges, marry Evangelical spouses, and start the indoctrination and conditioning all over again with their children.

When you are in the Evangelical bubble, everything within makes perfect sense. It is only when you step outside of the bubble that you see how insane many of the things within the bubble actually are. (Please see What I Found When I Left the Box and The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It.) Is it any wonder that many ex-Evangelicals require years of therapy to come to terms with and overcome the indoctrination and conditioning of their past? Worse yet, people who leave the “one true faith” often lose many, if not all, of their friends and experience fractured relationships with their parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family. For lifelong Evangelicals, deconverting is an excruciating, painful process.

One of the things I had to learn on my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism (please see From Evangelicalism to Atheism Series) was that the “world” was not the problem I thought it was. I had been told a lie, and I repeated that lie over and over to the people I pastored. My life, and that of my family, was wrapped up in a lie — that the “world” was inherently wicked/evil/sinful and must be avoided at all costs.

Polly and I left Christianity in November 2008. We gathered our children together and told them of our decision, that they were free to choose their own paths. Then, in early 2009, I sent out a letter to hundreds of people titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.

I wrote (edited for grammar, spelling, and readability on July 29, 2021):

Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners,

I have come to a place in life where I can no longer put off writing this letter. I have dreaded this day because I know what is likely to follow after certain people receive it. I have decided I can’t control how others react to this letter, so it is far more important to clear the air and make sure everyone knows the facts about Bruce Gerencser.

I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out history of my life. I am sure each of you has an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I have made. I also have an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I made. I am my own worst critic.

Religion, in particular Baptist, Evangelical, and Fundamentalist religion, has been the essence of my life from my youth up. My being is so intertwined with religion that the two are quite inseparable. My life has been shaped and molded by religion, and religion touches virtually every fiber of my being.

I spent most of my adult life pastoring churches, preaching, and being involved in religious work to some degree or another. I pastored thousands of people over the years, preached thousands of sermons, and participated in and led thousands of worship services.

To say that the church was my life would be an understatement. But, as I have come to see, the church was actually my mistress, and my adulterous affair with her was at the expense of my wife, children, and my own self-worth. (Please see It’s Time to Tell the Truth: I Had an Affair.)

Today, I am publicly announcing that the affair is over. My wife and children have known this for a long time, but now everyone will know.

The church robbed me of so much of my life, and I have no intention of allowing her to have one more moment of my time. Life is too short. I am dying. We all are. I don’t want to waste what is left of my life chasing after things I now think are vain and empty.

I have always been known as a reader, a student of the Bible. I have read thousands of books in my lifetime. The knowledge gained from my reading and studies has led me to some conclusions about religion, particularly the Fundamentalist, Evangelical religion that played such a prominent part in my life.

I can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the doctrines of Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christianity. Particularly, I do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, nor do I accept as true the common Evangelical belief of the inspiration of Scripture.

Coming to this conclusion has forced me to reevaluate many of the doctrines I have held as true over these many years. I have concluded that I have been misinformed, poorly taught, and sometimes lied to. As a result, I can no longer accept as true many of the doctrines I once believed.

I point the finger of blame at no one. I sincerely believed and taught the things that I did, and many of the men who taught me were honorable teachers. Likewise, I don’t blame those who have influenced me over the years, nor do I blame the authors of the many books I have read. Simply, it is what it is.

I have no time to invest in the blame game. I am where I am today for many reasons, and I must embrace where I am and move forward.

In moving forward, I have stopped attending church. I have not attended a church service since November of 2008. I have no interest or desire to attend any church regularly. This does not mean I will never attend a church service again, but it does mean, for NOW, I have no intention of attending church.

I pastored for the last time in 2003. Almost six years have passed by. I have no intentions of ever pastoring again. When people ask me about this, I tell them I am retired. With the health problems that I have, it is quite easy to make an excuse for not pastoring, but the fact is I don’t want to pastor.

People continue to ask me, “what do you believe?” Rather than inquiring about how my life is, the quality of that life, etc., they reduce my life to what I believe. Life becomes nothing more than a set of religious constructs. A good life becomes believing the right things.

I can tell you this . . . I believe God is . . . and that is the sum of my confession of faith.

A precursor to my religious views changing was a seismic shift in my political views. My political views were so entangled with my Fundamentalist beliefs that when my political views began to shift, my beliefs began to unravel.

I can better describe my political and social views than I can my religious ones. I am a committed progressive, liberal Democrat, with the emphasis being on the progressive and liberal. My evolving views on women, abortion, homosexuality, war, socialism, social justice, and the environment have led me to the progressive, liberal viewpoint.

