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Black Collar Crime: Wife and Stepdaughter of Evangelical Pastor Anthony Haynes Sentenced on Witness Tampering Charges

alexis fortune and alisa haynes

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2017, three Toledo, Ohio Evangelical pastors, Anthony Haynes, Cordell Jenkins, and  Kenneth Butler were accused of child sex trafficking. Since then, Haynes and Jenkins have received life sentences for their crimes, and Butler was sentenced to 17½ years in prison.

I have written numerous posts on this sordid story:

In 2019, Cordell Jenkins’ wife, Laura Lloyd was sentenced to 21 months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors.

The final chapter of this story has now been written. Alisa Haynes — the wife of Anthony Haynes — and his stepdaughter, Alexis Fortune, have been sentenced to 24 months and 48 months respectively in federal prison for witness tampering.

In 2019, the Toledo Blade reported:

…are accused of kidnapping one of the teen victims Saturday, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court Toledo.

During that time, they’re accused of pointing a gun at her and choking her with a black computer cord to convince her not to go through with testifying at Mr. Haynes’ trial.

The women are charged with tampering with a witness, victim, or informant just weeks before Mr. Haynes’ trial is scheduled in U.S. District Court, where the victim is slated to testify.

….

At roughly midnight Saturday, the girl — whose name was not released — stated she was home with her younger sister when she heard someone knock on her apartment door. She looked through the peephole but could not see anyone, according to the criminal complaint.

he girl knew by the person’s voice that it was Ms. Fortune; she opened the door and saw Ms. Fortune wearing a mask, black gloves, and holding a silver revolver, according to the criminal complaint. Ms. Fortune is accused of pointing the loaded gun at the girl’s head, forcing her way into the apartment — locking the door behind her — and taking the girl’s phone.

Ms. Fortune is accused of then choking her with a computer cord, according to the complaint. Shortly after, Ms. Haynes entered the apartment and Ms. Fortune directed the girl into the kitchen for a “heart-to-heart” conversation.

“Alexis told [the victim] how hard it is for their family to live financially and emotionally since Anthony’s been arrested, how they are depressed, and begged [the victim] not to go to trial,” according to the complaint.

In May 2020, Haynes and Fortune were both sentenced to federal prison for trying to get the victim to recant her story.

The Toledo Blade reports:

Alisa Haynes, 45, the wife of Anthony Haynes, and his stepdaughter, Alexis Fortune, 25, appeared by video conference to be sentenced by visiting Judge Bernard Friedman. Both women agreed to proceed with the hearing by video rather than in person at U.S. District Court in Toledo due to the coronavirus. 

Haynes was sentenced to an agreed upon 24 months in federal prison, while Fortune was sentenced to 48 months for their roles in having a victim in a multiple year sex-trafficking case leave a voice message on Haynes’ cell phone which contradicted her story to law enforcement. 

“Ms. Fortune gave one of the victims a phone in order to leave not just one, but two voicemail messages recanting what the victim said to law enforcement officers about what happened in the underlying sex-trafficking case,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Ashley Futrell said on Tuesday. “Your honor, that was the goal and the purpose of this night.”

On Tuesday, Fortune asked Judge Friedman why she was being sentenced to 48 months when the guideline range suggested a 30 to 37 month sentence for the sole offense of tampering with a witness or victim. She was originally charged with false statement or representation made to a department or agency of the United States and using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Through a plea agreement, 48 months was a negotiated sentence as federal prosecutors said her initial charges would have led to significant time behind bars. The firearm offense alone carried a minimum of seven years in federal prison, said U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Freeman. 

Haynes and Fortune previously pleaded guilty in November to tampering with a witness or victim for going to the girl’s apartment on Jan. 4, 2019, which led to several hours of them and the victim’s minor sister driving around Toledo. 

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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Black Collar Crime: Missionary Baptist Pastor Curtis Brown Sentenced to 33 Years in Prison for Child Sexual Abuse

pastor curtis brown

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Curtis Brown, pastor of Grace Baptist Church (Chapel) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was accused of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy.  Grace is a King James-only Missionary Baptist congregation. Brown resigned after his arrest. According to news reports, Brown pastored Grace Baptist for over eighteen-years.

KRQE reported at the time:

Curtis Ray Brown has been charged with criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact of a minor. The charges stem from an August 23, 2019 incident in which authorities say Brown sexually abused the boy while he stayed at his home overnight.

A criminal complaint states that the boy would spend Tuesday afternoons after school with Brown and details that after staying with Brown, the 5-year-old boy told his father of his “secret.”

According to police, the child’s father then confronted Brown, who allegedly didn’t deny the allegations, and told the child’s father “it just happened,” and “started in the shower one day.”

The child’s father told authorities of a Facebook messenger “group chat” in which the child’s mother, Brown, and other members of his family are a part of, and that Brown had allegedly apologized for his actions.

Screenshots of the chat message were provided to police and were transcribed in the criminal complaint which reads in part:

“I know no amount of words or actions can undo the damage that I have done. I can only express my shame and disgust in what I have done. I am truly sorry for what I am putting our family through. “

In March 2020, Brown pleaded guilty to sexually molesting his five-year-old grandson. That’s right, the boy in this story was Brown’s grandson.

In May 2020, Brown was sentenced to 33 years in prison for his crime.

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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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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stephen Morris Charged with Six Additional Sex Crimes

pastor stephen morris

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Stephen Morris, pastor of Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church in Four Oaks, North Carolina,  was accused of raping a thirteen-year-old girl. (The church has no web presence.)

ABC-11 reported at the time:

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office arrested 61-year-old Reverend Stephen Morris last Friday on 10 felony counts, including five counts of statutory rape and five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

According to court documents, Morris is accused of statutory rape with a 13-year-old between June 2013 and June 2014.

….

Detectives say the victim is now 19 years old and reported what happened to police last month.

Because the incident involves a juvenile victim, authorities would not disclose how the victim and suspect knew one another.

Morris remains in the Johnston County jail under a $2.5 million bond.

Morris later was accused of additional sex crimes involving two underage girls, along with new charges related to the thirteen-year-old victim.

The Johnston County Report said:

The former pastor of a Four Oaks church charged in July with engaging in sexual acts with a juvenile has now been charged with crimes against two more underage victims.

Reverend Stephen Arthur Morris was the pastor at Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church on Highway 301 South of Four Oaks when he was originally arrested on July 5th, 2019. He resigned the same day from his role at the church. He posted bail July 26th, 2019 when his bond was lowered to $250,000 and was confined to house arrest at his residence on Parkertown Road. Morris is now back behind bars.

Today (Wednesday), Rev. Morris was served with additional warrants involving the original victim plus two additional victims who have now come forward.

Morris was indicted Oct. 7th by a Johnston County Grand Jury on 12 new charges, that’s in addition to 14 charges he already faces.

Eight of the 12 new charges are for additional incidents in 2013 and 2014 involving the first victim. Those new charges include additional counts of statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor for sexual acts with the female victim, who was 13 at the time of the alleged offenses.

