Wash, Rinse, Dry and Repeat: What Happens When Jesus Doesn’t Fix What Ails You

blood of jesusJesus told his disciples in John 15:5, without me, ye can do nothing, and in Matthew 19:26, Jesus said with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. The Apostle Paul told Athenian idolaters that one true God was he who gives to all men not only life and breath, but all things (Acts 17). In his New Testament writings, Paul, the founder of Christianity, advances the notion that God is the sovereign of the universe and that everything that happens is according to his purpose and plan. Paul cautions Christians about trying to live life in their strength, that doing so will end in failure. He wrote in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. The negative inference is clear, I can’t do anything without Christ, echoing Jesus’s words in John 15, without me, ye can do nothing.

Evangelicals believe that humans are inherently broken, born with a sin nature, and at variance with the Christian God. According to Evangelicals, everyone, from fertilized eggs in the womb to infants and from children to centenarians, is predisposed to sin — sin being the transgression of the law of God in thought, word, and deed. Countless human behaviors, especially those of a sexual nature, are, according to the Bible — an ancient religious text supposedly written by the Christian God —  are violations of God’s law. Unbelievers — people who have not asked Jesus to save them from their sins — are told that God hates sin and those who do it, and the only way to gain God’s favor is to prostrate oneself before the thrice holy God and confess that you are a worthless worm deserving of eternal punishment in hell; that the only person who can save you from your sin is Jesus. If you humble yourself before God, begging him for deliverance from your sin, God will forgive you of your sins. Once you have sufficiently humbled yourself before God and he has saved you, God, in the form of a spirit, takes up residence in your “heart.”

Once people have been saved, they are instructed to rely on God to lead and direct their lives. Their “sin natures” haven’t been eradicated, so Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them through a world bent on destroying them. Evangelicals are frequently reminded by their pastors of about the importance of studying the Bible, praying, and faithfully attending church. Yet, despite all of these things, Evangelicals continue to sin, often at levels equaling or exceeding that of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

Even those who are called men of God — people who supposedly have a close relationship with God — are not immune from sinning. These preachers of righteousness and holiness often commit the very sins they thunder against each and every Lord’s Day. And as the Black Collar Crime series reveals, preachers can and do rape, steal, molest children, and murder. Just last week, two Toledo area Evangelical pastors were arrested for grooming and trafficking a teenage girl. One pastor would frequently have sex with the girl in his church office, giving her $100-$300 to keep her mouth shut. According to WTOL-11, the thing that likely did the good pastors in was the one pastor’s request that the girl bring a friend so they could have a threesome. While defenders of all things Evangelical will say that while such reports are disturbing, most pastors don’t do such things; certainly they would be right, but what is never addressed is the how and why these things happen. If God is who Evangelicals say he is and the Holy Spirit lives inside believers, why is there so much sinning going on among Christians and their leaders? Why does rarely a day go by without one or more Evangelical preachers appearing in the news for some sort of sexual crime?  And these are just the ones caught with their pants down!

Evangelicals practice what I call wash, rinse, dry, and repeat. These followers of Jesus are commanded to daily confess their sin. I John 1:8-10 states:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Weekly, daily, and hourly Evangelicals plead with their sin-forgiving God to wash their “hearts” clean. Without any proof besides feelings of relief or words found in an ancient religious text, Evangelicals believe that sincere prayers of repentance are met with God’s forgiveness. With their sins forgiven, Evangelicals return to a world awash in sin, promising God that they will not succumb to temptation and the snares of Satan, Yet, moments or hours later, Evangelicals find themselves yet again in need of confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness from God. It is for this reason that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist luminary John R. Rice encouraged Christians to “keep your sin lists short.” Rice suggested that when Christians become aware they have sinned they should immediately stop and confess the sin and seek forgiveness. Since Evangelicals sin in thought, word, and deed, following Rice’s admonition would require them to continuously pray. If only the Bible had something to say about this. Oh wait, it does! 1 Thessalonians 5:17 states, praying without ceasing.