I know some of you are sure to ask, what does your wife think of all of this? Quite surprisingly, she is in agreement with me on many of these things. Not all of them, but close enough that I can still see her standing here. Polly is no theologian. She is not trained in theology as I am. (She loves to read fiction.) Nevertheless, I was able to get her to read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus and several others. She found the books to be quite an eye-opener.

Polly is free to be whomever and whatever she wishes. If she wants to start attending the local Fundamentalist Baptist church, she is free to do so and even has my blessing. But, for now, she doesn’t. She may never believe as I do, but in my new way of thinking, that is okay. I really don’t care what others think. Are you happy? Are you at peace? Are you living a good, productive life? Do you enjoy life? Answering in the affirmative to these questions is good enough for me.

I have six children, three of whom are out on their own. For many years, I was the spiritual patriarch of the family. Everyone looked to me for answers. I feel somewhat burdened over my children. I feel as if I have left them out on their own with no protection. But, I know they have good minds and can think and reason for themselves. Whatever they decide about God, religion, politics, or American League baseball is fine with me.

All I ask of my wife and children is that they allow me the freedom to be myself, that they allow me to journey on in peace and love. Of course, I still love a rousing discussion about religion, the Bible, politics, etc. I want my family to know that they can talk to me about these things, and anything else for that matter, any time they wish.

Opinions are welcome. Debate is good. All done? Let’s go to the tavern and have a round on me. Life is about the journey, not the destination, and I want my wife and children to be a part of my journey, and I want to be a part of theirs.

One of the reasons for writing this letter is to put an end to the rumors and gossip about me. Did you know Bruce is/or is not_____________? Did you know Bruce believes____________? Did you know Bruce is a universalist, agnostic, atheist, liberal ___________?

For you who have been friends or former parishioners, I apologize to you if my changing beliefs have unsettled you or has caused you to question your own faith. That was never my intent.

The question is this: what now?

Family and friends are not sure what to do with me.

I am still Bruce. I am still married. I am still your father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and son-in-law. I would expect you to love me as I am and treat me with respect.

Here is what I don’t want from you:

Attempts to show me the error of my way. Fact is, I have studied the Bible and read far more books than many of you. So what do you really think you are going to show me that will be so powerful and unknown that it will cause me to return to the religion and politics of my past?

Constant reminders that you are praying for me. Please don’t think of me as unkind, but I don’t care that you are praying for me. I find no comfort, solace, or strength from your prayers. So be my friend if you can, pray if you must, but leave your prayers in the closet. As long as God gets your prayer message, that will be sufficient.

Please don’t send me books, tracts, or magazines. You are wasting your time and money.

Invitations to attend your church. The answer is NO. Please don’t ask. I used to attend church for the sake of family, but no longer. It is hypocritical for me to perform a religious act of worship just for the sake of family. I know how to find a church if I am so inclined: after all, I have visited more than 125 churches since 2002. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Offers of a church to pastor. It is not the lack of a church to pastor that has led me to where I am. If I would lie about what I believe, I could be pastoring again in a matter of weeks. I am not interested in ever pastoring a church again.

Threats about judgment and Hell. I don’t believe in either, so your threats have no impact on me.

Phone calls. If you are my friend, you know I don’t like talking on the phone. I have no interest in having a phone discussion about my religious or political views.

Here is what I do want from you: I want you to unconditionally love me where I am and how I am.

That’s it.

Now I realize some (many) of you won’t be able to do that. My friendship or familial relationship with you is cemented with the glue of Evangelical orthodoxy. Remove the Bible, God, and fidelity to a certain set of beliefs, and there is no basis for a continued relationship.

I understand that. I want you to know I have appreciated and enjoyed our friendship over the years. I understand that you cannot be my friend anymore. I even understand you may have to denounce me publicly and warn others to stay away from me for fear of me contaminating them with my heresy. Do what you must. We had some wonderful times together, and I will always remember those good times.

You are free from me if that is your wish.

I shall continue to journey on. I can’t stop. I must not stop.

Thank you for reading my letter.

Bruce

— end of letter —

Thoughtful readers will see and feel my pain and anguish in this letter. The David Tees of the world will see more reasons to criticize me and condemn me to the flames of Hell. To the former I say, thank you for listening and walking along with me on my journey. To the latter? Read my mind 🙂

As I reentered the world, I lost all of my friends, save two. All of my former colleagues in the ministry wrote me off. My best friend wrote me several scathing emails, never inquiring about how I was doing or how my family was doing. (In retrospect, I grossly underestimated how our deconversion would affect our children.) I received letters and emails from angry or confused former parishioners. (Please see the Letters section on the WHY? page.) I even had a former church member and Christian Union pastor drive from southeast Ohio to my home in the hope of convincing me of the error of my way. (Please see Dear Friend.) Our 25-year friendship ended that day.