After the arrest of Rev. Morris was reported by the media in July, JoCoReport has learned two additional victims came forward reporting incidents to the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. Those incidents occurred in 2008. Rev. Morris is accused of soliciting nude photos of the two young girls who were 9 and 11 at the time.

In what can only be described as a wicked, vile “gift” that keeps on giving, in late May 2020, Morris was accused, yet again, of additional sex crimes.

The News&Observer reports:

A Johnston County pastor already in jail on sexual assault charges was charged Friday with six counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said.

In June 2019, an 18-year-old woman reported that Stephen Arthur Morris, her pastor at Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church in Four Oaks, began sexually assaulting her when she was 13, the Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release.

In July 2019, Morris was arrested and charged with statutory rape or sex offense with a person who was 13 years old, the arrest warrant states. Morris was also charged with taking indecent liberties with the same person when she was under the age of 16. Morris’s court indictments state the alleged offenses occurred between June 2013 and June 2014.

Two more females came forward in October 2019, accusing Morris of attempting to exploit them when they were under the age of 16 in 2008, court records state. Morris was indicted in October 2019 on charges of attempted first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and solicitation of another to commit first-degree exploitation of a minor.

The indictment states Morris “unlawfully, willingly and feloniously did entice, induce, order and command to engage in sexual activity for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity, the defendant knowing the character and content of the intended material.”

….

Arrest warrants from Friday’s charges state Morris “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did duplicate material containing the visual representation of a minor, an unknown minor approximately 10-12 years of age, engaged in sexual activity, consisting of posing nude, displaying the genital area.”

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.

Are you on Social Media?

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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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jerry Zweitzig Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges

pastor jerry zweitzig

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jerry Zweitzig, pastor of Horsham Bible Church — a now-defunct independent congregation –in Horsham, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty several weeks ago to charges of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography. In a previous case, Zweitzig was charged with five counts of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He later pleaded guilty to these charges. He will be sentenced on both cases in September.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

A retired pastor from Hatboro has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing an infant, marking the second time he has admitted abusing a child since October.

Jerry Zweitzig, 71, who had been a pastor at the now-closed Horsham Bible Church until his 2016 retirement, pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography.

….

The charges stem from Zweitzig’s admitted sexual abuse of an infant and his videotaping of that abuse. Investigators found the video, which was created in 2010, while preparing for Zweitzig’s sentencing hearing in a separate child sexual abuse and exploitation case, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain’s office said in a statement.

In the first case, Zweitzig was charged in May 2019 with five counts of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

Prosecutors say he sexually abused a girl, beginning when she was 5 years old and continuing until she was 11 and photographed and videotaped that abuse. He also had an extensive collection of child pornography involving thousands of other children, they said.

In October 2019, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

A 71-year-old former pastor from Montgomery County pleaded guilty Monday to forcing a girl to pose for sexually explicit photos and videos, and amassing more than 10,000 images of child pornography.

Appearing in federal court in Philadelphia, Jerry William Zweitzig of Hatboro withdrew his not-guilty plea and admitted to manufacturing and possessing child pornography. “I plead guilty to all six counts against me,” Zweitzig told U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone.

….

The victim, born in 2003, first reported the abuse to her parents in 2014, shortly before they moved from Pennsylvania. Investigators later found a video, 13 minutes long, in which Zweitzig is seen telling the girl that he would miss her, that she could do anything with him sexually but he would never force her, and that she shouldn’t tell anyone about what they did together.

He told her he had taken explicit photos of her when she was 9 and said he wanted to take more. As Zweitzig removed his clothes and began touching himself in front of her, the child fled the room. She locked herself in the bathroom and called her parents to tell them about the abuse, Gibson said.

Her father went to the police, but for reasons that are not clear, no charges were filed against Zweitzig. After the family moved from Pennsylvania, Zweitzig sent the girl letters, including pages from his journal about her.

In 2018, she gave investigators a more detailed report about the abuse, which she said lasted from 2009 to 2014. Authorities searched Zweitzig’s home and arrested him in December 2018.

Homeland Security Investigations agents found pornographic images and videos from 2013 and 2014 featuring the girl. They also found thousands of images of children downloaded on computers, flash drives, hard drives, and digital cameras.

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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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.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Brett Monroe Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Sexual Exploitation of a Child

pastor brett monroe

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Brett Monroe, associate pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation –was arrested in December 2019 and charged with the sexual exploitation of a child. In January, Monroe pleaded guilty. On Tuesday, Monroe was sentenced to 293 months in federal prison for sexual exploitation of a child.

STL News reports:

Federal agents executed a search warrant at Monroe’s residence on December 11, 2019.  Monroe admitted to agents that he used his cellphone to create secret recordings of a minor female victim while she showered at his Arlington, Texas home.  According to court documents, Monroe converted the video into still images which he saved in an online storage account.

At sentencing, an agent testified that Monroe admitted to sending, receiving, and trading child pornography online for years to fuel his pornography addiction.  He also confessed to surreptitiously recording multiple other minor victims showering in his residence.

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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Street Preacher Gary Purgason Accused of Inciting to Riot

street preacher gary purgason

Gary Purgason, an Evangelical street preacher from Greensboro, North Carolina, stands accused of inciting to riot. Last Saturday, Purgason and his Fundamentalist sidekicks were at A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro harassing women seeking abortion services.

Yes! Weekly reports:

A white self-professed “street preacher” was the only person arrested during the peaceful 10-hour march protesting the death of George Floyd that blocked off parts of Greensboro and I-40 on Saturday. He was not one of the marchers and was not protesting Floyd’s death.

According to the Greensboro Police Department, Gary Daniel Purgason, 35, of Madison, was arrested in the parking deck at 299 Greene St. and charged with “Inciting to Riot.”

….

Since November 2019, this writer has, on multiple occasions, observed Purgason “preaching” there, along with fellow “street preachers” Chris Pantalone and Sam Wilking.

….

Multiple persons serving as volunteer patient escorts at the clinic on Saturday morning, including pastor Michael Usey of College Park Baptist Church and minister Mark Sandlin of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, told YES! Weekly that Pantalone, Purgason, and Wilking had a confrontation with an African-African man in the company of a clinic patient. They said the confrontation escalated after Pantalone called the man a coward. Both a video shot by a clinic escort and the livestream by Wilking depict the following encounter:

The man, large and muscular, approaches Wilking, Pantalone, Ferguson, and several men in camouflage or hunting gear. As he approaches, he tells them to “Shut the fuck up.”

The man then turns and walks away. Pantalone yells, “You’re a coward, sir!”

The man turns back, approaches them again, and repeats, “Shut the fuck up!”

“You’re being a coward, sir, you’re being a coward,” says Pantalone once the man again turns and walks away. “Go in there and rescue your child!”

The man wheels and strides back toward Pantalone, who quickly shouts, “I didn’t say it, I didn’t say it!”

As the man continues to approach, Pantalone screams, “I didn’t say it!” and runs away from him, repeating, “I didn’t say it, bro, I didn’t say it!”

