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Yet Another Christian “Explains” Why Believers Lose Their Faith

my ears hurt
How Evangelicals Respond When People Share Their Deconversion Stories

Another day, another explanation for “why” believers lose their faith by yet another Christian who refuses to accept deconversion stories at face value. Just today, Daniel Mann had this to say about people who walk/run away from Jesus:

It leaves us stunned that some seemingly mature Christian leaders eventually disown the faith. We wonder, “What did they see or learn that made them turn away? Will that happen to me as I learn more?”   Christian writer and theologian, Michael Brown, has confronted this question. He admits that he had been confronted by the same questions and perplexities as others had, who had disowned the faith. However, these doubts had led him to seek deeper. As a result, his faith had been strengthened.   However, this leads us to the question, “Why do two similar “believers” take opposite paths – one away from the Path and the other to a deeper embrace of the Path?” Brown correctly answered:

The Scriptures say repeatedly that God rewards those who diligently seek Him, who search for Him and His truth more than a miner searches for gold and silver (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; Proverbs 3:13-18; Luke 18:1-8; Hebrews 11:6). We are to seek Him with heart and mind, spirit and intellect. However, there must be more to the answer than this. Is it primarily a matter of our effort and determination that we remain in the Faith? Wouldn’t this provide grounds for boasting and arrogance? Instead, it seems that our God is ultimately responsible for keeping us:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5; Philippians 1:6)  

Well, why didn’t our Lord keep others who had ministered the Gospel? This question is difficult to answer, or perhaps it isn’t difficult. Perhaps it is very simple, as Jesus had assured us:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29; Romans 8:38-39)

Perhaps instead, we feel uncomfortable with the answer. It suggests that salvation is a gift of God, and along with this gift, we are also given the gift to persevere in the Faith.   The Apostle John needed to answer this very question, since many within the Church had turned their back on the Faith creating shock-waves among the faithful:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)

John reassured them that this wouldn’t happen to them as they grew in their faith:

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20)

Both sets of churchgoers had the Scriptures, but only those remained had the “anointing.” They had the Spirit, who illuminated the Scriptures for them. The other set never had the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:10-18).

But why not? Scripture claims that any who call upon God will be saved (Romans 10:12-13), right? Had those who departed never called upon God in truth? This sounds so harsh, even judgmental, but this seems to be the judgment of the Scriptures, perhaps even of those who had departed. Many of these had later admitted that they had never believed (or had “believed” in an unscriptural way). Perhaps we need to take them at their word.

Several things stand out to me in Mann’s explanation for why people deconvert. In the very first sentence of his post, Mann states: “It leaves us stunned that some seemingly mature Christian leaders eventually disown the faith.” Note his use of the word “seemingly” when referencing the spiritual maturity of those who lose their faith. These Christians-turned-unbelievers outwardly “seemed” mature in the faith once delivered to the saints. However, as Mann makes clear later in his post, they weren’t really “mature.” How does he know this? Why, if they were “mature” Christians they would never have deconverted. If only we had read more, studied more, and prayed more we would still be Christians.

Mann rightly recognizes this line of thinking is problematic, making salvation conditional on good works, not faith. After all, as Mann notes, isn’t salvation the provenance of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith? Doesn’t the Bible say we are saved by grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9)? Not wanting to be guilty of preaching salvation by works, Mann goes in a different direction to “explain” the Bruce Gerencsers of the world.

According to Mann, Christians-turned-unbelievers never had the Spirit; never called on God in “truth” (whatever the hell that means). Mann provides no evidence for his claims other than he just thinks that how it is. Unable to square the lives of former Christians with his peculiar theology, Mann concludes that former believers were, in some way, spiritually defective. How could it be otherwise?

The answer to the question “how could it be otherwise?” is found in the stories of those who left Christianity. I have spent fourteen years answering the Why? question on this blog. Yet, no matter how many words I write explaining how and why I deconverted, countless Evangelicals refuse to accept what I say at face value. Unable to make my story “fit” in their theological and experiential box, they dismiss my explanations and manufacture — as in pulling them out of their asses — their own.

