Atheism

Where is the God of Elijah?

elijah

Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah asked, in 2 Kings 2:14, where if the God of Elijah? Christians of today should be asking the same question.

Elijah’s God is one that sent fire from heaven and killed the prophets of Baal. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Elijah’s God dealing harshly with those who opposed or disobeyed him. Elijah’s God drowned everyone in the world, except Noah and his family, because the world was increasingly wicked. The God of Elijah, rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, used his followers to slaughter countless enemies, and even killed a man for trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tipping over. Elijah’s God, at least in the Old Testament, was a vengeful, angry God that was the meanest son-of-a-bitch in town. He was not a God to be trifled with. As the writer of Hebrews said, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

However, once we get to the New Testament, outside of killing Ananias and Sapphira because they lied about the price they received for a property, Elijah’s God seems to have successfully completed anger management class and is being treated for a split personality disorder. Granted, according to the book of Revelation, God will, someday, go off his meds and revert to the vengeful, angry, petulant God of the Old Testament. But, for now, we have to wonder…exactly where IS Elijah’s God?

Evangelical preachers and TV talking heads frequently say that we are living in the Last Days. Some think it is just as bad now as it was in the days of Noah or when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the advent of the internet, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and virtually every non-Christian religion you can think of, has taken to the blogosphere to preach heresy and ridicule and mock the Evangelical Christian God. Abortionists, homosexuals, Hollywood actors, and Democrats, promote godlessness and give nary a thought about Elijah’s bad ass God. Where is Elijah’s God? You know that God who routinely killed false prophets and those who dare to disobey him?

It seems to me that there are two explanations for Elijah’s God being AWOL. Either he is on vacation and when he comes back he will take care of those who blaspheme his name or he doesn’t exist.  I am inclined to think that Elijah’s God doesn’t exist. Supposedly, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Surely, God should act consistently, yes? Why then, does he not strike down evil, wicked, Christ-denying false prophets like me? Why has he allowed Bart Ehrman to have such a devastating effect on the Christian church?  These days, vocal atheists live full lives and the Evangelical God does not touch them? Again, is God on vacation? Or perhaps this God does not exist.

According to Evangelicals, God is knows the number of hairs on their head, helps them find their car keys, and blesses them with jobs, cars, vacations, and palace-like church buildings. He is a micromanaging God, interested in every detail of their lives, yet when it comes to modern false prophets he does nothing. Doesn’t this seem strange to you? More than one Christian zealot has prayed an imprecatory prayer over my head, yet here I am. Why? Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Evangelical God struck me dead or caused my hands to wither up so I couldn’t type? Imagine the stories preachers could tell about the atheist God killed. Imagine books that could be written about my life, cautionary tales about a man who thought he was bigger than God. Yet, despite all the prayers, sermons, blog posts, and indignant calling fire down from heaven blog comments, I remain alive.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to ask, where IS the God of Elijah? Let me know when you find him. For now, I fear his crazy, right-wing followers a lot more than I do him. You know, the ones who say they would love for someone to slit my throat.  If the Evangelical God wants to straighten me out, chastise me, or kill me, he knows where I live.

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

Those Who Fall Away Just Didn’t Love Jesus Enough

facebook jesus

Susan, who blogs at Susan’s Flutterbys, continues to be infatuated with yours truly. In today’s missive, she quotes Joshua Whipps, agrees with him, and says since I used my real name in a comment she is officially “outing” me. Which is kind of funny since I have never been “in”. I have always used my real name on the internet. I am readily accessible, with nothing to hide.

Susan tells a bold-faced lie when she states:

…Mr. Gerencser ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.

Meaningful dialog is ALWAYS welcome. Susan made no attempt to have meaningful dialog with me, accusing me of being an hater, and when asked to give here reasons for this claim, refused to do so. Even on her own blog, after my good friend John Arthur commented on a previous post  about me, Susan closed down the comments. As far as Joshua Whipps is concerned, I asked him to comment on the blog posts he disagreed with, yet he made it clear that he was not going to lower himself and waste his valuable words on the people who read The Way Forward. Whipps could have engaged in meaningful dialog with me but he chose not to. Whipps wrote a total of three posts about me but allowed no comments. Whipps considers his posts about me “teaching” posts. Yet, according to Susan and Whipps, I am the one that “ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.”