The man turns around and walks towards his car.

Pantalone returns to the right of the frame and says, “I’m just here to help. You don’t protect your child, sir, that’s what a man is called to do.”

The man returns and, less loudly, again tells Pantalone to shut up.

“Pray for us, guys,” Purgason tells their viewers,” then says to the man, “we want to help you keep your baby, sir.”

Someone yells, “stay and be a man!”

“We love you, bro!” shouts Pantalone as the man again walks away.

“No man knows the day and the hour of when you will die,” says Purgason. “Black lives matter! Black matter!”

“I knew that telling a black person he’s a coward would trigger him” says another protester as the man they angered drives away.

Pastor Usey described this verbal altercation to YES! Weekly as, the morning’s “worst incident” and “a flashpoint for potential violence in Greensboro.”

Usey also alleged that the same men harassed several female escorts.

“They were aggressively following several of the female escorts, yelling at them in their faces, calling them names, and saying things like ‘Hey, can I take you to lunch and do a Bible study with you?’ I am beyond repulsed by these pugnacious dullards. This is white privilege and rape culture on parade.”

Usey said that none of the six “street preachers” and 49 other protesters at the clinic were wearing masks and that all were white. He alleged that the six police officers present did nothing to prevent protesters from harassing patients or the 12 clinic escorts, all of whom wore masks and attempted to maintain social distancing.

Usey alleged that one preacher using a personal amplification system harassed Mark Sandlin and Sandlin’s wife by “yelling, ranting, and screaming Bible verses” at the couple “from 6 feet away for a full 45 minutes.”

Evangelical clinic protesters are the worst of the worst, in my opinion.

This is how Purgason responded to the murder of George Floyd:

gary purgason george floyd

One of Purgason’s preaching buddies is a man by the name of Chris Pantalone.

In November 2019, Yes! Weekly reporter Ian McDowell wrote an article titled Race, Religion and Greensboro’s Abortion Divide. Pantalone features prominently in McDowell’s story. What follows is a short video of Pantalone “sharing” his beliefs:

Video Link

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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Quote of the Day: Donald Trump Explains His Favorite Bible Stories

evangelical support for donald trump

Genesis: Two fools want more, better information rather than to feel blissfully ignorant all the time. They meet Tim Apple.

Exodus: Egypt, a land of very good administration, responds correctly to a series of plagues by changing nothing about its daily lives or routines.

Golden Calf: People are inexplicably punished for worshiping something shiny and fake.

Daniel: Ferocious beasts defy their duty to attack a man who has committed an offense against his ruler.

Lazarus: Very good illustration of how easy it is to recover if you put your mind to it and why nobody needs health coverage.

Job: Someone is treated almost but not quite as badly as Donald Trump gets treated every day.

Ruth: Ruth accompanies her relative Naomi to a new country in a disgraceful instance of chain migration.

Two Corinthians: There are Corinthians, and there are two of them, for sure!

Joshua and the Battle of Jericho: Very sad story about a man blowing blasts on a trumpet and damaging a wall.

Solomon: A man suggests a very good way of dealing with a disputed baby, but a nasty woman interferes.

Lot: A man’s wife does something different with herself physically, and he sort of notices after the fact.

David and Goliath: Someone makes the mistake of flinging a projectile at a heavily-armored man; they will need to come down on him hard.

Noah: This is a good, inspiring story about a wise man in a floating bunker avoiding a catastrophe, but on the other hand it is bad because he is also surrounded by animals, birds, reptiles — disgusting.

Jonah and the Whale: Bunker again, but worse.

Esther: Failed king listens to a woman about not inflicting violence on people?

Revelation: Beautiful first draft of Trump inauguration speech.

Abraham: Man confusingly remains married to the same woman for decades.

Temptation of Jesus: Man offered infinite worldly power; says no, like an idiot.

Crucifixion: Agitator gets what is coming to him.

Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, Trump Explains His Favorite Bible Stories, June 4, 2020

Thank you to Ms. Petri for making my day. Funny stuff. 🙂

Rebecca Davis Worried About Her Lustful Four-Year-Old Ogling A Woman Wearing a Bikini

hannah davis sports illustrated
Hannah Davis, 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Rebecca Davis works for the American Family Association (AFA). She is the assistant editor of The Stand, the official whine and outrage newsletter of the AFA. Several years ago, she wrote an eye-opening article about her 4-year-old’s propensity to lust after women in bathing suits and lingerie. While she denies that she is saying her little boy lusts, her article suggests otherwise (link no longer active):

It is almost swimsuit season. There are a number of adjectives I could use to describe my disdain for this time of year. Itsy-bitsy and teeny-weeny are two of them.

No, I’m not a prude, and no, I’m not bitter because I don’t have the perfect figure. I have never been Ms. Skinny Mini, and after having two babies and holding on to an extra 10 pounds each time, I probably never will be. But that’s not really the reason I dread swimsuit season.

Actually, summer is one of my favorite times of year. I enjoy taking our son to the pool. He begs year-round to go the beach.

But the older he gets, the more difficult it becomes to take him to the beach … to the grocery story, to the mall, even to church at times. His eyes are constantly surveying his surroundings, and many times he sees entirely too much.

Although he is only four years old, his little mind is wired to be visual. The dominant perceptual sense in men is vision. God made males that way for a reason, and I’m thankful he did.

There are a number of studies and findings that conclude male brains are more visually stimulated than the female brain. It’s a fact that my son’s actions prove true, even at such a young age.

For example, from the time he was about two years old, if we were in a store and simply walked past the lingerie section, he would point and say “Mama.” Now, it’s all I can do to keep his eyes from innocently zoning in on the window displays when we walk rather hurriedly past Victoria’s Secret.

For several months now, I have been receiving issues of Glamour magazine in the mail. I have no idea why. Somehow I became a subscriber to the magazine. (I have tried to cancel my unwanted subscription but that’s another story.) An issue came in the mail; I accidently left it facedown on the counter before putting it in the garbage can. I was in the kitchen cooking and noticed my son sitting at the counter staring at a scantily clad woman on the back cover. My heart sank.

Then it wasn’t long after that he was with me in a beauty-supply store. I was down on my knees examining some shampoo (for color-treated hair, I admit) when my son picked up a small promotional card off the nearby shelf, handed it to me, and said, “Mama, look!” The card pictured an outstretched woman in a seductive pose wearing a skimpy swimsuit. Again, my heart sank.

Let me make a very clear disclaimer at this point. My son is only four years old. In no way am I implying that his observations are sexual in nature. They are not. His reactions are natural – not lustful – responses to the way his brain is wired.

I use the above examples to show just how powerful a female’s attire can be over males of all ages.

When my son sees a woman wearing clothes that barely cover her body, be it in a picture or in person, he always asks, “Mama, why are they dressed that way?”

I’m thankful for his questions; they make for good teachable moments. I’m thankful that seeing women dressed immodestly is not the norm for him right now. I want it to stay that way, but the reality is it won’t.