Mann concludes his post by saying: “many of these [Christians-turned-unbelievers] . . . later admitted that they had never believed (or had “believed” in an unscriptural way). Really? I don’t know of any Evangelicals-turned-atheists who say that they “never believed” or “believed in an unscriptural way” (whatever the hell that means). In fact, most of them speak of their love, commitment, and devotion to Jesus and the Church. They speak of their deep immersion in the teachings of Christ, following the lamb whithersoever he goeth (Revelation 14:4). In every way, these unbelievers were, at one time, True Christians®.

Mann says “perhaps we need to take [former believers] at their word.” Good advice. Unfortunately, Mann didn’t follow it, choosing instead to put words in the mouths of Christians-turned-unbelievers or dismiss their words out of hand and make up reasons for their loss of faith. Let me give Mann a bit of advice straight from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God: Answering before listening
is both stupid and rude
(Proverbs 18:13). James 1:19 says that Christians should be quick to hear and slow to speak. As Mann makes clear, he’s long on “speaking” about unbelievers, but slowing on “hearing” or deaf when it comes to why they no longer believe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Do Fundamentalist Christians Indoctrinate Their Children?

religious indoctrination

When using the word “indoctrinate” in connection with the manner in which Fundamentalist Christian parents raise their children, objectors say that I am using a word that should only be used when describing cult child training methods. According to the defenders of all things Evangelical, it is Fundamentalist religious cults that indoctrinate children, not God-fearing, Bible-believing, Evangelical Christians. (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) While I am sure this is the case in many Evangelical homes, only the deliberately blind refuse to see that certain flavors of Evangelical belief are awash in cultic practices, including the indoctrination of children.

In 1 Samuel 1:21-28, Hannah dedicates to the Lord the child (Samuel) God has given her:

And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.  But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.

Using the story of Hannah dedicating Samuel to the Lord as justification, countless Evangelical pastors encourage parents to dedicate their children to the Lord. Scores of Evangelical parents have stood before churches, infants in their arms, and made promises to raise their babies in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Often, grandparents are asked to do the same, promising that they will be good examples of Christian belief and practice to their grandchildren. As with Roman Catholic parents and the often-meaningless rite of infant baptism, many of these I Promise God Evangelicals quickly forget their vows, going on to raise their children in nominally Christian homes. As an Evangelical pastor, I became so frustrated by this lack of commitment to vows made before God and the church that I preached sermons from Deuteronomy 23;21:

When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.

and Ecclesiastes 5:4-6:

When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

I warned parents that they were provoking God to anger if they stood before the church and made a vow they had no intentions of keeping. Needless to say, requests for baby dedications dropped precipitously.

Having said that, there is a sizable minority within Evangelicalism that takes child dedication vows seriously. These parents do everything they can to indoctrinate their children into the faith once delivered to the saints — Evangelical Christianity. Some Evangelical mothers play Christian music or read the Bible out loud while their Evangelical-to-be baby is still in the womb. Soon after birth, Evangelicals parents make sure that their new babies are present in worship services, desiring for them to become accustomed to the voice of the man of God and the singing of the saints. With two of our six children, my wife, Polly, was in church less than 24 hours after being released from the hospital. At the time, I lauded her commitment to our new child’s spiritual training. Today? I just hang my head in shame.

From the crib through college, many children are indoctrinated in all things Evangelical. Since Evangelicalism is primarily anti-cultural and anti-intellectual — let the Evangelical whining begin — it should come as no surprise that many Evangelical parents withdraw their children from the “world,” choosing to expose them to a religious subculture that I oh-so-fondly call the Christian Ghetto.

kansas board of education

Many Evangelical parents make sure their children are at church every time the doors are open. In Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, it is not uncommon for children to attend four services a week, and that doesn’t include youth rallies, revivals, missions conferences, and special prayer meetings. These same children are often sent to private Christian schools or are home schooled. Using curriculum produced by Fundamentalist publishing houses such as A Beka, Bob Jones, Rod & Staff, Accelerated Christian Education, Alpha Omega Publications, Christian Light Publications, Sonlight Curriculum, or Advanced Training Institute (Bill Gothard), Christian parents make sure their children are only taught a Fundamentalist Christian worldview. After graduation, these same children are encouraged to attend often unaccredited Christian colleges and universities, further indoctrinating them in the faith handed down by Jesus, the Apostles, and their Christian forefathers, as interpreted by twenty-first-century Fundamentalists.