Now, on to the focus of this post. Susan recently listened to a sermon by Phil Johnson,the executive director of Grace to You and a longtime member of John MacArthur’s church. This is what she learned:

One thing he says towards the beginning is the thing that I was (thankfully I can say “was”) having trouble with. He says that institutions and persons have failed and will continue to fail into the future, but the gospel of Jesus will be triumphant. I admit that I was overly concerned by individual persons failing and falling away. Pastor Johnson says that this is actually a blessing in disguise in that the Lord is weeding out through this process the pretenders and keeping the faithful remnant. Pastor Johnson sees the season of unpopularity of the Church having a purifying effect on the Church because the ones who go for any other reason besides their love of Jesus, will drop out. They can deny and deny and speak of their previous love for Jesus, but in the end TRUE LOVE DOESN’T FAIL, so their denials are about as valid as an alcoholic saying he’s not a drunk.

Here’s the gist of Susan’s Johnson Bruce inspired post:

  • The Lord is weeding pretenders like Bruce Gerencser out of the church
  • Bruce Gerencser had some other motivation than love for Jesus and this is why he fell away
  • Bruce Gerencser didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough

I always find it amazing that people from afar, people who never sat under my ministry, never heard me preach, never observed my life, can make such severe judgments about my life. I suppose I am to blame for this. I am quite open and honest as I tell my story and this gives my critics a lot of information by which to judge my life. Yet, not one church member, fellow pastor, or personal friend ever thought that I didn’t love Jesus. This charge is silly, unfounded, and a lazy attempt to explain away my life.

Here’s two questions I have for Susan and the “I really didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough” crowd:

  • How much love for Jesus is enough?
  • What is the standard for determining if a Christian really loves Jesus or loves him enough?

Susan’s post is a reminder that Calvinists, for all their talk about salvation by grace, actually believe in salvation by works. The measure of love for Jesus is what? Good works. Since I didn’t persevere and continue to produce good works that showed I really, really, really loved Jesus, I never “really” loved Jesus and was never a true Christian.  Unless the Calvinist continues producing good works and continues to do so until their last breath, they can not be certain that they are a Christian.

I know I can not convince the Susan’s and Joshua Whipps of the world of anything. Their minds are made up. They have weighed me in the balance and found me wanting..

Let me close this post with one of my favorite songs when I was a pastor. When I led and sang this song I did so with every fiber of my being. It is ludicrous to say that I was a deceiver or that I never loved Jesus. Like two people who were once married, their marriage likely ended with a loss of love, but who can doubt they, at one time, loved one another. So it was with my relationship with Jesus. Here’s the song, Gone From My Heart the World and All its Charms:

Gone from my heart the world and all its charms;
Now through the blood I’m saved from all alarms;
Down at the cross my heart is bending low;
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow.

I love Him, I love Him,
Because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calv’ry’s tree.

Once I was lost, and fallen deep in sin;
Once was a slave to passions fierce within;
Once was afraid to meet an angry God,
But now I’m cleansed from every stain thro’ Jesus’ blood.

Once I was bound, but now I am set free;
Once I was blind, but now the light I see;
Once I was dead, but now in Christ I live,
To tell the world around the peace that He doth give.

Responses to Joshua Whipps

Another Deconstruction of My Story

Joshua Whipps: I’ve Read Your Blog

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

Response to Susan

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

Evangelicals Use the Wrong Equation to Determine Their Beliefs

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 24

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

fake church sign for anti pastor

A recent commenter by the name of Susan stopped by to let me know that I was a “hater.” She had this to say on the post Fundamentalist Christian Gnats:

I feel very sad for you and everyone who chooses to agree with your hatred…I know…you’ll say that I’m the “hater” or gnat or what have you…sad

I responded:

What in this post even remotely suggests I was being hateful? I responded in a slightly snarky way to fundamentalist Christians that threaten to slit my throat and who take great delight in deconstructing and attacking every aspect of my life, and I am the one that is a hater and those who see these things for what they are are haters too?