So, as his mother, how can I protect him? How can I teach him to channel the wirings of his little brain through a biblical worldview? How can I keep his mind, heart and body pure for his future wife, if the Lord wills him to marry one day? More than that, how can I encourage him to live a daily life of purity out of love and honor for God?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers to all these questions. I am learning that parenting is a day-by-day journey. Some days I do it right; some days I do it wrong. But thankfully God is a God of grace and mercy.

One thing I do know is that, with my husband, we can make an extra effort to keep our son’s eyes from seeing the immodest pattern of this world by monitoring what he watches, changing the channel if need be, diverting his attention elsewhere when in public, and having open and honest dialogue with him when he does have questions about what he sees. Our aim is to always do so out of honor, never out of shame.

We can also show him the importance of modesty by the way I dress and by the way we dress his little sister.

And I can encourage you, ladies, to be intentional about what you wear (or don’t wear) to the beach or pool this summer.

If nothing else, be mindful of your appearance for the sake of my son … your son or someone else’s son.  Actually, keep all men in mind! You may have no idea what you do to them – and to yourself – when you wear a bikini or expose yourself in other ways…

In the past, I have detailed how women in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches are blamed for the lustful thoughts of teenage boys. Rebecca Davis, an Evangelical, does the same. Her poor little boy already has a wandering eye, and it is up to the women of the world to keep him from lusting. He can’t help himself, Davis says, because his mind is wired for the visual. It’s just how males are. (Of course, she refuses to accept this exact same argument when it comes to homosexuality.)

I suspect most readers will think Davis’s article is ignorant and silly. And it is, but millions of Christians think like this. Taught that their sexuality must be repressed, is it any surprise that 4-year-old Evangelical boys grow into sexually dysfunctional 20-year-old toddlers? Years ago, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. One prayer meeting night, a woman came up and scolded us for letting our girls sleep on the church floor with their panties exposed. That’s right, little girls sleeping with their panties exposed were a problem. I think she expected me to immediately get the girls off the floor. Instead, I curtly told her, don’t look. Were there pedophiles in the church I didn’t know about? Maybe. Was she afraid that teenage boys would see panties and lust? Perhaps. I suppose if some teenage boy lusted, it would be our four- and two-year-old daughters’ fault, right?

While Evangelicals want to point to the “world” and blame it for sexualizing everything, it is those who adhere to the sexual mores of the Bible who have done so. They are the ones who have turned a woman’s breast into a sex object that must be covered up at all times. They are the ones who focus on cleavage, legs, asses, and the female shape in general. Cover up, women are told. Hide your feminine figure. If left to people such as Davis, the human race would perish. Sexual attraction and desire are n-o-r-m-a-l and healthy. It’s the Bible that is out of step with what it means to be human. From Genesis to Revelation, God demands that humans deny their sexuality. I thought God made us sexual beings? It seems strange that he would create us with sexual desires and then say it is a sin if we act on them. Well, maybe not. This is the same God, after all, who created some of us just so he could damn us and torture us in the Lake of Fire for eternity.

So, what do you think? Will Rebecca Davis’s four-year-old son turn into a horn-dog Evangelical teenager a decade from now? If he finds himself uncontrollably lusting after women, who will be blamed? Perhaps, thanks to being taught to Just Say No, he gets the deacon’s daughter pregnant. Whose fault will this be? Again, the Bible is not the answer. Children and teenagers need to be taught the facts of life. As they get older, they need to be taught sexual responsibility. Since most church teenagers engage in some sort of sexual activity before marriage, isn’t it in their best interest to make sure they know how to use birth control? Instead of telling them THE BIBLE SAYS, how about doses of common sense and honest instruction about sex? Instead of teaching them masturbation is a sin, how about teaching them that self-pleasuring is a way to release sexual tension. Better to spank the monkey than get the deacon’s daughter pregnant.

We should pity Evangelical teen boys and men who must go through life with blinders on lest they ravage the first woman they see in tight shorts. Instead of enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, they are taught the human body is shameful and should only be uncovered in darkness after marriage. While I am not suggesting we all turn into naturalists, surely a man can be in the same room with women to whom he might be attracted and not turn into the First Baptist Rapist.

Physical attraction is normal and healthy. I am a married man, happily so for almost 42 years. I love my wife and she is my one and only. Until death do us part, I am hers and she is mine. That’s the commitment we made to one another one hot July day in 1978. Does this commitment mean we can no longer walk down the store aisle and check out the goods? Is Polly being unfaithful if she says Matt Bomer, Sean Connery, or Daniel Craig is attractive? Am I being unfaithful when I admire another woman’s beauty? Of course not. We are confident in our ability to control our sexual desires.

When I was a fifteen-year-old boy, I was standing outside Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio with a group of Baptist Bible Fellowship preachers. I was in heaven just being around these renowned men of God. Well, preacher men are just like factory men, and when they are around their own, they will let down their guard and talk like one of the boys. One preacher made a joke about Jesus’s command, “but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  He said, the first look is not a sin, the second one is. Just make sure the first look is a long one. Everyone laughed. Great advice for a sexually aware 15-year-old preacher boy, right?

Forget the Bible and religion for a moment and think about this issue from a scientific perspective. Where would the human race be if males and females were not attracted to one another? This attraction is vital to the propagation and future of our species. We can talk about inner beauty and loving someone for their mind, but the fact is, for those of us in a relationship with another, it was sexual attraction that first brought us together. There were plenty of women I could have dated while a student at Midwestern Baptist College. Why did I decide to ask 17-year-old Polly Shope out on a date? She was and is a beautiful woman, but there were other beautiful women at the college. Why was she the one? Biology? Chemistry? Fate?

Here’s what I know: every relationship begins with a look. Hmm, that’s a nice-looking man or woman. Have you ever seen couples that you wonder how they were attracted to one another? You know, the drop-dead gorgeous woman with the guy who looks like he just spent the last month homeless, living on the street. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that sexual attraction is key to our relationship with our significant other. Yes, given time, the relationship becomes far more than sexual attraction, but few relationships start without it. (I speak broadly, knowing that people can and do enter relationships for reasons other than sexual attraction.)

Instead of asking everyone to cover up for the sake of her son, perhaps Davis should focus on helping him grow into a sexually responsible man. I wouldn’t be worrying about the things Davis seems preoccupied with for my 4-year-old son. I’d be more worried about a four-year-old plugging up the toilet with army men or Legos or sticking a kitchen knife in an electrical plug than I would a woman in a bikini causing him to have inappropriate thoughts. If Davis is concerned about the bikini effect, perhaps she should pay attention to her husband’s eyes.

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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Quote of the Day: Jared Yates Sexton Explains President Trump’s Bible Stunt

trump holding bible

I’m going to provide some history of Neo-Confederate, white-identity, apocalyptic evangelicalism, what I call the Cult of the Shining City.

This is who Donald Trump was messaging yesterday with his bible stunt.

For starters, the Cult of the Shining City is not an organized group. The members, most of them, believe they’re just evangelicals. There are members with power who use them and manipulate them.