As I mentioned above, many Evangelical children spend an inordinate amount of time in church. Most Evangelical pastors, Sunday school teachers, and youth directors consider it their duty to raise new generations of Evangelical warriors for God. Children are taught that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Often, children reach adulthood without ever hearing anything about the errors and contradictions found in the Bible. Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and professor at the University of North Carolina, says that it is not uncommon for Southern Baptist-raised students to be shocked upon hearing that the Bible is not the book their parents and pastors say it is. Faced with cognitive dissonance of the first degree, these students often run to the house of faith — the safe confines of all who have been lied to about the nature and history of the Biblical text. Other students face crises of faith, leading them to modify or outright reject Evangelical beliefs — beliefs, I might add that aren’t theirs to start with, but those of their pastors and parents.

Most Evangelicals begin adult life with a borrowed system of belief, into which they have been indoctrinated their entire lives. Taught to believe and not think, these young adults are thrown out into a world that has no regard for their beliefs. Unable to defend their beliefs and moral pronouncements, these fully grown Evangelicals either lose their faith or once again retreat to the safety of their houses of worship, places where questions and doubts are washed away with a magic potion of faith and obedience.

Evangelicalism is inherently revivalistic, focusing on the salvation of sinners — those who have not repented of their sins and expressed faith in Jesus Christ. Evangelicals of all stripes believe that children come into the world as sinners, broken and alienated from God, and in need of eternal salvation. Most, if not all, Evangelical sects say that children aren’t accountable for their sin until they understand the difference between right and wrong. (Calvinists would beg to differ, I’m sure.) This standard, of course, is established by the Biblical interpretations of pastors and parents, and varies from church to church and family to family. Most Evangelical pastors and parents would agree that it is best for children to be saved (born again) at an early age. As a result, it is not uncommon to hear of Evangelical children being saved at ages as young as four or five. Both my wife and I were saved the first time at age five, and like many Evangelical children, we later rededicated our lives to the Lord as teenagers. I have had parents tell me that their three-year-old toddlers had asked Jesus into their heart. These toddlers, as are most Evangelical children, were taught that disobeying their parents was sin. If these toddlers understood what it meant to obey and disobey their parents this meant that they were “sinners” and were now in danger of dying and going to Hell. No Evangelical parent wants their child to go to Hell, so with sincere intentions, these parents encourage (goad?) their progeny to pray to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Viola! Their children are miraculously forgiven of their sins and booked for a room in God’s mansion in the sky — a room Jesus is now preparing just for them.

Many Evangelical churches spend a significant amount of money and time on programs that are meant to thoroughly indoctrinate children in the teachings of the Bible. Countless church workers warn their little charges of the dangers of sin, the need of salvation, the wonders of heaven, and the horrors of Hell. These methods result in numerous children and teenagers getting “saved.” Once saved, these born-again children are encouraged to dedicate their lives in the service of the Lord. Children are encouraged to serve the Lord full time as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Christian school teachers, and pastors’ wives. More than a few Evangelicals pastors from my youth told me that becoming a pastor was the most important job in the world, greater than even becoming the president of the United States. (I was five years old when I first said I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up.)

westboro baptist children

Is it any shock, then, based on what I have written, that critics of Evangelicalism such as myself say that many Evangelical churches, pastors, and parents use cult-like indoctrination methods to ensure that their children continue to worship the family/cultural God? Evangelical children are not taught to reason and think (for the most part). Faith trumps reason, beliefs trump facts. Years ago, I tried to show a colleague and best friend of mine several of the errors that are found in the King James Bible. He believed that the King James Bible was the inerrant Word of God. I had, but a few weeks previous, similar beliefs, but I had recently found out that the KJV translation did indeed have errors and contradictions. I thought, at the time, that my good friend surely would want to know this, but I quickly found out that no matter what I showed him, he had no intentions of changing his beliefs. With a raised faith-filled voice, my friend told me, I don’t care if you can show me errors in the King James. By faith, I am going to believe that the KJV is the perfect Word of God.

