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Local Christian Sends Letter to my Son and Tells Him He is Headed for Hell


Years ago, I attended First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB)  in Bryan,Ohio. Recently, the church asked members to write letters to people, inviting them to church and subtly reminding recipients that their lives are worthless without Jesus and hell awaits  if they do not purchase fire insurance.

One of my sons, a practicing Catholic, received one such letter. Here’s what the handwritten letter had to say:

We would like to invite you and your family to First Baptist. Sunday School is @ 9:30. Worship @ 10:30.

More importantly, we invite you to know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, if you don’t already.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26

Based on the return name and address on the envelope, I know the letter writer. Why did this person choose to write my son? Does First Baptist really think that this is an effective way to reach people with the gospel?

Perhaps it is time for me to do some writing of my own about my experiences at First Baptist.  Several years ago, I attended a funeral at First Baptist. You can read my thoughts about the funeral here. I feel a s-e-r-i-e-s coming on….


  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Looking forward to the series.

    I was raised Catholic, in the liberal 1960s and 1970s, and the general attitude was that while Protestants obviously got some of their theology wrong, people make mistakes, God is forgiving, and in the end we will all be judged by our sins that we never repented. I don’t remember much preaching about hell, though it was reserved for people who did very evil things and were unrepentant. The churches that I attended were always very shy about criticizing members of other religions. I didn’t know, and didn’t care, what Rome’s official position was.

    So I grew up with an attitude of “okay, we’re all in this together, let’s be the best people we can be, repent our sins, strive to be better, and carry on doing the work of God (feeding the hungry, working for homeless housing, supporting all kinds of services for people in need… that sort of thing). We sang “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” and a lot of us really meant it — and we meant real love, compassion for others. We figured the folks in the Protestant churches weren’t doing stuff that was too dissimilar.

    Then I discovered Evangelical Christianity, and the notion that Catholics aren’t Christians. It irritated the heck out of me. Now, almost 2/3 of a life later, I’m comfortably atheist. I reject all magical thinking. I abhor the behavior of the Catholic Church in its handling of pedophile priests, its opposition to condoms as a preventative for aids, and a host of other things. But I still know a few Catholics, and at least those in my circle are compassionate people who actually do things for others. They *live* their Christianity; by their fruits you shall know them, and all that.

    So, even though I don’t really have a reason for it, it STILL irritates the heck out of me that Evangelicals think Catholics aren’t real Christians.

    • Avatar
      Michael Mock

      I have those reactions, too, those moments of “Hey, that’s not the way Christianity is supposed to work!” It’s a bit embarrassing, since most of the time I don’t feel like I can say anything about it.

  2. Avatar

    I’m a live and let live person. Raised Catholic – haven’t believed in years and finally came to grips with it when my 16 yr old man child said, “Really”…ah no”. I still love to Cantor at mass tho, so I hide it. A real conundrum for me (ego and all). Still, the balls of people to send that letter! Jerks for Jesus.

  3. Avatar

    If it is not too personal a question are you able to share what led your son, raised evangelical but now with athiest patents, to become a practicing Catholic?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      He’s married to a Catholic woman. Being part of a local Catholic parish has been good for both my son and his family. Our children are free to live their lives on their own terms. While I could never be a Catholic, I respect their decision to do differently.

      • Avatar

        Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t suggesting that you should disprove or that he had disobeyed. It is just interesting to me when people change their beliefs.

        It is strange that this letter writer targeted him, by all accounts a believer in Jesus (all be it the Catholic one) when there are heathen Gerenscers like yourself around!

  4. Avatar
    Lynn 123

    I find this letter hilarious. It’s like being invited to dinner and being told that, btw, if you don’t think the host is really, really great, you’ll be punished forever.

    What a lovely invitation! Who wouldn’t want to go? What seems always missing from these invitations is any interest whatsoever about what the recipient currently thinks about it all. Maybe their lack of sincere interest in the recipient is why their efforts produce so little success.

    • Avatar

      Yes, a lack of interest. And, along with this, a presumption that the recipient is OBVIOUSLY in need of the invite, that the recipient OBVIOUSLY doesn’t know much if anything about God, or has misunderstood, etc etc.

      It’s a presumption apparently held by most evangelicals (and I use the term loosely to mean anyone that is proselytizing; I’ve met vegans who take the same tone, political activists, etc etc), this presumption that is they and they alone who have access to the truth. . .and that everyone else is ignorant. Once or twice, I’ve said to such folk, “Do you think I haven’t heard all this before?”. . .and they look genuinely nonplussed.

  5. Avatar
    Lynn 123

    “More importantly, we invite you to know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, if you don’t already.”

    I’ve been thinking about this “personal relationship” stuff lately. Reading this quote makes you think-“Is that like a personal trainer? A life coach?” I mean, is this personal relationship with Jesus an American thing? I don’t know, I’m asking. Aren’t there groups where it’s more about believing as part of the group, not anything especially personal about it?

    I’m thinking this personal relationship idea is part of what confused and frustrated me when I was a Christian. I know Americans are all about individualism whereas, say Japan, it’s more about group conformity.

    Any thoughts?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      American individualism drives virtually every aspect of American life, so it should come as no surprise that that is what drives religion too. This is why modern Christianity is Paul’s religion, not Jesus’s. Jesus was a Jew and the Jewish religion above all else puts community first. Paul does speak of the church being a body, but that idea seems to be lost on most American Christians. Yeah, every body part is important, but, as any cursory examination of Christianity will show, some body parts are more valuable and important.

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