Even though I worked secular jobs while pastoring, I was ill-prepared to totally immerse myself into the wild, wooly world. The world can be a dangerous place, especially for naive sheep turned goats. I had to learn how to navigate an environment that was foreign to me. I had to determine what it was I really believed about, well, everything. After fifty years of governing my life by the teachings of the Bible, I was left with the task of developing a moral and ethical framework for my life — a work that continues to this day.

In many ways, life was easier in my Christian days. The Bible was God’s divine blueprint and rulebook for my life and that of my family. God said it, and that settled it! No need to think, reason, or wrestle, — just believe and obey. Life is so different now. There’s no blueprint or rulebook to follow. I am on my own, and armed with skepticism, reason, and common sense I chart a new course for my life. I have made a lot of mistakes post-Jesus. However, each day is another opportunity for me to be a better “worldly” humanist.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

2006: It’s Time to Leave the Christian Ghetto and Become “Worldly” for Jesus

christian ghetto

What follows is a post I wrote fourteen years ago. I thought readers might appreciate reading something I wrote back before I became an atheist; back when I was slowly exiting Christianity stage left. 

Enjoy!

My comments concerning HisHolySpace have elicited some interesting comments (both public and private), In almost every case, the writer disagreed with me. In one case, I think the writer, intentionally or not I do not know, questioned my relationship with God:

I do not know much about you, but it is like you are searching for the truth. search sincerely and diligently, you will find Him.

I didn’t know God was lost, and certainly didn’t know that I was the one who lost him. Yes, I am a seeker, as all Christians are to be. I just happen to look in other places than many Evangelicals do. I refuse to divide my world into secular and Christian. I reject all such dualistic views of the world. There is one God, and Jehovah is His Name. That God created one world, and He called it Good. Adam and Eve corrupted that Good creation, and every human been since has walked in their footsteps.

We live a sin-corrupted, sin-darkened world. It has been this way since the beginning. Because of sin, we die. The newspaper lists the casualties of sin every day. All of us are doomed to become a casualty someday. All of us will face the ugly specter of death someday, probably sooner than later.

Since death is an ever-present reality, what are we to do with our lives? As Christians, we are called on to press the claims of the Kingdom of Christ in every facet of human life. No area of life is exempt. We will search the Scriptures in vain for any command to build a separate Christian society that operates as a sub-culture of the prevailing culture. The Scriptures must be read in their Jewish historical context. If we read them with American Evangelical eyes, the result will be a corrupt world view.

As Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, Christian Ghetto builders contend that Christians are to build a Christian world that exists alongside the secular world. They venture out into that secular world to work, shop, and eat, but the rest of the time they retire to the safe haven of their Christian ghetto. If only they could work for a Christian employer, buy their gas at a Christian owned gas station, eat at Christian owned restaurants, and shop at Christian owned grocery stores, then their world would be perfect.

Some object when I call this escapism, but that is exactly what it is. Christians like this have hunkered down in their spiritual bomb shelters, waiting for the Rapture. While they are waiting for Jesus to come again, they busy themselves playing Christian games, watching Christian TV, playing Christian music, and contacting the Christian underground at places like HisHolySpace.

A person’s eschatology does matter. For Rapturists, this all makes sense. The return of Jesus is imminent. I remember when the book “88 Reasons Jesus will Return in 1988″ came out. The church I was pastoring at the time was quite stirred up about it. People were getting copies of the book and handing it out. I took the opposite stance. I preached a message titled “Why Jesus WON’T come back in 1988″ As the calendar clearly proves, I was right.

Rapturism is pretty much a new-fangled theological position. Historically, the church has NOT believed in Rapturism. Instead, the church has primarily held to amillennial or postmillennial eschatological views. Both views reject escapism, and instead require Christians to actively engage the culture they live in. No imminent check-out for Christians. We are here for the duration. Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do.

Every Christian has the mandate to engage and change the culture they live in. We are to be counter-cultural, not absent-cultural. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called on to wade into the muck and the filth of the world and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.

Christian Ghetto builders do just the opposite. They build fences to keep the world out. They put Christian pit bulls in the yard to keep those dirty, filthy worldlings out. They elect Pseudo-Christian politicians to do their bidding. They clamor for laws against abortion, homosexuals, and same-sex marriage. God forbid they ever have to come in contact with someone who has had an abortion or who is a homosexual. The front doors of their houses are papered with magazines from Focus on the Family. They hope all peddlers of the secular world will be warded off by the magazines. If that doesn’t work, they will sic the Christian Ghetto Godhead of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, on them.