So it is in many Evangelical churches and homes. Atheists often wrongly think that Evangelicals will turn from their beliefs if they are confronted with the true nature of the Bible. They are astonished when Evangelicals reject evidence and facts and appeal to faith. These atheists fail to understand that no amount of evidence or argumentation can penetrate a worldview built upon a foundation of Fundamentalist Biblical belief. Properly indoctrinated (and conditioned) Evangelicals will rebuff attempts to lead them away from their beliefs. Is this not exactly what their parents and pastors warned them would happen? False teachers lurk in the shadows, ready and willing to lead you away from your Biblical beliefs, countless Evangelical pastors warn. Doubt and questions are tools of Satan used to lead you astray! Flee from anyone who causes you to doubt your faith! Unshaken will their faith remain until something causes them to at least consider that one or more of their beliefs might be wrong.

Rarely will arguments with atheists produce such doubts. This is why I don’t try to argue anyone out of his or her faith. I encourage Evangelicals to read, and then ask questions —LOTS of questions. I encourage them to ask their pastors questions, noting their responses. If their pastors sidestep questions, appeal to faith, or quote a number of Bible verses, it is safe to assume said pastors are trying to hide something or are ignorant themselves. Sometimes, events will happen in their lives that cause Evangelicals to doubt the love, justice, and fairness of God. These doubts often provide a springboard for discussions concerning suffering and God’s culpability in the things that afflict humans and animals alike. Knowing that many Evangelicals have intellects that have been smothered by dogma, rote learning, and proof-texting, those of us who want to help people break free of Fundamentalist bondage must be willing to be longsuffering, patient, and kind, knowing that the path out of Evangelicalism is often fraught with false starts, trepidation, and much intellectual and emotional anguish. To quote the Rolling Stones, time is on my (our) side, yes it is. We know the Evangelical God is a fiction, and that Heaven and Hell are mythical places used as carrots and sticks by preachers to ensure the fidelity of parishioners to the one true faith (and continued money in offering plates). I am willing to wait patiently as truth does its perfect works in the minds of those who sincerely believe in the existence of the Evangelical God and the infallibility of the Christian Bible

As I look back over my own life, I am left to conclude that it was impossible for me to grow up to be anything but an Evangelical preacher. My mind was so saturated from the religious indoctrination of my parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and college professors that my fate was sealed. Sadly I was almost fifty years old before I finally figured out that my life was constructed on a false foundation and an elaborate framework of lies. It pains me to admit this, but in doing so I sincerely hope I can help others steer clear of Evangelicalism and its intellect-numbing worldview.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mark Milatz Accused of Embezzling More Than $250,000 From Church

pastor mark milatz

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.

Mark Milatz, former pastor of Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton, Michigan — a Missouri Synod congregation — stands accused of embezzling over $250,000 from the church. Blaming anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse, Milatz reportedly plans to plead guilty and is willing to repay the money he stole from Shepherd of the Lakes.

WHMI reports:

Mark Milatz had been the Senior Pastor at the Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton since 2010. In December of 2018, Milatz tendered his immediate resignation from both the church and from Ordained Ministers of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Earlier this month, the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a charge of embezzlement of $50,000 or more against Milatz. He’ll be arraigned February 4th.

The felony complaint states the alleged embezzlement began on or about January 1st of 2011.

An investigation by Michigan State Police revealed that Milatz transferred money between his personal bank accounts and church accounts. He’s accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from 2011 to 2018, but he can’t be charged for some earlier alleged thefts as Michigan’s Statute of Limitations is six years for embezzlement.