But there are millions of them, and they worship Donald Trump like a messiah.

None of this is tin-foil hat stuff. It’s not about smoky rooms. It’s the hidden history of how America’s Right has been coopted into an apocalyptic fantasy that currently threatens our safety and the safety of the world.

This is history, not conjecture. It’s how we got here.

Trump’s photo-op yesterday seemed bizarre to everyone but people who grew up in white-identity, apocalyptic evangelicalism.

This was a choreographed messaged that Trump is engaging in a holy battle on behalf of God and Christians, but also a possible call to violence.

Not every Cult of the Shining City member believes Trump is a messiah, but almost all believe he is a holy man fighting on their behalf.

The beliefs vary, but it is an apocalyptic cult that Trump has used to build his base.

To begin, we have to start with the Confederate States of America. Secession was done, in part, based on the belief that the North had violated God’s racist commandments.

They believed in “an Almighty God” who crowned white people as his champions on Earth.

The Confederate States of America was an explicitly Christian nation, in definition and practice. The society was built upon the idea that God was a white supremacist being who ordered whites to enslave lesser people.

White supremacist Christianity was the CSA’s reality.

Confederate preachers like Benjamin M Palmer warned of “perilous atheists” in the North who sought to betray the racist God’s white supremacy religion.

They preached that slavery and white supremacy were ordained by God and that the North was becoming devilish.

….

Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders blamed the people’s lack of faith in the racist God for their defeats, ordering days of humiliation and fasting in order to get right.

Failure was seen as God’s fury for disbelief in his white supremacist orders.

When the Civil War ended, it was seen as a reunification of culture, but the Confederate Christianity didn’t just go away. Southern preachers continued preaching that God was a white supremacist and that blacks were to be subjugated and enslaved.

It stills exists now.

One of the Southern preachers who believed in God-ordained white supremacy was Jerry Falwell, whose ministry held segregation as a Godly decree and any attempt toward equality the work of Satan.

Falwell called segregation a “line drawn by God” and warned that any attempt to desegregate or dismantle white supremacy was the work of the Devil and would draw God’s anger.

Like Confederate preachers of old.

Civil Rights protests gained the attention of Confederate Christians like Falwell, who charged that protestors were doing Satan’s work and were being “manipulated” by outside forces, including Communists and anarchists. It was a charge of spiritual war.

Despite popular history claiming Martin Luther King was beloved, he was treated like a satanic antichrist, using Christianity for nefarious purposes people like Falwell and segregationists claimed were Communist and devilish purposes.

Falwell aired his suspicions about MLK and disputed his social justice interpretation of the Bible.

To counteract, Falwell and others actively moved their faith toward hidden white supremacy through ideas of power and economic success.

All tenets of white supremacy.

The new Evangelical Right was white supremacist and Neo-Confederate in nature, but hid that prejudice behind the idea of morality and achieving success through the economic world.

Christianity was about power and profit. Fascistic pursuits behind a smiling veneer.

….

The Deep State conspiracy theory/Qanon is just New World Order, apocalyptic, Cult of the Shining City paranoia

All of it centers around white supremacy, Confederate philosophy, being challenged by evil conspiracies of Jewish interference, traitors, and minority manipulation.

In this fever dream, paranoid reality, Trump is a holy warrior, the last stand against a New World Order coup and the triumph of Satan over God in the holy country of America.

He has played this role to full effect and has been embraced as a faulty messiah.

….

Trump’s posing with the Bible yesterday was a signal that he is the holy warrior, the “chosen one” that many have called him. It’s to prepare the Cult of the Shining City followers for what they’ll see as a holy war of America, God’s chosen nation, against Satan’s forces.

Jared Yates Sexton, The Muckrake, author of the book AMERICAN RULE: HOW A NATION CONQUERED THE WORLD BUT FAILED ITS PEOPLE

Why it is Impossible to Have Meaningful Discussions with Evangelical Trump Supporters

trump holding bible

Recently, a friend of mine asked her Trump-supporting friends on Facebook to defend the violent clearing of protesters so the President — Bible in hand — could have a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. My friend sincerely wanted to understand the thinking behind such support. (Please see Donald Trump’s Bible.)

Here’s the first response she received:

You’re assuming what you are seeing is the real story. Watch the documentary at outofshadows.org, research the 6 men that own 95% of the media outlets and explore their political alignments and NWO [New World Order] connections.

As Christians, we all know there is an enemy and he/they have a plan to create a New World Order/One World Government. It’s easy to spot who wants this simply look for their speeches. George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush, Obama. They’ve all given speeches about the NWO. As Christians we serve God almighty, but do not be mistaken, the enemy has his servants as well in very powerful places. (Ephesians 6:12)

These riots have nothing to do with George Floyd. They have everything to do with Election 2020. If you believe otherwise, I’m sorry.

For 4 years, we’ve experienced Fake Russia Collusion, Impeachment for nothing, a Wuhan Biolab created coronavirus, and now Antifa riots all before the next election. It’s time for everyone to wake up.

What are we to do with such comments? How do you even begin to reach people who think like this? Or have they committed an unpardonable sin of sorts? This man is white, educated, and rich, so not your typical hillbilly with a sixth-grade education and a meth habit. How is it possible for someone to go so far down the proverbial rabbit hole that he loses all sense of reason?

Quite frankly, this kind of thinking scares the shit out me. Is it beyond the pale for these “patriots” to seek a “second amendment remedy,” especially if their demigod Donald Trump is not reelected? Will these Christians accept any electoral outcome except a Trump victory? What happens if Sleepy Joe — Trump’s pet name for Joe Biden — wins and the Democrats control both houses of Congress? Democrats will, most certainly, make swift work of undoing some of the damage inflicted by Trump and his lackeys. How will Evangelicals respond to these reversals?

Typically, I don’t talk politics on my personal Facebook account. In recent days, I have become so enraged over what I am seeing on the nightly news that I decided to make a couple posts about what was going on.

troops on the steps of lincoln memorial

Here’s what I wrote:

Never thought I’d see the day when a U.S. President would use active military personnel to wage war against the American people.

and

Military troops on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This should sicken every thinking American. We see this in China and other dictatorships, not America.

My friends whom I have met through this blog generally supported my stateMy friends whom I have met through this blog generally supported my statements. Birds of a feather flock together, right? I was, however, quickly reminded of the fact that most of my friends don’t live in white rural northwest Ohio. Several local residents decided to respond to my posts. That they do so is quite strange since they never comment on anything of mine except the photographs I post from local high school sporting events. It became clear, to me anyway, that my posts hit a nerve. How dare I disparage their man with facts.

Here’s what one young 100% Trumper said:

Are you kidding me! Have you seen the city’s? [sic] It’s called LAW AND ORDER! Pretty crazy to see a Presidential candidate say he was going to DISARM America. You are worried about a President doing what he’s supposed to do, only because his name is Donald Trump. Shame on you!