I have no idea if you are a hater. I suspect you are based on the blogs you list on your blogroll, but until you give me reason to think so, I am withholding judgment, a practice you might want to consider implementing in your own life.

A short while ago, Susan decided to write a blog post about me. She’s decided to crown me the Anti-Pastor.  Here’s what she had to say:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.   2 John 2:18 (ESV)

I have heard that it happens from time to time, a pastor struggles with his faith…and gives up the struggle. Recently I stumbled onto the website of such a former pastor. God only knows if he truly was saved and if he was (I personally doubt it myself) the Lord will retrieve Him in His time. As of this time this ex-pastor not only says he has given up on Christianity, he also feels it his duty to anti-evangelize the flock. He goes about seeking whom he can “assist” in getting others to give up their faith just as he did. That is why I’ve christened him the anti-pastor. He doesn’t think it is enough to blaspheme God by saying He doesn’t exist, he also feels the need to yank people out of the fold. Yeah, that’s right…I truly thought I had seen it all. Is there no limit to the hurt the devil will inflict on Jesus? It seems not, however there is a limit. One day people like the anti-pastor will come to the end of the time the Lord will give to their foolishness which inflicts pain on others. He will limit it in such a way that the only pain they will inflict is on themselves for ever and ever. God in His mercy is still giving him time to repent (otherwise he would have passed from this life into his eternal fate) so I hope he will “get true wisdom” and learn truly of Christ instead of getting his learning from the spirit of antichrist. God only knows how much more time the anti-pastor has left on earth to turn around and repent of the error of his ways.

I’m not going to post a link to this man’s website because the teachings of this man are ugly to say the least. If anyone is interested in doing research into these ridiculous goings on I’ll make it available upon request with a warning to cover yourself in prayer before inflicting such ugliness on yourself. For most of us it is enough to be aware that he’s out there, and the Lord is allowing him to do his worst damage for a while, until He says “Enough!”, and then it will be too late for the anti-pastor. Let’s hope for him he wises up before it is too late for him.

By quoting 2 John 2:18, Susan wants to make a clear connection between the anti-Christ in the Bible and Bruce Gerencser, the anti-pastor. I am honored to be considered in the same league as one of the most famous people in the Christian Bible. My brother Anti-Christ and I have the same father, the Devil, so I am somewhat surprised that it took 57 years for someone to make this connection.

Let me summarize what Susan has concluded about me:

Only God knows if I was ever truly saved but she doesn’t think I was.

So if God only knows, why is she venturing an opinion on the state of my soul? The truth is, she is pretty certain that I was never a Christian.

My goal is life is to evangelize Christians and cause them to lose their faith.

What does this say about God, Jesus, and Christianity if one lowly Evangelical pastor turned atheist can cause someone to lose their faith?  I have stated many times before and I will state it again, my goal is not to turn people into atheists. I am a facilitator. I try to help people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity. Susan will look in vain for ONE person to testify that I tried to evangelize them out of their faith.

Susan spends most of her post threatening me, a blasphemer,  with God, judgment, and hell I don’t think exists.

According to Susan, the only reason I am not dead already is because God is giving me time to repent. I am not sure how she knows this? I wish Christians would make up their mind about what I actually am. One says I am a reprobate, another says God is giving me time to repent. One says I am taken over by Satan, another says I am a Christian that God is fixing to chastise. Please make up your mind people. Am I saved, am I lost? Am I in or am I out? If I am in, please turn the air conditioning on in my mansion. I am coming home sooner rather than later.

Susan doesn’t want to link to The Way Forward. I will assume she wants to avoid putting tender, impressionable souls in harm’s way. Evidently, I am one bad man, yet she tells her readers that it is the Lord himself that is allowing me to write all the horrible, blasphemous things I write on a daily basis. I guess I should stop typing for a moment and say thank you Jesus!

She warns those who dare to come in to my evil lair of iniquity, photography, decadence, and baseball, that they better be prayed up. Evidently, if a person is not prayed up they risk me snatching their Christianity right out of them.