After Milatz resigned, he moved to Wisconsin. He reportedly expressed a desire to pay the church back and settle out of court but the church proceeded with the criminal investigation. The improprieties came to light after the church’s bookkeeper began noting unusual charges every month and became suspicious.

Milatz is accused of using church credit cards for personal use, submitting fake receipts and issuing reimbursements checks to himself, and taking money from a fundraiser for a parishioner involved in a vehicle crash.

Milatz issued an apology statement acknowledging his wrongdoing and that he betrayed his calling. Milatz said he struggled with anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse and other toxic behaviors. A report states he intends to plead guilty and is willing to repay the funds.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Block Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Kevin Daniels, Sr. Sentenced to Two Years to Life for Sexual Assault

pastor kevin daniels sr

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.

Kevin Daniels, Sr., pastor of New Jerusalem Missionary Church in Fountain, Colorado, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a child he bribed with a Playstation and was sentenced last week to an indeterminate sentence of two years to life.

In April 2021, KKTV reported:

A southern Colorado pastor is accused of sexually assaulting a preteen over a months-long period.

Court papers obtained by 11 News states the abuse only stopped when the child alerted a school counselor, prompting an investigation.

The Fountain Police Department says it first learned of the allegations last week against Pastor Kevin Daniels Sr. of New Jerusalem Missionary Church. Daniels turned himself in Tuesday and bonded out of jail Wednesday night.

According to the arrest affidavit, the abuse began in February of this year. The affidavit alleges that Daniels started with hugging and tickling, which escalated to touching the child under their clothing with his hands and mouth. The child told police Daniels said not to tell anyone.

“[The victim] said Kevin would try and buy things and would give [the victim] money for things … [The victim] said he would do that when he touched [the victim].” – Excerpt from the arrest affidavit

Daniels allegedly gave the victim $20 on one occasion, and $100 on another. Another time, he offered to buy the child a PlayStation, the affidavit says.

The child came forward in mid-April.

The child’s mother told police she confronted Daniels one day before he turned himself in. Daniels allegedly claimed he was just tickling the child.

….

Daniels faces charges of sexual assault on a child under 15 by one in a position of trust.

According to a bio on the church website, Daniels has been an ordained minister since 1999 and has been in the Colorado Springs area since 2009. The bio states he served as the Fountain Police Department chaplain; the police department confirms he held that role until last year.

Widefield School District 3 confirms Daniels worked as a bus driver for the district from May 2019 until December that same year.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Evangelicalism Isn’t Dying, It’s Dead

zach hunt

Long before there was evangelicalism, before there was even such a thing as Christianity, there was good news.

As the earliest Jesus followers wrestled with exactly what it meant that this prophet from Nazareth had been crucified and resurrected, what was clear was that his life meant good news for the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the oppressed.

People like themselves who lived and died under the merciless rule of the Caesars.

That good news wasn’t just an ethereal hope for life after death. It was good news for life here and now on earth as it is in heaven.

….

For one thing, and this is a very important thing to remember, evangelicalism is not Christianity. That is not to say evangelicals aren’t Christians. Rather, Christianity is not exhausted by the tradition and beliefs of evangelicalism, as much as many evangelicals might want to believe otherwise.

Christianity existed long before there was a stream called evangelicalism, and it will continue long after that stream has dried out.

Even now there are many who are sounding the alarm that the stream has nearly run dry. This, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone on the outside looking in who can see clearly that white American evangelicalism hasn’t simply wedded itself to the empire, it has all but replaced Jesus with Trump and Trumpism in all the ways that ultimately matter.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Sure, there are still plenty of evangelical churches meeting on Sundays and that will continue to meet for years to come. Some will even welcome new members, although those members almost certainly will be transfers from other churches or lost sheep returning to the fold.

Why?

Because there is no one outside the church, no one who grew up away from Sunday school and the fear of hell, who has any interest in what the church has to say anymore. And who could blame them?

Evangelicalism as a tradition started out as so many things do, with noble intentions. There was good news to be shared — that death wasn’t the final word and life here could be lived like life in the kingdom of God.

