I have been blogging, in some form or the other since 2007. People like Andrew Hackman, who have been along for the ride since I first started blogging, have seen me start and stop blogging many times. People who know me well have come to expect that I will one day in the future stop blogging altogether. The reason? I don’t have the mental and emotional wherewithal to withstand being brutalized by trolls, haters, and Christian zealots. It is not a matter of if but when I crash again, many people think. My friend Michael Mock thinks I am the kind of person who runs as fast as he can, crashes, burns, and, in time, picks himself up out of the wreckage and starts again. I suspect that Michael is right.
The first time someone told me that I was too sensitive was in 1994. I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, and the man I worked with told me I was too sensitive. He said this after he personally attacked my character and I emotionally reacted to his viciousness. While I may have been an ardent, narrow minded fundamentalist at one time, I never personally attacked other people. I have never liked those who feel they have the right to attack and demean others. This is not the kind of person I am, so yes, I am emotionally and mentally sensitive to people who make it their life’s mission to disparage other people.
Recently, a fundamentalist Lutheran blogger by the name of Gary Matson Jr. came to this blog feigning to want to understand my journey and presented himself as a Christian that had a lot of questions about the Bible. I took Gary at face value, like I do most people, and I never considered that he might really be a troll. Several commenters, John Arthur and Sgl, suggested that Gary might not be what he claimed to be, and their suspicions were certainly validated when Gary went into full-attack mode against Bart Ehrman, atheists/agnostics, and yours truly over the past few days on his blog. Let me illustrate this for you. Over the weekend, Gary wrote a post titled, Is the Bible the Church’s Foundation? In the post he states:
If you have been following this blog for the last few days, you know that I and some of my readers have been engaged in an ongoing conversation with a couple of ex-evangelical-Christian agnostics and atheists. These ex-Christians have presented us with some very interesting, and even at first glance, disturbing, information about the Bible.
These men no longer believe that the Bible is God’s Word, as they once so strongly believed. These former pastors, youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers no longer believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that he is God, or that there is any God! What was it that triggered the loss of faith in these former believers?
I believe it is this: they were taught that the BIBLE is inerrant.
It is quite clear that this blog and me personally are the target of this post. I don’t have a problem with people writing posts about me or attempting to dismantle or discredit something I have written. I know this comes with the territory. Being a public writer means you can’t control what others say about you.
Here is the short “discussion” Gary and I had on his blog:
Bruce:I hope you are enjoying yourself, misrepresenting the views of others. You see Gary, apart from the textual issues of the Bible, another reason some of us left Christianity is because of people like you. You have misrepresented yourself on my blog and now you are misrepresenting the views of myself and others who comment on my blog. Your lack of ethics and integrity speaks far louder than any of the defenses you make for your version of fundamentalist Christianity.
When your subterfuge was made known to me I decided that you are not welcome to comment further on my blog. So, I will not approve any more of your comments.
And let me set the record straight on one thing. I stopped believing in the Bible inerrancy I was taught as a Baptist fundamentalist while I was still in the ministry, seven or so years before I deconverted.
So much for the premise of your post.
Gary: I don’t see your name in the above post, Bruce. There is a saying in the South: Throw a rock into a pack of fighting dogs, and the one that yelps is the one that got hit.
Your version of Christianity, in your words, “burned you out”. I can empathize. Fundamentalist Christianity did the same thing to me.
It also turned me into an angry, thin-skinned person. Any criticism of my beliefs and positions was met with self-righteous fury. Those who disagreed with me (and my church) were not just wrong…they were evil. I would not tolerate these people. We were taught to cut them out of our lives.
It has been more than 25 years since I left that branch of Christianity and I still deal with its effects on my personality and behavior, although to a much less extent.
The devastating effects of fundamentalism ring out in your posts and comments on your blog, Bruce. You are an angry, bitter, damaged human being, and fundamentalism is to blame. However, instead of realizing that it was Fundamentalism that was false, you decided that it was God himself who was false.
I pray that one day, you will recover from the damage done to you, Bruce, and once again find God.
Bruce: People who have been following your deception will see it for what it is.
You are projecting yourself and your broken relationship with your fundamentalist father on to me.
With that, I will say no more. Your response here confirmed for me that you are the man I thought you were. I hope you will see this some day.
Gary: An advisory to all ex-Christian atheists and agnostics:
On Judgment Day, when God asks you why you rejected his Son, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior, the same Jesus who died and shed his blood on the cross FOR YOU, the following reply is NOT going to cut it:
“Yes, God, I know it was bad of me to do, but, you see, I ALMOST believed in Jesus again, but that fundamentalist Lutheran, Gary, on that horrible Christian blog of his, was so mean to me, that I decided to continue rejecting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So you see, God, it is really Gary’s fault that I am an unbeliever.”
Gary: There has been no deception, Bruce, only a conversation, which for my part has been like walking on eggs due to your short fuse and hyper-sensitivity.