All the while, our culture is dying, sinners are going to hell, and most Christians don’t give a damn. As long as they can maintain their membership in the Christian Ghetto they will live under the delusion that they are serving Jesus. They will forget that Christians are to love the Lord their God with all their being and to love their neighbor (not fellow Church member) as they love themselves. Pretty simple. Love God. Love your Neighbor.

How many non-Christian friends or acquaintances do you have? When is the last time you shared a beer with your fellow workmates? When is the last time you talked to your non-Christian neighbors? When is the last time non-Christians were invited to your house for dinner? How do you treat that dyed-hair, many-times-pierced, cashier at the grocery? And the list goes on and on . . . And I don’t mean inviting them to church. Stop inviting people to church and instead BE THE CHURCH. Go to an AIDS hospice and volunteer to be a helper. Go to the nursing home and love some old people. Seek out a single mother and buy her some formula, diapers, or offer to babysit for her. And the list goes on and on . . .

Buy some secular CDs and try and hear the voice of the culture you live in. Stop listening to escapist Christian music that has you so hopped up about Heaven that you neglect the world you live in. Stop leaving tracts at restaurants. Instead leave a gracious tip and be a nice customer. Call up the local bar and offer to drive any person home that is too drunk to drive. Be a friend to a prisoner. Adopt their family. Love them. And the list goes on and on . . .

Live the Gospel.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Don’t tell people the Gospel, SHOW people the Gospel; then, and only then, will you find a receptive audience. Get out there in the dirty, old world and show them that Jesus is worth loving and that Christianity is worth living.

Stop trying to get them to come to your Christian Ghetto. Go to Them. Jesus Did.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

The Us vs. Them World of Fundamentalist Christianity

us vs them

Recently, my friend Bob Felton wrote:

Certainly, I do not mean to relieve Christian cultists of their moral responsibility for their sometimes very bad behavior. It does bear mention, however, that those who are raised in this nonsense live in an environment where cult ethics are the norm — and the New Testament affirmatively does cultivate cult ethics (see Matthew 12:46-50 for a famous example). Such people are reared with an Us (People of God) vs. Them (the wicked, wicked, world) worldview. They are incapable of seeing themselves as skeptics see them, and very often do sincerely believe their bad behavior pleases an Invisible Friend.

Maybe Bruce could weigh-in and let us know what he taught on this subject when he was preaching?

I was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I made a public profession of faith and was baptized as a fifteen-year-old boy at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Several weeks later, I announced to the church that God was calling me to preach. Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Four years later, I left Bryan Ohio and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll in classes at Midwestern Baptist College. While there, I met and married the daughter of IFB preacher and Midwestern grad Lee Shope. In the spring of 1979, Polly and I left Midwestern and moved to Bryan, the home of my birth. A few weeks later, I was asked to be the assistant pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church — a fast-growing General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Thus began my official entrance into the ministry. The next twenty-five years would take us to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. While my theology and practice would evolve over the course of my ministerial careers, how I viewed the “world” and its opposition to Evangelicalism remained constant. While it is certainly true that I was far more ecumenical at the end of my career than at the start, my opinion of the “world” remained the same.

From start to finish, I believed the Bible was the inspired Word of God. Yes, my view on Bible inerrancy and infallibility evolved over the years, but I always believed that the Bible was a supernatural book; a book different and above all other books. Thus, I took seriously the teachings of the Bible.

In 1 John 2: 15-17, the Bible says:

 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 states:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Ephesians 5:11 says:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

As a Bible-believing man of God, I found these verses clear: Christians were to separate themselves from the world, and avoid contact with unbelievers. This Us vs.Them view of the world theme runs throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. In the Old Testament, God picked Israelis (Jews) as his chosen people. They were commanded to separate themselves from the heathen nations of the world. God even commanded the Israelites to murder nearby worshippers of false Gods so that they wouldn’t influence and infect God’s chosen ones. Even in the book of Revelation, we find God winnowing the Us from the Them. Separation, then, from the world, has always been God’s standard of conduct for those who worship him. How this separation is practiced varies from sect to sect, church to church, and Christian to Christian.