Now contrast that with the “news” folks outside evangelicalism hear coming from American evangelicalism regardless of whether or not Trump’s name is ever invoked:

  • People who love the wrong gender are going to hell.
  • People who love God the wrong way are going to hell.
  • People with the wrong gender are going to hell.
  • People who don’t believe the right list of doctrines are going to hell.
  • Women who dare to speak in church are going to hell.
  • Anyone who questions the Bible is going to hell.
  • Anyone who brings up racism is a troublemaker and should be silenced.
  • Anyone who is so desperate they flee their home for the chance at a better life in another country is a criminal, rapist, murderer or drug dealer.
  • Anyone who follows a different faith is a potential terrorist and is doomed to hell.
  • Anyone who is poor has only themselves to blame and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead of relying on others for help.
  • Medical care is only for those who can afford it.
  • The planet is ours to destroy.

The list goes on and on and on. How, exactly, is any of that good news?

Why, exactly, would you want to join a group of people who believe such things?

Now, if you identify as evangelical you may be shouting: “That’s not me! I don’t believe any of that!” or “Not my church! That’s not our message!” But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. You may be an exception, but your defiant cries long ago were drowned out by a multitude of other voices.

Whatever good news there may still be clinging on to life behind the baptistry or in the fellowship hall of a faithful local church has long ago been drowned out by the chorus of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, racism and hate that has come to define evangelism in America in the eyes of those outside the church.

….

For those on the outside looking in, there is no good news coming from the church. They have no interest in joining what, to them, appears and often is a cult of arrogant and bigoted people who want to silence women, ignore the climate, pretend like racism doesn’t exist and damn everyone to hell who doesn’t agree with them.

There is nothing good about that news.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Zack Hunt, Baptist News Global, Evangelicalism isn’t dying; it’s already dead, January 24, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Man Buns Are a Sin Against God

owen strachan

Men: cut the man bun. Lop it off. Time to look like a man. No one wants to say this in an androgynous age, but in obedience to God, do it. No perfect length, but cut that hair down your back. And hand that Scrunchie back to your little sister. Look manly. God’s glory is in it!

….

Paul: long hair is a ‘disgrace’ for a man (1 Cor. 11:14). Do people still read, believe, and apply the Bible?

— Owen Strachan, Baptist News Global, This is a tale of testicles, fertility, the length of men’s hair, and one bizarre tweet, January 24, 2022

Here’s a link to an excellent article by Rick Pidock on Strachan’s misuse of 1 Corinthians 11:14 (though I would have used this verse exactly as Strachan did back in my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days).

For my take on the long hair issue, please see The IFB War Against Long Hair on Men and Is it a Sin for Men to Have Long Hair?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor William Wahl Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct

william wahl

William Wahl, a youth pastor at The River Church in Kimball, Michigan, has been charged with two second degree counts of criminal sexual conduct, two fourth degree counts of criminal sexual conduct, one count of aggravated indecent exposure, one count of distributing explicit material of children, and one count of using a computer to commit a crime.

M-Live reports:

A former youth pastor at The River Church in Kimball Township has been arrested and charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct and three other felony charges.

Port Huron resident William Stefan Wahl, 27, is facing two second degree counts of criminal sexual conduct, two fourth degree counts of criminal sexual conduct, one count of aggravated indecent exposure, one count of distributing explicit material of children and one count of using a computer to commit a crime.

….

Police say an the investigation began in late 2021 after hearing allegations of sexual assault of a child by the youth pastor.

The investigation revealed that there were four victims alleging sexual abuse going back to 2014.

A Port Huron Times Herald report states Wahl was terminated last year as an employee by the church’s Board of Elders after the allegations came to light and filed a report with authorities.

The Church is pastored by Bill and Kim Wahl, and Matt Wahl is the associate pastor. I suspect William Wahl is related to them.

The Times Herald adds:

St. Clair County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Cailin Wilson said the alleged incidents took place between 2014 and 2021, when Wahl was over 17 years old and with victims ranging from 10 to 17 years old. 