The honest truth is that you don’t want to have a conversation with Christians on your blog…unless they are considering converting to your new “religion”. I’ve never seen a blog author who is so tempermental and quick to pull the “I’m-banning-you-from-commenting lever”. Grow up, Bruce. If you are going to plaster the cyberspace with your seething, God mocking, anti-Christian rhetoric on a blog that allows comments, what do you expect? Regardless of all your moaning and protestations to the contrary, I think you ENJOY silencing Christians by pulling the “no-more-comments-from-you lever, because it is another opportunity to take a good whack at God!
Why don’t you do yourself and your little rabble of God-hating followers a favor and simply state that your site is for atheists, agnostics, and those contemplating as such ONLY, and that Christians are strictly forbidden from commenting? You moderate your comments. You have the ability to do that. But no, you “give them some rope”, because YOU ENJOY IT.
Admit it, Bruce. You still haven’t gotten God out of your head. Why do I think so? Because you are constantly talking about your sessions with your “counselor” in your blog comments. You may be trying your damndest to get God out of your head, but it doesn’t sound like you have yet driven him out of your heart (soul).
There is no such thing as “Once Saved, Always Saved”, Bruce. I used to comfort myself with that belief when I was an agnostic. “Well, if God DOES exist, I sincerely prayed the Sinner’s Prayer when I was nine years old, so… I’ve got my sure ticket in! It is a done deal!”
You are in danger of committing the Sin against the Holy Spirit, Bruce, and once you cross that line, there is no forgiveness…only eternal damnation. Repent while you can, my friend.
Bruce: I hope someone who knows you explains to you how you sound, Gary. The good news is that your response to me shows that myself and others were right about your motives. Anyone can come and read your comments on my blog , compare them to what you write here, and see you were being deceptive and hiding your true motive. Out of the thousands of people who read my blog, only a handful of people have shown themselves unable to play well with others.
I do not moderate comments on my blog, outside of the first comment. There are three people who are not permitted to comment and you are one of them. I have a commenting policy that is clearly stated. Christians are welcome but they may not evangelize, endlessly quote Bible verses, or attack people. Those who can’t play by these rules are given an opportunity to say their piece and move on.
I hope you realize how vile and low it is to bring up the fact I see a counselor and then use this fact to personally attack me. Consider what your behavior says about your Christianity. You personally attack me and then call on me to repent and come to Jesus. Based on your behavior, why would I want any part of a religion people like you are a part of? No thanks, Gary. Given a choice of heaven with vicious, judgmental, self-righteous Christians and hell, I choose hell.
Gary: Stop the pity party, Bruce.
You only allow Christians to comment on your blog if they keep their mouths shut about their beliefs in God and Christianity. You label this as “evangelism” and cut them off. Stop your games and clearly advise all Christians that they are not welcome on your blog. Let everyone know that the only people you want to comment on your blog are those who will reinforce your belief that God does not exist, which you so desperately want to believe.
The fact that you see a therapist is a common theme on your blog. If you are that sensitive about it…stop mentioning it! I saw a therapist for several years too after leaving Fundamentalism. It is a cult and I needed deprogramming. So I don’t fault you for seeing a therapist. What I am pointing out is that you have not gotten God out of your head…as I did not get God out of my head in therapy…only fundamentalism.
You need to develop thicker skin, Bruce. If you are going to post comments on the world-wide internet that attempt to destroy the cherished beliefs of over two billion people on the planet, then expect to get some flak. If you don’t like it, don’t allow Christians to comment. You and your little band of followers can sit and warm yourselves by the fire of your God-hating fury in peace….
You can read all of the comments, including a comment from Sgl here.
As those who have been reading Gary’s comments and trying to interact with him know, the comments on his blog and several other Lutheran blogs, are very different from the comments he left on this blog.
Gary thinks that the real problem is that I am weak, too sensitive, that I need to toughen up. Gary is right…I am weak, too sensitive, and I wear my feeling and emotions on my sleeve. Maybe I am not well suited to be a public writer, I don’t know. I do know that if the choice is between being a nasty, self-rightous bully like Gary, Jason, Marty, Iggy, and countless others who have made it their mission in life to personally attack me and refuse to allow me to control my own storyline, then I choose being a weak, sensitive man.
Gary calls the readers of this blog my “little band of followers.” I suspect my “little” band of followers is a few thousand people larger than Gary’s. I also suspect that many readers appreciate the fact that I am open, honest, and vulnerable, knowing that this may cause me emotional and mental anguish from time to time. I can’t promise that this blog won’t prove to be my undoing, but I can promise that I will be as open, honest, ans vulnerable as I can be.
I know, in retrospect, that I should not have spent as much time as I did trying to reason with Gary. There was a part of me that knew he was here under false pretenses, but I thought, hey, maybe this guy really is open to reading Bart Ehrman and really is open to an honest, thoughtful, rational discussion about Christianity and the Bible. I know I was wrong and I need to stick to my policy of allowing fundamentalists to leave one or two comments and then cut them off. My mistake was allowing Gary to leave dozens of comments and allowing myself to get drawn into his subterfuge. I could say, it won’t happen again but I suspect a lot of you would say, sure, Bruce, sure.
Graphic found taken from an insightful, funny comic on The Oatmeal.