I taught congregants that they were to separate themselves from the world as much as they could. It would be impossible to totally separate one’s self from the world, but interaction with the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world should be limited to necessary acts of commerce. And even here, Christians should seek to distance themselves from the taint of the world. I remember a time when I tried to find a grocery store that didn’t sell alcohol. I found one store, a Mennonite-owned store in Muskingum County. Things were horribly expensive, and the store carried a limited supply of goods. After a few weeks of shopping there, I gave up and went back to the “world.” Notice that I use the “I” pronoun, and not “we.” This was back in our patriarchal days. I was the head of the household. Deciding where we shopped was up to me, not Polly. How “separated” Polly wanted to be didn’t matter. She was going to be as separated from the world as I was — at least outwardly.

Separation from the world affected every aspect of our lives, from the clothes we wore to where we went for entertainment. It was not uncommon for me to ask, “what would Jesus say or think if we went here or did this or that?” WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) deeply influenced my thinking, decision making, and preaching. “Would Jesus go here?” “Would Jesus associate with this person?” This kind of thinking fueled my Us vs. Them mentality. I frequently preached sermons on separation and holiness; how True Christians® separate themselves from the world and abstain from the very appearance of evil. Evil, of course, being any behavior deemed sinful by one Rev. Bruce D. Gerencser, man of God. Years ago, I attended a Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship Meeting for preachers in Columbus. Such meetings were times for likeminded preachers to get together and gossip, break bread, and listen to preaching. One preacher preached from Ephesians 4:27: “Neither give place to the Devil.” After reading his proof text, this man spent the next 40 or so minutes listing every behavior he deemed “giving place to the Devil.” He hit all the big sins, getting raucous AMENS from many of the preachers in attendance. In 2015, I wrote a post titled, An Independent Baptist Hate List. I listed some of the people and things IFB preachers hate:

  • Roman Catholics
  • Charismatics
  • Pentecostals
  • Arminians
  • Calvinists
  • Denominational Baptists
  • MTV
  • Television
  • HBO
  • Secular radio
  • Contemporary Christian music
  • Christian TV
  • Pagan holidays
  • Rock and Roll music
  • Long hair on men
  • Short skirts on women
  • Pants on women
  • Shorts on women
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Hollywood
  • Atheism
  • Secularism
  • Humanism
  • Pluralism
  • Socialism
  • Communism
  • Liberals
  • Progressives
  • Democrats
  • Bill Clinton
  • Liberal Christian colleges
  • Female preachers
  • Effeminate male preachers
  • Effeminate men
  • Hen-pecked men
  • Haughty women
  • Church members who disagree with the pastor
  • Premarital sex
  • Extramarital sex
  • Christmas
  • World Council of Churches
  • National Association of Evangelicals
  • Billy Graham
  • NIV
  • The Living Bible
  • Dancing
  • Card Playing

This list is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the people and things hated by Fundamentalist Christians. The goal of all this “hating” is to create a vast space between Us and Them; between the saved and the lost; between True Christians® and Christians in name only. While certainly many Fundamentalists just go along with the rules to fit in, many of them are really true believers. I know I was. James 1:27 described “pure religion” this way:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Want to have “pure religion” and be undefiled before God? Keep yourself unspotted from the world. Unspotted means unblemished, irreproachable, unsullied, free from vice. A sure way to accomplish this is to stay away from the “world.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 commands Christians to be holy in all manners of “conversation” (lifestyle). Why? Because as God is holy, we should be also. How many Christians do you know who keep themselves unspotted from the world; who are holy in all manners of conversation? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is NONE. No matter how hard Fundamentalists try to keep a clear, distinct difference between Us. and Them, they generally have the same wants, needs, and desires as unbelievers. Certainly, Christian Fundamentalists try their damnedest to be and stay “right with God,” but the fact remains that they sin, according to the Bible, in thought, word, and deed. No matter how hard they try to distance themselves from the “world,” the world and its wonders creep in.

butch-hartman-midway-speedway
Late Model driver Butch Hartman, 1980s, Midway Speedway, Crooksville, Ohio

While I became more liberal and progressive in the latter years of my ministerial career, I don’t know that I ever shook Us vs. Them thinking. I did, in retrospect, conclude that I was quite the hypocrite. I would stand behind the pulpit on Sundays and preach against the world, calling on congregants to separate themselves from evil works of darkness. But on Saturday, I would load my family into our car and drive to a nearby dirt race track so we could watch the races. If there was ever place that the “world” and its vices were on full display, it was the race track. Yet, Pastor Bruce, his dress-wearing wife, and their children attended races at tracks such as RR Speedway, Midway Speedway, KC Speedway, and Skyline Speedway. Sometimes, we would attend races on Friday and Saturday night. One Saturday, we attended a big S.T.A.R.S. race at Midway. All the big-name dirt track racers would be there. Unfortunately, it rained, and the race was postponed to the next day, Sunday. “What I am going to do?” I thought at the time. The “right” thing to go was to go to church just like we did EVERY Sunday night. But creative Bruce schemed a way to do both. Rather than preach Sunday night, I, instead, planned for us to have a “special” communion service after our afternoon church meal. By doing this, we were able to make it to the races on time. I battled guilt for a bit, but once I smelled wafts of racing fuel and heard the thundering noise of late model race cars, my mind quickly turned to racing. And boy, what a night of racing it was, as my older sons can attest.