In response to the allegations, Bill Wahl, co-lead pastor of The River church, sent a press release dated Nov. 2, 2021, that stated The River Churches Board of Elders were made aware of a possible child abuse incident perpetrated by an employee against two minors. 

The board immediately began an investigation of the facts, assuring that all involved parents were notified. Within hours, the employee was terminated and the board filed a report with the proper authorities to investigate the matter, the press release said.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

A Reflection on My Children: Why Putting God, the Church, and Saving Souls First is a Bad Idea

gerencser grandchildren 2021

My wife, Polly, and I have six children, ages 42, 40, 37, 32, 30, and 28. Our children spent much of their lives in church. As Evangelical PKs (preacher’s kids), every aspect of their lives was managed, controlled, and dictated by their preacher father’s interpretations of the Bible. Every choice in their lives was filtered through the lens of Evangelical literalism. We homeschooled (and sent to a private Evangelical school) our children, so this way of living seemed “normal” to them. If you have never experienced any other life but your own, dysfunction can seem “normal.”

The Gerencser family lived according to the Jesus-first mantra. Mom and Dad, especially D-A-D, put God, the church, and saving souls first. If our children wanted to do something and it got in the way of God/church/souls, I forbade them from doing so. While I am sure my refusal to let them do normal child/teen stuff angered them, they never said I word. Taught to submit and obey, our children dutifully submitted to my edicts. (This changed somewhat later in my ministerial career.) Even when son #3 moved out of our home at age eighteen because he didn’t want to follow the rules, he did so respectfully.

Last week, I went to a basketball game at Defiance High School. Granddaughter #2, a sophomore at DHS, plays in the pep band. I wanted to see her play. I found it interesting to watch her in her native environment, though her friendly interactions with boys made me feel very “old.” 🙂

This was the first basketball game I have attended since February 2020. As I watched the game with my oldest son, my mind slipped into introspection mode and a deep sadness (with tears) came over me. I played baseball and basketball as a child, through my high school years, and well into adulthood. I was still playing competitive softball and basketball into my early thirties when chronic knee problems ended my playing career. Yet, none of my children was permitted to play organized, competitive sports. Why?

My son and I talked about the year I let him play little league baseball. He was excited about playing. Several of his public school friends were on the team. (Son #1 and Son #2 attended public schools in first and second grade in the New Lexington and Northern Local school districts.) On the day of my son’s first game — boy, was he excited — I told him he would have to quit the team. Why? His game schedule conflicted with our church’s service schedule. I felt “convicted” about letting my son play baseball on the day we had our midweek service (Thursday), so I made him quit. Not only that, I made him take his uniform to school and give it to his coach’s son. This would be the first and only time one of our children played sports.

I could spend days sharing stories about how God/church/souls got in the way of our children experiencing normal childhoods. This is not to say that their childhoods were awful, they weren’t. By their own accounts, there are many things they appreciate about their upbringing. I was a taskmaster, but our children appreciate that I taught them good work skills. The Gerencser Work Ethic® is the stuff of legend at their places of employment. Five of our children have management-level jobs, as does their mom and as did their dad most of his life. Much like their parents, our children are known for being no-nonsense, hardworking employees, people who rarely, if ever, miss a day of work. (Polly hasn’t missed a day of work in twenty-five years, even though I ask her to call off work and stay home with me almost every day. “Come on, live on the wild side. Just once, experience the thrill of calling off!”) 🙂 Our children, thanks to literally growing up in church, learned at a young age to talk with adults. They were intimately involved in every aspect of church life. This gave them life skills far beyond their years. Much was expected of them, and they always delivered — well, 98.9 percent of the time, anyway.

All of these “good” things, however, don’t undo the sadness I feel over the life my children missed out on. I have had long conversations (as I did with my son at the basketball game) with them over these things, profusely apologized, and they have forgiven me. However, the scars and a sense of loss remain. There are no do-overs in life, so all I know to do is own the past, make amends, and do better. I am so glad to be blessed with thirteen grandchildren. They are, in a sense, a do-over for me, a chance for me to live a better life before them and my children.