Susan sees me as the enemy and I certainly understand why. I stand in opposition to her fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I suppose I might have responded to Bruce Gerencser, the atheist the same way when I was Bruce Gerencser, the pastor.

Here’s what Susan is missing. I am a loving, kind, decent human being, married to a wonderful heathen woman for 36 years. We have six children and nine, soon to be ten, grandchildren. We are happy, satisfied, and content as a cat getting a squirt of milk from a cow’s teat. Life is good. Susan never saw me as a person because all she saw was someone whom she determined was a hater of God.

Lost on her is the fact that I think it is foolish to hate fictional beings. Saying I hate God is like me saying I hate Santa Claus or the elf that lives in our maple tree. I hate real things, things like war, violence, political and religious oppression, and the St Louis Cardinals. My hatred of fundamentalism stems from the mental and emotional abuse done in the name of fundamentalist’s God. I hate the fruit of fundamentalism not the belief system. If I can get someone to look at the belief system then perhaps I can help end the abuse.

Susan and I agree on one thing, she hopes I find true wisdom. Unfortunately, she can not comprehend me leaving Christianity to find it.  A seeker of true wisdom is willing to travel wherever wisdom can be found. For Susan, the quest for wisdom begins and ends with the Christian God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and an inspired, inerrant text. For me, all I see ahead is open road.

I do hope that Susan will come back and actually have a conversation with me.

 

 

Published: July 22, 2014 | Comments: 29

Bruce the Cult Leader

bruce cult leader

Bruce Gerencser, Cult Leader, Deluding the Masses and Leading Them Straight to a Hell That Does Not Exist.

One of the more hilarious bits of gossip floating around on the internet is that I am a cult leader.

Yes, a cult leader.

The thinking goes like this….

I used to be a devoted, card-carrying member of the Christian cult. I was well-respected and I had lots of followers who loved to listen to my Holy Spirit inspired sermons.

But something happened. Many of the conspiracy theorists think that I have been taken over by Satan. They simply can not believe that I would willingly leave Christianity, leave the ministry, and become a godless atheist.

The only possible  answer to my current state of living is that Satan has gotten a hold of my heart and I have become a puppet for the god of this world.

Most everything I write on this blog PROVES that I am indeed working for Satan.  Besides, I am a liberal, socialistic, pacifistic, Democrat. Everyone knows that God is a war-loving, capitalistic Republican.

They are quite certain that Satan is using me to draw people away from Christianity. I have become an enemy of the Christian God. (because, according to them there is only ONE God) They think I have ulterior motives, that I am out to build a vast internet network of former Christians who will do my bidding.  I am the head cheese, the guru of gurus, the chief, the boss, the leader. How else can one explain all these people who read The Way Forward? (a readership that continues to climb as my message reaches the masses)

Here is the silly part, well the biggest silly part.

This requires you, the readers of this blog, to be mindless, brain-dead  Big Time wrestling fans.

Most of the readers of this blog are former Christians, doubting Christians, or Christians who are transitioning to a more liberal form of Christianity. The one thing many readers have in common with each other is that they have been negatively affected by fundamentalist religion.

Many people consider the The Way Forward a safe haven, a place where they can be open and honest about their struggles with religion. No judgments here. I am happy if you are happy.  Wherever your journey takes you is fine with me. Whether you end up with God, no God,another God, or a god of your own making, I am happy for you as long as you have walked the road of your life with honesty and integrity.

For most of us, when we finally decided to break with our fundamentalist past, we gathered up our brains at the door, the same door where we had left our brains many years ago. Fundamentalism does not encourage out of the box thinking. They expect, even demand conformity . One size fits all, Jesus is the answer to everything. Fundamentalism discourages rational, complex thinking, contrary to what some “deep” thinking fundamentalist Calvinists might think.

Once we reengage our minds we are off to the races.  A wild, wonderful world is waiting for us. No longer boxed in, no longer held fast by the cords of fundamentalism, we are free to think, question, and decide based on fact rather than dogma. It is a scary life, but a life I would not trade  for the largest church in America. (once one of by biggest desires)

Look, I am bit narcissistic, as all Americans are. I like the fact that the readership of this blog increases every week.  It is a real  mental boost for me to know that people not only read what I write but also profit from it. Every writer wants their writing to be read by others.

But………….Bruce, a cult leader?

Laugh.

Laugh.

Laugh.

Many of the readers of this blog were already on their way of out religion when our paths crossed. I may give a voice to the burden they carry or I may preach a godless sermon that bears witness to the common struggle we have, but they are not followers of me. In fact, to suggest they are is offensive, not only to them, but to me.

We are free agents. Free to think as we wish. Free to believe or not believe. Free. Free. Free.  For many of us we shouted FREEDOM when we finally escaped the mind-numbing grasp of fundamentalist religion. Do the conspiracy theorists really believe that we will ever pledge ourselves to ANY human leader (or god for that matter) ever again?  Not a chance.

I am not a cult leader and I am quite certain that the readers of this blog are not cult followers who have been duped by a Satan inspired 57-year-old  fat, balding, redheaded man. These days I can’t even get my wife to follow or obey me.  Once she found out those verses in the Bible that said to her submit and obey were no longer applicable…well let’s just say…she is likes her freedom.

Published: July 21, 2014 | Comments: 33

Explaining the Unexplainable

god did it

Things happen that defy explanation.

I spent a good part of my life within a religious structure that took great pains to explain the unexplainable.

No matter the issue or the circumstance that couldn’t be explained, the answer was always the same.

God.

God did it.

To God be the glory.

Usually, the God did it answer was reserved for unexplainable things that were perceived as good.

Bad things?

God was never held accountable for what was perceived as bad.

Sometimes God would be given credit with a disclaimer. God was testing us, trying us, or punishing us.

Usually bad things were attributed to the Devil, to the flesh, to sin.

Every unexplainable thing that happened was explained.

To God be the glory great things he hath done, the old hymn says.

God is sovereign.

God is in control.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

In simple words God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present.

Prayer.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Then out of nowhere an unexplainable answer comes.

God.

As I reflect on 50 years spent thinking God was the answer to every question, I am forced to ask myself “how many of those God sighting in my life were just human sightings or Bruce sightings?”

I can count on one hand the things I have experienced in life that have no explanation.

Everything else that I attributed to God can just as easily be attributed to self or another human being.

I prayed for countless numbers of people who were sick, dying, mentally afflicted or bankrupt. I can not point to one prayer over 50 years where I can honestly say “there is no human explanation for what happened.”

All of the dying people I prayed for died.

All the prayers in the world didn’t keep my wife and I from going bankrupt.

All the prayers in the world didn’t keep me from debilitating illness.

Either I was a bad prayer-er or their was something amiss in the whole “let go, let God” kind of praying.

I prayed every day for 35 years.

I read my Bible almost every day too, reading through the Good Book dozens of time.

I witnessed, preached on street corners, and preached almost 5,000 sermons.

I worked for a pittance of money, believing that my self-sacrifice was pleasing to God.

I sincerely committed my heart, soul, and mind to following Jesus.

Yet, God was silent.

Oh, I attributed many things to the hand of God, the voice of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit.

All lies.

Well intentioned lies, but lies nonetheless.

I really thought God filled my mouth with the words to say when I preached.

But I always wondered, if the Bible is the Words of God why not just read the Bible to people? Wouldn’t it be better if people heard directly from God without an intermediary?

I pastored a lot of people who had unexplainable things happen to them.

The answers were always the same.

God.

Satan.

The flesh.

I have come to see that most things in life, even the surprising things, can be attributed to  human volition.

And those, count on one hand, things I can find no explanation for?

They are just that, unexplainable.

God never enters the equation.

I have no desire to rob anyone of their God.

I know the power of having God as the answer to the great questions of life.

It is comforting.

If God is always on the job there is no need to lose any sleep over what may come our way.

But for me…

Life happens.

Shit happens.

Unexplainable things happen.

Life is what it is.

Let me finish this post with quote from Ecclesiastes.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Published: July 21, 2014 | Comments: 2

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

calvin obstetrician

Drawing by my friend, David Hayward. Please check out his new website.

Here in the Midwest, one of the annoyances of summer is gnats flying around your head. Yes, they are irritating, but Midwesterners know that winter is coming and gnats, along with flies will be dead. So it is in the blogging world. The subjects I write about attract fundamentalist Christian gnats. With righteous indignation they buzz around my head, irritating to be sure, but of no lasting consequence. From time to time I might swat one of them, but, for the most part, I know winter is coming and they will be d-e-a-d. They will move on to new people to dissect, deconstruct, and rage against. Since Christian fundamentalists are certain that they are right, there is no lack of people for them to annoy. Bzz Bzz Bzz, as they attempt to make themselves important and larger than life. Sometimes, they get in your ear and their buzzing sounds deafening, but just remember they are just a tiny insect of little consequence. Winter is coming…and they will be no more.

Six years of writing has resulted in countless buzzing gnats around my head. I am sure long time readers could even name some of the gnats that once buzzed loudly and are now dead. Filled with zeal for God, armed with an inerrant Bible, and certain that their peculiar interpretation of the Bible is straight from the lips of God to them, they rage against the preacher turned atheist. No matter how many gnats have come before them, they are certain that they are gnat above all gnats.

The latest fundamentalist Christian gnat to focus their attention on me thinks he is a gnat that flies faster and is smarter than all the gnats before him. In fact, he considers himself a gnat with great expertise. But he, like all who have come before him, will die come winter. So I am content to wait.

When a fundamentalist Christian gnat makes me the focus of their ire, as one such gnat has in recent days, writing 10,000 words about yours truly, I am reminded of my place in the internet animal kingdom:

Fundamentalist Christian gnat (choosinghats.org)

alexa metric choosinghats

Poor, pathetic, deluded, ignorant, atheist who blogs at brucegerencser.net

alexa metric

Over the course of the four days this fundamentalist Christian gnat spent buzzing around my head, a total of ten fellow gnats flew over to check out my writing. A mighty fundamentalist Christian gnat army indeed. Just remember, winter is coming.

It’s been a good two weeks, yes? One fundamentalist Christian gnat wishes someone would slit my throat and another sends me a $100 before he starts dive bombing at my head. And now it is the Calvinists, BZZ BZZ BZZ. I can only imagine how buzzingly indignant the fundamentalist Christian Calvinist gnats will be when I begin to write my series on Calvinism, a subject, according to the mad gnatters, I know nothing about.

Published: July 20, 2014 | Comments: 27

Please Stop Writing So Much About the Dumb Asses

Of late, my focus has been on my critics,the hate mail I have received, and the predatory behavior of certain Christian pastors and church leaders. While I think it is important to talk about things like this, I can find myself consumed by these things and I stop being a help to others. Most people, as one reader told me, know the dumb ass things these dumb asses do. There is no need to focus on them or spend an inordinate amount of time detailing their dumbassery.

I think this reader is right. I have nothing to offer the hardcore Christian zealot, and it is a waste of my time trying to play theologial tennis with them. A game every so often is fun, but playing every day is exhausting and not the best use of my time.

I am going to gone for parts of the next three days (dirt track race, baseball game) so my writing volume will be light. Come Monday, Zeus willing, I will try to focus on answering the questions readers have asked me. If you have any other questions, please send them to me via the contact page.

As always, thank you for reading.

Bruce

 

Published: July 18, 2014 | Comments: 8

The Evangelical Gospel of Self-Flagellation

self flagellation

We are all familiar with this or that movie showing a Catholic priest removing his shirt and whipping himself with a multi-tassled leather whip. The purpose of self-flagellation is the mortification of the flesh. According to Wikipedia, mortification of the flesh is:

…the institutional expiatory self-flagellation of a person or group’s penance for atonement of sins and path to sanctity

While Evangelicals do not literally practice physical self-flagellation, they do practice emotional and mental self-flagellation. From their earliest years in Sunday School, Evangelicals are taught that they are vile, wicked, sinful beings, unworthy of the mercy, love, and grace of God. Thanks to Adam and Eve, every human comes into this world as a vile, wicked, sinner. They come forth from their mother’s womb speaking lies. They are the enemy of God, a hater of all that is good and holy. There is none righteous, no not one, there is none that doeth go no not one. As the old Calvinistic Southern Baptist evangelist Rolfe Barnard used to say, mankind was ruined by the fall. Not just slightly bruised or damaged, but from head to toe ruined. So much so that the Bible describes the sinner as being dead in trespasses and sin. Like Lazarus lying 3 days rotting in the grave, so is every human. Unless God the father, through the merit and work of his son Jesus, and the wooing, drawing power of the Holy Ghost, grants spiritual life to dead sinners, they will remain in this wretched state until they die. They then will be cast into hell and later the Lake of Fire to pay the just penalty for their rebellion against the thrice holy God.

Imagine spending your entire life having this kind of thinking drilled into your head. Is it any wonder that so many Evangelicals have self-esteem problems? They have spent their entire life being told how vile, worthless, and sinful they are. If they dare assert any sort of self-determination or self-worth, they are quickly reminded that the Bible commands them to deny self. Like Jesus dying on the cross for humanity’s sin, the Evangelical is to crucify their own flesh. They are to die to any sense of ambition and self-worth. Even though they are a bought by the blood, sanctified child of God, the only thing that stands between God the father seeing them as vile, wicked, sinful beings, unworthy of the mercy, love, and grace of God, is Jesus. Jesus is the propitiation for the Christian’s sin. He is all that stands between an angry, wrathful God and the Christian.

In recent days, I have spent significant time reading Evangelical blogs, websites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages, especially those of a Calvinistic bent. Person after person gloried in how unworthy they were to be chosen by God. As I read these things, I began to think about how damaging emotionally and mentally this kind of thinking is. Any sinful behavior is the fault of the individual. God certainly can’t be blamed for evil, even though he is sovereign, decrees all things, and nothing happens apart from his purpose and plan It is the created being that bears all the responsibility for bad behavior.

However, when it comes to the praise given for good behavior, God pushes his way to the front of the line and says, all the praise belongs to me. He is the ultimate narcissist.  According to Evangelical theology, the only reason a Christian can do any good at all is because of God. They have no ability of their own to do good, so any good that they do is because of Jesus.

Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. We spent our lives being reminded of how unworthy we were, how sinful we were. When we did good things, we were reminded the good we did was because God was working in and through us. All praise, honor, and glory to Jesus! This kind of thinking destroys any sense of self-worth a person has. It should come as no surprise that secular counselors see in their practices, a significant number of ex-Evangelicals who are trying to regain some sense of self. After a lifetime of being told how sinful they are and how every good work they do is because of Jesus,  they are often an emotionally and mentally battered abuse victim, victimized by Evangelical theology wielded by preachers who think their calling in life is to make sure that people understand they are the worm sung about in the hymn At the Cross.

Every day, Christians, tired of the cycle of mental and emotional abuse and worthlessness, decide to walk away from Christianity. They are tired of never being good enough. They are tired of their good works not being their own. While they are quite willing to own their bad works, they have reached a place in life where they want the praise for their good works too. They know they are a good person, a decent, kind, loving, and giving person,so they are tired of being made to feel like they are the scum of the earth no matter what they do.

Some of these Christians who exit stage left seek out religious expressions that affirm their goodness and humanity. They join up with churches and sects that see the value in the inherent good that is in all of us. Some of them leave organized religion altogether, and declare themselves spiritual or non-religious. Others become atheists, agnostics, deists, or humanists,

Once freed of original sin and grace that is anything but grace, we are free to be authentic, honest people. We recognize that we are capable of doing bad things. The difference now is that we have no need of Christian expiation or redemption. We are free to own our bad behavior, and through our own works make whatever restitution is necessary. No need to take it to God in prayer and seek his forgiveness. We cut out the middle man,God, and directly seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt.

Greater yet, we can now revel in the goodness of our fellow humans.  We are free to accept the praises of others who recognize our good works, Their praise and respect is a reminder that we are good people, that we have the capacity, without a divine middleman, to do good things. We freely live by the two great commandments:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  • Don’t be an asshole.

Published: July 18, 2014 | Comments: 9