I am sure by telling this story, and others I have told over the years, that my critics see evidence that I was never a True Christian®. However, on balance, I really tried to keep myself unspotted from the world. I really tried my best to avoid contact with unbelievers outside of commerce and evangelization. But try as I might, the world, the wild, wonderful world, sometimes called out to me, and more often than not, I gave in and indulged my so-called “fleshly” desires.

We left Christianity in 2008, which afforded my wife and me the freedom to live in the “world” without feeling sinful or guilty. We do what we want to, no regrets. While Us vs. Them can still affect my thinking, especially when it comes to politics, I try my best to be “worldly.” I missed out on a lot of life during the first fifty years of my life. No longer. It’s wonderful to have the freedom to do whatever you want, with no thought of what God (or others) might say. I only wish I had the young, healthy body that I had in my preaching days. Some race tracks have what are called “run what you brung” races. No rules, just race the car you pull off your trailer. That’s life for me these days. My life may be a banged-up street stock on its last leg, but I intend to race it as hard and as fast as I can until I reach the finish line.

How about you? Were you taught to view the “world” as Us vs. Them? Did your church or pastor preach against the world? What behaviors were considered “worldly?” Were you a hypocrite? Did you try to abstain from the appearance of evil, but fail to do so? Please share your stories in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: American Women are Jezebels Says Mike Storti

jezebelNot withstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.And I gave her space to repent of her fornication: and she repented not. Behold I will cast her into a bed and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.And I will kill her children with death: and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23)

Jesus preached to the church in Revelation on the doctrine of Jezebel and I am doing the same. This false doctrine is prevalent in society and in the church today just before the Great Tribulation.

….

That woman Jezebel’- It may not have been her real name, but it fit her like a glove. Jezebel was a domineering, forceful, strong willed and self-willed woman. A masculine spirit in a woman. And Jezebels always marry hen-pecked wimpy men like Ahab.

The Jezebel Spirit is that wicked Satanic spirit that makes a woman rule over a man (I will not obey him). It’s call the Feminist Movement today, but at the beginning of this century, they were called suffragettes. It’s the spirit in women today that says, “I will not have a man rule over me- not in my home, not in the church, not on the job, and not in government.”

In the U.S.A., it started four generations ago and now has produced its deadly fruit in society. A total breakdown of the family and women ruling in most homes and churches. It has been passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter. It’s a wicked, deadly anti-Christ spirit.

….

Jezebel named her daughter Athaliah, which is a man’s name in the bible. First she usurped a man’s name, and many women are usurping men’s first names today and refusing to take their husband’s last name in marriage. She says, “No man will name me,” or she gets a hyphenated name.

The Jezebel spirit is one of the main reasons for the high divorce rate and mothers not wanting their children. The Jezebel spirit wants you out of the home. Christian wives are to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5) and not bring their children to day care moms to raise. The Jezebel Spirit makes effeminate and homosexual sons and masculine daughters, teaching them to wear the pants in the home. (Mother rules- Matriarch rules).

….

The scriptures teach that a woman is much more susceptible to error in spiritual things than a man. She is more easily deceived for this reason she cannot teach in church or hold leadership positions. The devil deceived Eve, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (II Tim.2:14)

Third, the church was wrong in practice. They committed fornication. They let her have authority and she led them astray with false doctrine and they sinned by following her teaching. And men flock to churches today to sit under a woman pastor. They have despised their birthright and God-given authority to rule. They are raised by mothers who rule the home and they see nothing wrong with women ruling in the church. They have the Ahab spirit of a wimp.

She taught fornication (both physical and spiritual fornication) – both idolatry and adultery. Many Jezebels are teaching by their example of dressing like a whore with immodest apparel today. Jezebel was a whore. She taught it and she looked like it. Fornication is also taught in churches today- under the deceptive idea of sex education. Showing these ungodly movies and literature in the church.

Women who are living in sin, shacking up, are allowed to become members of the churches today and even teach Sunday School. Now even lesbians are in our churches teaching that form of ungodly fornication. Church leaders are marching on the streets with the Sodomites to our great shame. Beware of the Jezebel Spirit.

….

Jezebels use terms like male chauvinist. She probably wears short hair and dresses, either very sexy or very masculine. She likes to work outside the home and especially be the boss. She doesn’t like her kitchen or taking care of her children. She’s a career woman. She’s the boss in the home and the speaker of the house. She talks and he’s silent and she always gets the last word.

This spirit operates through women who desire to control or dominate men. This spirit is behind the woman who will publicly humiliate her husband with her tongue in order to have the control over him. (A daughter of Sarah has a meek and quiet spirit.) And she will use sex to control him also. If women don’t war against this spirit today, they will be used for destruction by Satan.

We live in a society where there is hatred for male authority. The Jezebel spirit is anti-father and anti-God the Father also. They are changing the Bible to mother god and goddess worship. Jezebel says, “I must control- I will be the boss.” Her heart submits to no man. I will have no man rule over me. I will support myself.

The spirit of Jezebel is controlling most churches today. When the men want to take control, there is a resisting, there is rebellion, and there is out and out refusal to submit by these Jezebels. Or there is manipulation that goes on in order to gain control. Like tears (her favorite way to get her way) or getting depressed. She will even refuse to go to church with her husband or she’s always sick or even will threaten to take the children and leave him. She must control at all costs.

— Mike Storti, The Bible Watchman, Jezebel Spirit

Lori Alexander approves of Storti’s beliefs. She posted Jezebel Spirit to The Transformed Wife website.

Why Many IFB Preachers Don’t Have Peaceful, Contented Lives

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac
For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a subset under the broad banner of Evangelicalism. IFB pastors and congregants tend to be theological, political, and social extremists. While their theological beliefs differ little from garden variety Evangelicals, how they engage and interact with the broader religious and secular cultures sets them apart from other Evangelicals.

Millions of Americans attend IFB churches. Millions more attend IFB-like churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. In the late 1960s through the early 1980s, many of the largest American churches were IFB congregations. As our society moved leftward socially and morally, IFB pastors and institutions dug in their heels and refused to adapt or change. Thinking the methods they used were timeless truths that must be religiously practiced, IFB churches hemorrhaged members, losing them to churches that were not as intolerant or extreme. By the 1990s, once-filled megachurch auditoriums were empty, resulting in more than few IFB churches filing for bankruptcy or closing their doors.

In the mid-1970s, my wife and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was started in the 1950s by Alabamian pulpiteer Tom Malone. Malone pastored nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, which at the time was one of the largest churches in America, boasting thousands each week in attendance. Midwestern was never a large college, but the institution was noted for turning out preachers and church planters. By the late 1980s, Midwestern and Emmanuel Baptist were in serious numerical and financial free fall. Eventually, Emmanuel closed its doors and Midwestern became a ministry of an IFB church in Orion, Michigan.

What happened to Emmanuel Baptist continues to happen to IFB churches today. IFB pastors, with few exceptions, are Biblical literalists who refuse to believe anything that contradicts their Fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. IFB pastors, to the man, believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Some pastors even go far as to say that only the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God; that other translations are the works of Satan. Literalism and inerrancy are considered cardinal doctrines of the faith. This has resulted in IFB pastors and churches believing all sorts of absurdities. IFB pastors are, without exception, creationists. Most of them are young earth creationists, believing that God created the universe in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,022 years ago. Bible stories meant to illustrate greater spiritual truths are often taken literally, resulting in IFB adherents believing, among a host of absurdities, that the earth was destroyed by a universal flood 4,000 or so years ago, the sun and moon stood still (Joshua 10:13), and all humans trace their lineage back to two people — Adam and Eve.  Their commitment to literalism forces IFB pastors to defend fantastical things. If the Bible says it, it’s true. End of discussion!

While there is some eschatological diversity within the IFB church movement, literalism demands that pastors believe and teach that the events recorded in the book of Revelation will one day literally take place. Most IFB church members believe that the return of Jesus to earth is imminent. A wide, deep apocalyptic river runs through the IFB church movement, leading to an extreme love and devotion to God’s chosen people, Israel. President Trump’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol is sure to excite IFB preachers — yet another “sign” that the return of Jesus is nigh. That this move could ignite the entire region and lead to war, is of little concern to IFB preachers. They believe that things must continue to get worse; that Jesus won’t come back to earth until the world stage is set for his triumphal return. This means that a war of epic proportions must occur, ending in Armageddon. While IFB preachers might not admit it out loud, I am certain many of them would welcome nuclear war, believing that such a war will make the world ready to embrace first the anti-Christ and then later Jesus when he returns to earth on a literal white horse to defeat the anti-Christ and Satan.