I responded:

Not only do I watch the news, I grew up in the 1960s. I’ve seen a lot of history. Trump is a self-aggrandizing narcissist who only cares about his reelection. The only shame here is his behavior. You might want to educate yourself about the use of military troops on US soil. It is FORBIDDEN by law, except in dire circumstances— say, the Civil War. Trump did what he did in D.C. because Washington is not a state. It is the responsibility of the Park Rangers and D.C. police to protect government property. And even here, the militarization of the police is troubling. They’ve become soldiers instead of peacekeepers. Trump finally got his military parade. Too bad he trashed the law, Christianity, and the American people to get it.

I received no further comment from this man, save a link to a Federalist article. No discussion on the merits of my comment about the legality of Trump’s actions. Nada, zip, nothing.

This shouldn’t surprise me. I have spent most of my life living in rural Ohio — both in southeast and northwest Ohio. I know that politically I am viewed as a strange duck, a black duckling in the midst of white ducks. The same goes for my lack of religious faith. I love living in the sticks, but I am increasingly depressed by the intractable ignorance I see around me. I don’t want to come off sounding like a know-it-all liberal elitist, but damn, can’t anyone see what Trump is doing to our republic?

While campaigning for presient in 2016, Trump gleefully stated: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” I thought, at the time, that statements such as this one would surely derail Trump’s campaign. Four years later, I must admit Trump was right. When it comes to his Evangelical base — especially those who live in rural states — Trump seems to be coated with Teflon. Nothing sticks to him. Not his lies. Not his policies that harm rural voters. Not his callous indifference towards the death of over 105,000 American from COVID-19. As long as Trump gives the appearance of being Christian and pro-life, Evangelicals are going to vote for him.

Waiting for Evangelicals to have some sort of come-to-reason moment is a waste of time. It ain’t going to happen. And that, my friends, is downright depressing.

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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Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio?

etch a sketch
The Etch-a-Sketch is made by Ohio Art, a Bryan, Ohio company. Once manufactured in Bryan, it is now made overseas.

I used to be a member of the Growing Up in Bryan, Ohio Facebook group. The group is made up of people who live/lived in Bryan, Ohio. Recently, the subject of racism was brought up and this provoked a lively discussion about the state of race relations in Bryan. This got me to thinking: does racism still exist in rural northwest Ohio and Bryan? Have we reached a place where we live in a post-racial era, even here in homogenous rural Ohio? Before I answer this question, I want to spend some time talking about demographics and my own experiences as a resident of rural northwest Ohio.

My father grew up on a hundred-acre farm three miles south of Bryan and attended Ney High School. My mother moved to Bryan as a teenager. Both of them worked for local Bryan businesses such as K&R Cleaners, The Hub, Carroll Ames, and Bryan Trucking. My father was part of a close-knit ethnic Hungarian group that settled in the Bryan area in the 1920s and 1930s. My parents considered Bryan home, and in 1957 it became my home. My brother and sister were also born in Bryan.

Even though I have spent most of my life living in other places, Bryan is home to me. Try as I might to flee the topographically boring flatlands of rural northwest Ohio, I consider Bryan my home. Over the years, I’ve lived in California, Michigan, Texas, Arizona, and southeast Ohio. I’ve also lived in or near the northwest Ohio communities of Farmer, Deshler, Harrod, Alvordton, Mt. Blanchard, and Findlay. Currently, I live in Ney, a one-stoplight, two-bars village six miles south of Bryan.

Bryan was settled in 1840 and is the seat of Williams County. In 1950, the population was 6,365 people. In 2010, the population was 8,545 people. Bryan saw a 12.9% population growth between 1970 and 1980 and 5.9% growth between 1980 and 1990. Since 1990, the population has grown 8.2%.

According to the 2010 US Census:

  • 94.3% (8,056) of Bryan residents are white
  • .6% (47) Black
  • .9% (73) Asian
  • .2% (14) Native American
  • .1% (5) Pacific Islander
  • 2.0% (170) Mixed Race
  • 5.1% (436) Hispanic or Latino

Statistics are taken from the 2010 US Census Report

The Bryan of today is more racially diverse than at any time in its 175-year history. While this is good news, the reason for the diversity is non-white medical professionals moving to Bryan to work for the local hospital and medical group and white-collar professionals moving here to work for local companies. This diversity is primarily driven by economics.

The Bryan of my youth was 100% white. I was five years old before I saw a black person for the first time — a porter at the Chicago train station. As a teenager, I was told by one proud and ignorant Bryanite that Bryan was 100% white and proud of it. According to him, back in the day, any black caught in town after dark was run out of town. I suspect his attitude was quite common.

In the 1970s, I attended high school in Findlay, Ohio, a community 75 miles southeast of Bryan. The 1970 population of Findlay was 35,800 people. Like Bryan, Findlay was as white as white could be. There were two black students who attended Findlay High School, and they were brother and sister. Today, .3% (886) of Findlay residents are black.

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

It was not until I moved to Pontiac, Michigan to attend Midwestern Baptist College that I came into close contact with blacks. Freshman year, one of my roommates was a black man from Philadelphia. The college was connected with nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Emmanuel ran numerous bus routes into Pontiac and Detroit, busing in thousands of blacks. Most of the children from Detroit attended B Sunday school. The B was the designation given for the afternoon Sunday school. It was not long before I figured out that the B stood for black. When an overtly racist man became the bus pastor, one of the first things he did was stop running the buses to Detroit. We were told this was due to budget restraints, but many of us thought the real reason was race.

The college and church were located in a bad part of Pontiac. (Some might argue, is there a good part of Pontiac?) The projects were nearby and the area east of the college was decidedly black. My experiences with the local black community, with its rundown housing and rampant crime, helped to reinforce the racist stereotypes I had been taught by my parents. It didn’t help that gangs of black youth repeatedly broke into the dormitory and ransacked the place while everyone was at church. A few years back, the college relocated to an overwhelmingly white community.

My parents, typical of their generation, were racists. It is impossible to paint the picture any other way. Whether their racism was from their own upbringing or their membership in the John Birch Society, they made no apology for their fundamentalist Christian-driven racism. They had a special hatred for Martin Luther King, Jr. My mother thought King got exactly what he deserved when he was assassinated in 1968. Like it or not, this is my heritage.

In the 1980s, Polly and I lived in southeast Ohio. For a number of years, we were foster parents. One of the children we cared for was black. We had made arrangements to rent a house outside of Somerset, Ohio — where I was pastoring at the time — from a retired school teacher. When we looked at the house, we did not have our foster child with us. Several days before we supposed to move in, the matronly pillar of the community called and said that she decided to not rent the house. We found out later that she told people that she was not going to have a “nigger” living in her house.

We moved to New Lexington, Ohio, and enrolled our foster child in the local public school, thinking little about how hard it might be for her to be the only black kid in the school. Needless to say, she was subjected to daily racial taunts. One day, the principal called us and said our foster child had created a disturbance in class. One of her classmates had called her a “nigger” and she threw her book at her taunter and stormed out of class.

I was quite upset at her behavior. Having never walked in her shoes, I had no way of knowing what it was like to be singled out and taunted for the color of my skin. I gave her the stern Pastor Gerencser lecture, reminding her that she was accountable for behavior and that she couldn’t respond this way every time someone called her a “nigger.” While my words had a ring of truth to them, they were quite insensitive and showed that I didn’t have a clue about how difficult it was for her as a young black woman.

In the mid-1980s, the church I pastored had a black missionary come and present his work. I took the missionary on a tour of the area and we stopped at the Somerset Snack Bar for lunch. The Snack Bar was where locals hung out, and it was always a busy hive of storytelling, gossip, and news. The Snack Bar was quite noisy when we walked in the door, but as patrons glanced up to see who was coming in, the noise quickly dissipated. I later learned that several of the locals were upset over the Baptist preacher bringing a “nigger” into the Snack Bar.

In 1995, I moved back home to northwest Ohio, pastoring a church in Alvordton for a short time, and then pastoring a church in West Unity for seven years. Polly and I have lived in this area now for 23 years. This is our home. Our 6 children and 13 grandchildren all live within 20 minutes of our home.

It was during my time as pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity that I began to address my own latent racism and the racism that percolated under the surface of the local community. As my politics began to move to the left, my preaching took on a social gospel flavor, and this included preaching on racism.

When a church member would talk about “colored” people, I would ask them, so what color were they? Oh, you know what I mean, preacher! Yes, I do. So, how is the color of their skin germane to the story you are telling? I did the same when members talked about “those” people — “those” meaning blacks, Mexicans, or people perceived to be welfare bums.

What made things difficult was that we had a black man attending the church. He was a racist’s dream — the perfect stereotype. He was on welfare, didn’t work, lived in Section 8 housing, had an illegitimate child, and spent most of his waking hours trying to figure out how to keep from working. The church financially helped him several times, and we brought him groceries on numerous occasions. One time he called and told me he needed groceries. I told him that I would have someone bring them over to him later that day. He then told me, preacher, I’m a meat and potato man, so I don’t want no canned food. Bring me some meat. He’s still waiting for those groceries to be delivered.

As I read the comments on the Growing Up in Bryan, Ohio Facebook group (the post is no longer available), I noticed that there was an age divide. Older people such as I thought Bryan was still, to some degree, racist, while younger people were less inclined to think Bryanites were racist, or they thought local racists were a few bad apples. I think that this reflects the fact that race relations are markedly “better” now in this area.

The reasons are many:

  • Older generations, those raised in the days of race riots, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jim Crow are dying off.
  • Local residents are treated by doctors who are not white. My wife’s gynecologist is a dark-skinned Muslim.
  • Interracial couples now live in the area.
  • Migrants workers, once a part of the ebb and flow of the farming season, are now primarily permanent residents.
  • Younger adults and teenagers no longer think race is a big deal.
  • Music, television, and the Internet have brought the world to our doorstep, allowing us to experience other cultures.
  • Sports, in which the majority of athletes in the three major professional sports — football, basketball, and baseball — are non-white. Cable and satellite TV broadcast thousands of college and professional games featuring non-white players.

Exposure breeds tolerance. Bigoted attitudes about gays and same-sex marriage are on prominent display in rural northwest Ohio. These attitudes remind me of how things once were when it came to race. Time and exposure to people who are different from us can’t help but change how we view things like race and sexual orientation. My children are quite accepting and tolerant of others, and I hope that these attitudes will be passed on to my grandchildren. We are closer today than we ever have been to Martin Luther King’s hope of “a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

We haven’t arrived. Latent, institutional racism must continue to be challenged. Recent protests and riots across the United States reveal that we have a long, long, long way to go before we reach King’s hope and dream. Unfortunately, there are those who use race and fear to stoke distrust and hate of those who are different. We must forcefully marginalize (and vote out of office) those who want to return America to the 1950s. We must also be willing to judge our own attitudes about race. We enlightened liberals gleefully look at the extreme right and we see racism and bigotry in all its glory. Yet, if we are honest, such things exist in our own backyard. None of us can rest until we have achieved a post-racial world. We have much work to do.

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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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.

Evangelical Man Wants Me to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth About My Life

calvin and hobbes proving truth

Recently, an Evangelical man by the name of Roger Smoak left the following comment on Why I Hate Jesus, the most widely read (and misunderstood) post on this site:

I would be interested in knowing what Really happened? Was it your fibromalga that wasn’t healed? Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis? Was it your dad dying at an early age or you mom who committed suicide?Was it depression you faced when you quit believing and/or your wife (pastor’s child) had to choose between you and her faith? Was it all the material wealth you experienced during your pastoring where you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God? If the “Western Jesus” has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament? Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church? I guess just as you judge others I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

When I receive comments such as this — and I have received hundreds of them over the past thirteen years — the first thing I do is look at the site logs to see exactly what the commenter has read.

Take Roger, a South Carolinian. He read:

That’s it. Right next to the Why I Hate Jesus page is a page titled WHY? On this page is a plethora of posts that curious readers can read, and in doing so find most of their questions about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism answered. Evidently, Roger didn’t see this page or couldn’t be bothered to look at its content.

Evangelicals tend not to be very curious, that is unless they are surfing YouPorn. Then they are quite interested in every aspect of female and male bodies. But actually reading about and investigating the life of an Evangelical pastor turned atheist? Nah, how much information does one need to judge a man the Bible says is a fool, a follower of Satan.

In 2015 post titled Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait, I wrote:

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser-than-a-cat Evangelical, but many aren’t. I frequently get emails or blog comments from Evangelical Christians wanting to “help” me find my way to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill to win me to Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and fellate their God.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. (Or the past 90 days, 64,000+ first-time visitors have come to this site via a search engine — mostly Google.) These searchers read that one post and immediately conclude that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of their peculiar flavor of Jesus.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have only read the pages their search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding, leading them to make wild judgments about me, and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If they would just read the About page and the WHY page they would be better informed about me and this blog. How hard can it be, right?

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity, is because they are one-hundred percent certain that they are absolutely right. In their minds, they worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tells them that they are his own. They have a supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life they will ever need. Why should they read anything else?

When you are certain, there’s no need to think, reason, investigate, question, or doubt. When the triune God is on your team, no need to consider any other team. When your God/sect/church/pastor has declared that strawberry ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate Chip, or any other flavor.

Simply put, no need to know anything else, when you already know all you need to know. God said it and that settled it. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,023 years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible blueprint for Christ-honoring families, happy marriages, obedient children, and great sex. When the answer to every question is God, it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-minded, senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer will you go to heaven when you die, the journey rather than the destination becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

Now let me circle back around to Roger’s comment.

From the get-go, Roger says that he thinks I am lying or withholding information. He wants to know what REALLY happened to me. Well, shit, Roger, this blog is titled, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. This is a clue that says, HEY ROGER, THIS BLOG IS ABOUT THE LIFE OF EVANGELICAL PASTOR-TURNED-ATHEIST BRUCE GERENCSER!

Most readers would say that I am open, honest, and transparent about my past and present life. I have been willing to write about things that are painful and embarrassing to me. I have never wanted to paint a less-than-honest picture of my life. I watched too many preachers do just that back in my preaching days, and I see it going on still today. Sometimes, I want to scream to them TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH! Alas, Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of truth avoidance; a culture that values name, reputation, and prestige more than it does honesty and truth.

Roger goes through a greatest hits list of reasons he thinks may be the reason I left the ministry and later left Christianity (grammar corrected for readability):

  • Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?
  • Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?
  • Was it your dad dying at an early age?
  • Was it your mom committing suicide?
  • Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?
  • Was it your wife — pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?
  • Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Let me call Roger’s statements the Seven Was-Its.

Was-It Number One: Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996 — 12 years before I walked away from Christianity. During my career as a pastor, I battled chronic bronchitis, had bacterial pneumonia twice, had pleurisy several times, contracted mononucleosis — which almost killed me — and was treated for a plethora of joint and muscle problems. Not one time did I question God. I accepted being sick as God’s perfect plan for my life.

Was-It Number Two: Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?

Actually, my oldest daughter has Down syndrome. When Bethany was born thirty years ago, my wife and I viewed her as a gift from God. We never questioned God blessing us with Bethany. Bethany having Down syndrome played no part in my deconversion.

Was-It Number Three: Was it your dad dying at an early age?

A curious reader would have found out that my dad and I weren’t close. We didn’t have an adversarial relationship, but definitely not close. I was outside the church raking leaves when Polly told me Dad was dead. We hugged, and I went back raking leaves. While I now miss my dad, his death played no part in my deconversion.

Several months ago, I had my DNA tested. I learned what I have long suspected — that Dad was not my biological father. (I plan to write about this someday.) I found that my father was a truck driver who lived in Chicago at the time. He likely met my seventeen-year-old mom while she was working at The Hub, a now-defunct truck stop in Bryan, Ohio. I have a half-brother in Michigan. Talk about messing up your ancestry tree.

Was-It Number Four: Was it your mom committing suicide?

Mom and I were close. Her suicide at age fifty-four deeply affected me. I so wish she were here today so she could play grandma to our grandchildren. (Please see Barbara.) That said, Mom’s death played no part in my loss of faith. My life with Mom certainly affected me in more ways than I can count, but not when it came to walking away from Christianity.

Was-It Number Five: Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?

This one is almost funny. I have battled depression most of my adult life — from my early 20s. Thus, depression was the dark passenger of my life from the time I pastored my first church until today. The difference back then is that I buried my depression under a mountain of lies, prayers, and Bible verses. After I left Christianity, I sought out a secular psychologist to talk to. It was only then that I began to unwind the complexities of my life. I still battle depression today. It ain’t going away. My mental health goal is to keep from falling into the rabbit hole and having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, I fail.

Was-It Number Six: Was it your wife — a pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?

Now, this one is downright funny — and stupid. Yes, Polly is the daughter of a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Her parents have attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio for over four decades. That said, Polly has never had to make a choice between her “faith” and her husband of forty-one years. I never sensed that she struggled with choosing between me and God. Sure, we left Christianity together, but that’s where the similarities end. Each of us has our own reasons for deconverting. One thing is certain, if I ever said I was planning to re-enter the ministry or start attending an Evangelical church again, Polly would like divorce me or kill me with one of her Lodge cast iron pans. Trust me on this one, my wife has zero interest in Christianity. In many ways, her feelings about the past are much stronger than mine. The only difference is that Polly doesn’t write about her feelings on a blog that is read by thousands of people.

Was-It Number Seven: Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Seven strikes and you are out, Roger. For most of my ministry, I believed that living in poverty was God’s chosen path for me and my family. A good case can be made from the Bible that materialism and wealth are contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. While I prayed for material blessing, I never questioned God’s provision. I worked my ass off, and let God take care of the details.

Roger goes on to ask, “if the ‘Western Jesus’ has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament?

These are the kind of questions that make me want to scream. Roger evidently has never read a Christian history book. He thinks that his brand of Christianity is that of Jesus, the Apostles, and the first century church, when it is, in fact, every bit as westernized as mine was in my preaching days. In fact, I suspect if Roger had met me back in the day, he would have loved my preaching and teaching.

By not being curious, Roger misunderstands the chronology of my life. Roger writes:

Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church?

I pastored my last church in 2003 and left the ministry in 2005 — three years before my deconversion in November 2008. I still did some preaching, but I no longer was interested in the dog-and-pony show called the ministry. In 2005 — as a last fling of sorts — I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. It became clear to me that my heart was no longer in the ministry, and neither was Polly’s. We spent the next three years trying to find a church we could call home. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT! for a list of the churches we visited.) In the end, we concluded that despite the names above the doors, churches are all pretty much the same.

Roger concludes his comment by saying:

I guess just as you judge others, I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

This brings me around to the fact that Roger thinks I am lying about my past and present life. He wants to “judge” my life, and determine for himself the “real” reasons I left the ministry and later left Christianity. Roger would love to interrogate my wife and children or “someone” — whoever the hell that is — who would confirm the “real” reasons I am no longer an Evangelical pastor. Something tells me that Roger thinks he already knows the “truth” about my life. He just needs someone to authenticate and confirm his judgments.

I have decided to be brutally open and honest with Roger. I sincerely — in the name of Loki –want him to know the truth about me.

Roger, I never was a Christian. The joke is on the thousands of people I pastored. I was a deceiver, a false prophet, a destroyer of souls. I spent most of my adult life living a lie, pretending to be a follower of Jesus just so I could work 60-80 hours a week, earn $12,000 a year, live off of food stamps, drive $300 cars, and raise six children in a 12′ by 60′ foot mobile home. Instead of accepting secular employment that paid fabulously well, I chose the aforementioned lifestyle all because I wanted to be a wolf among sheep.

I know you really want to know about the sex stuff. You got me, Roger. I fathered several children with female congregants. I also had gay relationships with several deacons. Not only that, I also was a porn addict, frequented houses of prostitution, and attended all-male revues at the local strip club.

I spent five years teaching church children without pay at our Christian Academy. I taught them the Bible and the doctrines of historic Christianity. Why? I was a deceiver, an apostate.

Today, I am a crossdressing worshiper of Satan. Every Halloween, I sacrifice Christian infants to Lord Lucifer. I spend every waking hour trying to destroy God. I hate him, as I do all Christian churches and pastors.

This, I suspect, is more akin to Roger’s narrative of my life than reality. Why read, investigate, ask questions, and attempt to understand when you can read a couple of pages and render infallible, self-righteous judgment.

Let me leave Roger with a verse from the Bible he says he believes. Proverbs 18:13 says:

New International Version
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.

New Living Translation
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

English Standard Version
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

New American Standard Bible
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

New King James Version
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

King James Bible
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens–this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

Contemporary English Version (my favorite)
It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.

Good News Translation
Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens– this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

New American Standard 1977
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

American Standard Version
He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him.

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that answereth before he heareth sheweth himself to be a fool, and worthy of confusion.

Thus saith the Lord.

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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