Recently, a person I know well was arrested for DUI and sentenced to ninety days in jail as a repeat offender. This man has had numerous arrests for a variety of crimes. Father to numerous children with several women, this man has spent much of his life battling drug addiction. Having had and lost countless well-paying jobs and having ruined his relationship with his family, this man likely will be homeless when he is released from jail. His life, a tragedy to behold, is a screaming example of the failure of Jesus to fix what ails the human race.

This man was raised in an Evangelical home, attended a private Christian school, and was surrounded by extended family who were preachers of the gospel. His parents lived what is best describe as up-and-down lives, in and out of church as they dealt with familial, marital, and employment problems. Counseled by pastors to GET RIGHT WITH GOD, they would return to the church, often coming to the church altar to confess their sin and renew their commitment to Christ. And for months or years their renewed devotion would give the appearance of a family happily in love with Jesus. And then, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, Satan and the lusts of the flesh — according to their pastors — would trip them up, causing them to fall headlong into sin. Often they would remain in the pigsty of sin for months or years before one of God’s men convinced them to return to church to do business with God. This endless cycle of sin, confess, repent, forsake, repeat was played out dozens of times over the years, leading to untold psychological and physical harm.

The drug-addict son, following what has been modeled to him by his family, has run from Evangelical church to Evangelical church, hoping to find the forgiveness of sins and victory over his many addictions. At these churches he is met at the door by preachers who promise him that Jesus can fix whatever ails him. GET RIGHT WITH GOD, he is told, by Evangelical family and strangers alike. If he will just confess his sins and seek forgiveness, Jesus will swoop in and give him victory over crack, PCP, meth, alcohol, and his love of sexual immorality. His devoutly Evangelical grandparents continue to pray, encouraging their sinful grandson to get back in church so he can get the help he needs.

This rolling train wreck has been going on for over a decade, with no end in sight. Those closest to him continue to encourage him to cast all his cares on Jesus, telling him that if he will do so, Christ will give him victory over his addictions. No one dares to suggest — I am not within his circle of influence — that Jesus and his deliverance peddlers are the problem; that Evangelical beliefs concerning human nature, sin, and forgiveness are actually hurting this man, not helping him; that the best thing he could do is get as far away as possible from Christian family members and preachers who are trying to “help” him; that the church and Jesus are in a codependent relationship with him, and are in no position to offering lasting help.

Those of us raised in the Evangelical church know well the wash, rinse, dry, and repeat way of living. Frequently reminded of our sins by preachers, evangelists, Evangelical writers, and the Bible, we spent countless hours confessing our sin and seeking God’s forgiveness. The churches we attended would call for special meetings where revivalist preachers would come in and stomp on our feet with old-fashioned hellfire and brimstone preaching. Countless time was spent on our knees crying out to God, pleading for forgiveness and deliverance from sins of commission and omission. Sufficiently revived, off we would go, ready to slay our adversary Satan, tearing down strongholds by and through the mighty power of God.

Over time, worldly complacency would set in, and we would need yet another reviving, another impartation of God’s mighty Spirit. Is it any wonder that many Christians weary of the sin, confess, repent, forsake, repeat process and give up or practice the time-honored Evangelical spiritual discipline of “fake it until you make it”? Spend enough time in Evangelicalism and you will learn expected behaviors, complete with a language code to be used to give the appearance of living life as a Jesus-loving, Satan-hating, sin-forsaking Christian. The Apostle Paul himself approved of this approach when he told the Church at Thessalonica to, abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

It is evident, at least to me, that Evangelicalism stands in the way of people truly dealing with and overcoming negative behaviors. Over its long history, the Christian church has used fear of judgment and punishment to keep people dependent on God for the forgiveness of behaviors deemed sinful by the church. Over time, the sin lists changed, but one fact remains: Evangelicals cannot find victory over sin in their own strength, and only God can forgive and deliver them. Failure to seek forgiveness results in God chastising (punishing) them for their sin. Want to avoid the punishment of the BDSM-loving God? Evangelicals are told to prostate themselves before God and beg for forgiveness.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to tell God to take a hike. What has he done for them anyway? Instead of granting them victory over sin, he keeps them dependent on him, often allowing temptations that cause them to fail. What we would think of a person who left meth on the nightstand of his guest room while his recovering drug addict friend was staying with him. Yet, this is exactly what God does. He tempts and tries, and even causes people to fail. Why? Because he wants Christians to love him more and seek his forgiveness. In other words, he is the abusive husband who beats his wife so she will love him more. As is often the case in matters of domestic abuse, removal from the immediate circumstance and divorce is often warranted. Perhaps Evangelicals need to tell God See ya later, and turn their attention to finding lasting solutions to issues such as drug addiction. Not only is Jesus not the solution, he is the problem. As long of Evangelicals refuse to see this, they will remain trapped in a constant state of wash, rinse, dry, and repeat.

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15 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I had a conversation once with someone who told me that the problem with my husband and religion was that he was not willing to become someone else. If my husband were to be someone else he wouldn’t be the person I married. The people at church (this was an IFB church) did not want my husband they wanted a man conformed to their ideas of what a man should be. It just really disturbed me. I argued with several people over my husband’s salvation and even though he gave a genuine sinner’s prayer, he could not possibly be saved because he still questioned everything. It was interesting that when we quit church, the Pastor who claims to visit everyone who quits, did not visit us or other poor people. It really showed me where his heart was. I was really heartbroken by his behavior because to him my husband’s soul did not matter.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      IFB churches focus on the whole becoming a new creation in Christ — old things pass away, all things become new.

      Reply
  2. Brian

    Any religion worth its salt is in the business of destroying the biped that comes through their church door. In the same manner that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) forges a good American Marine out of a common biped in Full Metal Jacket, evangelical Christianity (and fundamentalist Islam etc.) forge soldiers for Christ/Whomever. There is essentially no difference in these two processes.
    Christian, show me how sacrificing yourself to become one of the faithful is different than what Gunnery Sargeant Hartman does with Pyle. Pyle does his very best to achieve salvation and become a Marine, poor fucker. Gunnery Sargeant Hartman is not acting in this movie role but playing himself, R. Lee Ermey, whose job in real life was guess what…
    Bruce Gerencser does it again with this essay, revealing the core failure of at the heart of the destructive teachings of the Christian church. You can abuse children until they have nothing left to live for, until they wish they were dead and you can do that with adults too and call it the highest calling of service to God and country, call it ultimate love. But you cannot destroy the human spirit and some of us will get away to begin again with what is left of life. Some of us even talk-back and say ‘No’ publicly. Some of us have come back from the love that is really hatred of the simply human, hatred of the innocent self. As children we have faced the terrors of relgious teaching, of shaming and punishments ordered by God. And some of us got away!
    The wash cycle Gerencser lays bare for all to see is one that is very familiar to all believers and it is so because religion, when it gets into the hands of a Calvin becomes a sick tool to abuse, a Michael Pearl throwing knife, a Steven Anderson tooth-grinding hatred of ‘sinners’.
    The sinner’s prayer is a funeral march for the human spirit. It is child abuse.
    Another superb post, Mr. Gerencser. It is so wonderful to hear clear vision filled out with real, human feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly.
    Many here will understand me when I say it is a huge relief, a needed balm.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thank you Brian for the kind words.

      Bruce

      Reply
  3. Trenton

    Well fake it til you make it seemed to be the mantra of my family. That is until we were sent to camp where it then became the revivalist bs. I always felt I was trying to be something else and even told one of my friends once my family put on masks out in public. Of course I discovered later that all of my siblings had skeletons in their closets and in various ways we have all become more benign and liberal depending on the issue. I ended up faking it until I went out the door.

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      That’s it in a nutshell ‘Fake it’. Put on a mask and pretend all is wonderful in your world cos Jesus. The horrific arrests for child abuse/financial offenses posted here prove that. Not forgetting the RC scandals. In the 1970s I was very involved with Schaeffer and L’Abri which seemed then to have such intellectual and spiritual honesty. I was quite shocked to read recently that my hero was abusive to his wife and had to cover up his son’s seduction of students who came to L’Abri seeking spititual truth. I think there’s a line in a song from ‘The Book of Mormon’ along the lines of, if it doesn’t work at first, you’re not pretending hard enough, pretend harder.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        I found the Schaeffer revelations astounding when I first read them. Not any more. After a decade of paying attention to the underbelly of Evangelicalism, nothing surprises me. And the reason is simple. Evangelicals are human, just like the rest of us. If they would admit this, perhaps they would find a bit of sympathy from non-Evangelicals. As long as they view themselves as morally superior to the rest of us, they shouldn’t be surprised when we make much of their hypocrisies. Those who live in glass houses, right?

        Reply
        1. Chikirin

          Sometimes they admit they are human, usually when they get caught in sin. But usually they claim the opposite; they claim the holy spirit indwells them with supernatural powers, making them the opposite of “just human.” Especially amongst Pentecostals in my experience.

          That’s the whole allure for them, that they actually think they can acquire some kind of voodoo powers. The NT is full of those kinds of verses, that you shall receive power, do greater things than Jesus, become a new creation, etc.

          I believed my pastors possessed these kinds of spiritual powers, until I saw them screw up, and then they trotted out the “I’m just human” line. But for years before that, they were claiming to be super human. That’s the basic claim of Pentecostalism, you can be a powerful superhuman.

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Yep. They walk on water until they can’t. Then they claim they never said they could walk on water. Not only can’t they walk on water, they can’t swim.

            It is their hypocrisy that is the problem. Hear a story about a neighbor having an affair, no surprise. Humans have affairs. Evangelicals, however, believe they are on a higher moral plane, especially preachers. When they have affairs, they shouldn’t whine and complain when their “sins” are exposed and ridiculed. They are the ones that set themselves up for a fall.

            Come down into the mud with the rest of us…a place where its lowly citizens understand the failures and weaknesses of each other.

      2. JR

        Wow didn’t know this. Is the son in question Frank Schafer who went on to reject evangelicalism and become an outspoken critic of fundamentalism? He is a real wind bag but quite interesting to listen to at times.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Perhaps someone will answer this. I forget who did what. It has been said that Frank’s fiction books are actually biographical.

          Francis Schaeffer was not the man Evangelicals claim he is. They love to quote him, but never mention what was going on behind the scenes, especially Schaeffer’s verbal and physical abuse of his wife.

          As with all demigods, Schaeffer was a mere man, filled with the same passions as the “worldly” men and women he condemned.

          Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I have said many times that if church members knew what really went on behind the closed doors of parsonages, that they would stop giving pastors elevated status and preferential treatment. Rare is the church where true openness and honesty is the norm. Instead, church services become regularly scheduled games of charades.

      Reply
  4. angiep

    “Want to avoid the punishment of the BDSM-loving God?” I’m not too sure about the “M” part…maybe we should use “BDSN” with the “N” being for “Narcissist.”

    Reply
    1. anotherami

      Using any of it in this context is unfair to the practitioners of BDSM– that whole scene is based on consent. Consent doesn’t make one damned iota of difference under Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that no matter what one does, no matter how good one behaves, no amount of prayers in Jesus’ name will save them from eternal torment unless they are one of the elect. Therefore, the reverse must be true too– no sin will keep the elect from Heaven. I suspect it plays no small role in the number of Calvinists accused of various forms of fraud and abuse.

      I do not understand why Calvinists do not see this fatal flaw in predestination– it makes sin ultimately irrelevant. Those deemed reprobate will go to Hell and the elect will go to Heaven, period. Nothing we do will change it. It makes life pointless.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Calvinists play a game where the outcome is fixed. I know all the arguments Calvinists use to make it seem otherwise, but peel all the bullshit away and what we are left with is a God who controls everything.

        Reply

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