IFB pastors and churches are politically right-wing. If a survey were conducted with IFB adherents, I suspect surveyors would find that church members overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, and are anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-same sex marriage, and very much in favor of returning prayer and Bible reading to public school classrooms (even though many of them either home school or have their children enrolled in Christian schools). In earlier years, the IFB church movement believed there was a strict separation of church and state. Today, many IFB pastors and churches no longer believe the wall of separation exists, and that the United States is a Christian nation — a country chosen by God. This thinking can be traced back to the late 1970s when IFB megachurch pastor Jerry Falwell, along with Paul Weyrich, started the Moral Majority. Since then, scores of IFB pastors have used their pulpits to advance certain (almost always Republican) political policies and candidates.

Bruce, I thought this post was about why IFB preachers (and many within their congregations) don’t have peaceful, contented lives. It is, but I felt it necessary to show how IFB pastor think and view the world before explaining why so many of them lack peace and contentment in their lives. If the IFB church movement is anything, it is anti-culture. IFB pastors see themselves as prophets or watchmen on the walls, warning all who will listen that God is real, the Bible is true, and hell awaits all those who reject the IFB way, truth, and life. IFB preachers think it is their duty to wage war against Satan and the enemies of God. I can only imagine how hysterical IFB preachers are over LGBTQ acceptance, same-sex marriage, and the increasing prominence of atheism. Anything that challenges their beliefs must be refuted and turned back. Add to this the internecine warfare IFB churches are famous for, and it should come as no surprise that pastors find themselves constantly battling the “forces of darkness and evil.”  Every dawn brings a new day with new battles that must be fought. Not only must IFB preachers wage war against Satan, cults, false Christianity, liberalism, and secularism, they must also fight against those in their own movement who want to make IFB churches more “worldly.”

The battles, then, never end. Day in and day out, IFB pastors are in fight mode. And those who are not? They are labelled compromisers and hirelings who are only concerned with money and prestige. Is it any wonder then that IFB preachers rarely have peaceful, contented lives? Their lives are in a constant state of turmoil. Satan and the world are pushing against their beliefs and values at every turn. Not fighting back is considered cowardly, a betrayal of everything IFB believers hold dear. Go to any town in America where there is an IFB church and ask mainline pastors how they view the local IFB pastor and church. In most instances, mainline pastors will say that local IFB churches have extreme beliefs and seem to thrive on controversy. IFB pastors are viewed as outliers on the fringe of Christianity — haters and dissemblers who have no tolerance for anyone but those who adhere to their narrow beliefs and practices.

Separation from the world and separation from erring Christians is a fundamental doctrine within IFB churches. This too leads to never ending angst and stress. Concerned over encroaching “worldliness,” IFB pastors often have long lists of rules (church standards) congregants are expected to follow. (please read The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) While the rules vary from church to church, they are meant to inoculate church members from becoming infected with “worldly” ideas.  The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, said:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

1 John 2:15-17 states:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Verses such as these fuel IFB separatist beliefs and practices. The world is evil and must be, with few exceptions, avoided at all costs. This is why IFB pastors and institutions are the forefront of the Christian School and home school movements. What better way to avoid worldliness than to wall off families and children from the influence of “worldly” schools?

I am sure that many, if not most, IFB preachers would disagree with me when I say they don’t have peaceful contented lives. However, I would ask them to consider whether their constant battles against sin, worldliness, liberalism, and compromise have robbed them of the goodness, peace, and contentment life has to offer; that constantly being at odds with not only the “world,” but also fellow Christians, is bound to exact an emotional toll. Thinking you alone stand for God, truth, and righteousness requires constant diligence lest compromise and “worldliness” creep in. Aren’t you tired, preacher, of being constantly at war with everyone and everything around you? Maybe it is time for you lay down your weapons of war and rejoin the human race. Countless former IFB pastors and church members have done just that. Tired of the constant turmoil and unrest, they finally said, ENOUGH! and walked away. Most of them found kinder, gentler forms of faith, and a handful of ex-IFB believers have embraced agnosticism or atheism. Scary, I know, but not having to constantly be on guard lest Satan gain the advantage is worth the risk of judgment and hell. I am sure God will understand. A wild, wonderful world awaits those who dare to lay down their Fundamentalist beliefs and walk away. If you are ready to say ENOUGH! and want help plotting a life of peace and contentment, I would love to help you do so.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

Bruce Gerencser