I am fortunate that I have good relationships with my children. My unwillingness to bend or move from my rigid Evangelical beliefs could have destroyed my family. That it didn’t is a testimony to the love, kindness, and resiliency of my children. Do they have scars from their days as PKs? Sure. How could they not? Children, most of all, want to be loved. While Polly and I told our children we loved them, our behavior said to them that God/church/souls came first. You see, what we model to our children matters. If I had the opportunity to give advice to a group of young preachers, I would tell them to put their families first — before Jesus, before the ministry, before winning souls. When life comes to an end, they will be the only people who matter.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

How Do Evangelical Christians Explain My Life?

reprobate

Rather than asking each of my Evangelical critics to “explain” my life, I thought I’d let the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God answer for them:

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. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I John 2:18-20

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections:… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…. Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:16 –32

My defection from Christianity is proof I never “really” was a Real Christian®. Real Christians® persevere to the end. Real Christians® keep going to church, reading the Bible, praying, tithing, and living according to the Christian social code until the end. Real Christians® believe, walk, act, talk, and live like Christians. And the standard for this believing, walking, acting, talking, and living? Each Christian’s interpretation of the Bible, thus reminding all who are paying attention that there is no such thing as Christianity; just Christianities, with each believer having their own form of the faith once delivered to the saints.

According to Romans 1, I have the clear marks of a reprobate. A reprobate is one whom God has condemned to Hell while still in this life, unless you are a Calvinist, then God condemns some people to Hell before they are even born.  To the reprobate, God says “ I am done with you, do what you will.”

Supposedly, since I am now a reprobate, this is how I live my life:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:26-32

In other words, I am now supposed to a homosexual, a murdering, evil, hater of God, among other things. Never mind that I live a better, more wholesome (whatever the hell that word means) life than most Christians. Never mind that I love my neighbor as myself. Never mind that I am faithful to my wife, love my children and grandchildren.  All that REALLY matters is whether I prayed THE prayer, where I park my ass on Sunday, what ancient religious text I read, and whether I pray, tithe, witness, oppose abortion rights, think homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a sin, and vote Republican.

Here’s how I see it: this is one of those did he resign or was he fired? moments.

Did I leave God or did God leave me?

Matters not.

The divorce is final.

The relationship is over.

All that is left is the scars and memories.

Telling me I was never a Real Christian® denies the life I lived for almost fifty years. On the other hand, telling me that I am still a Real Christian® denies the life I have been living for over a decade. The ONLY explanation for my life is that I once was a Christian and now I am not. I once was saved and now I am not. I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not. But, Bruce . . . the Bible says . . .

And therein lies the problem. Most Evangelicals are incapable of seeing what is right in front of them. The Bible has become the blinders that keep them from seeing and understanding anything that does not fit their narrow, Fundamentalist worldview.

I continue to mention this subject because Evangelicals-turned-atheists often complain about the refusal of Evangelical family, friends, and acquaintances to accept their stories at face value. It gets old, I mean really, really, really old, after a while having people deny/discredit my story or smear my character. I know that nothing I say will change this boorish behavior by arrogant, self-righteous Evangelicals, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’ve been blogging for fourteen years, and over that period of time, I have received scores of emails and comments from Evangelicals who refuse the plain reading of my story. These zealots are unable to square my story with their theology or personal experiences, and instead of pondering why that might be a problem, they choose, instead, to discredit, demean, and dismiss. This bad behavior on their part does Christianity no favors. Who wants to be part of a religion that refuses to accept and embrace people as they are? I know I don’t.

I suspect that my deconversion story scares the shit out of some Evangelicals. I’ve had former church members tell me that they couldn’t be friends with me because they find my unbelief unsettling. One former preacher friend of mine begged me not to publicly share my story. Why? He thought doing so would cause people to lose their faith. Now, this preacher wanted to keep sharing his story and keep preaching the gospel, but he wanted me to shut up, go away, and mind my own business.

As long as I continue writing, I know I will have to deal with people who lack imagination; people unable or unwilling to accept people at face value. Do you have family, friends, and acquaintances who refuse to accept your deconversion story? How do you handle them? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser