Guest Post: A Christian Pastor Shares Why He Reads My Blog

guest-post

Recently, Bruce sent out the bat signal for anyone, even Christians, to write a guest post. I am a Christian pastor (Church of the Nazarene) who reads Bruce’s blog on a regular basis. I became a Christian in 1985 at the age of 25 when I was baptized in a Lutheran church. I remained a Lutheran for about 19 years, when my family decided to leave. Although we were fairly conservative (as was the church), we did not leave because of what we considered approaching liberalism in the denomination.  Rather, the congregation had become cold and inward-focused.

We joined a Nazarene congregation in our area. I felt a call to ministry, and took classes for 8 years before being ordained at age 55 in 2015. I pastored a church out of town for a year that was 80 miles away. I am now an associate at a Nazarene church about 9 miles away from our home. I work full-time as a house painter.

I forget how I stumbled upon Bruce’s website, but found it to be interesting. Like many, I wondered how he could have left the faith. I read many of his posts, especially those that told his story. As far as I could tell, Bruce was brutally honest about his journey. I will admit, I didn’t care for his salty language, but it is his blog and if I let it offend me, I could just drive on by. No need to correct him or ask to tone it down. It is his site, and he can post whatever he likes.

I feel no need to argue with Bruce, or analyze why he is an atheist now. I’m willing to take him at his word about his story.  There is no argument that will win Bruce back to the faith. This is between God (if God exists, which I believe He does) and Bruce. Besides, I don’t think I’d come out too well in an argument with Bruce. He seems to be a capable defender of whatever he believes, whether as a Christian in the past or an atheist at the present time.

Some Christians may not like this, but Bruce has done us a service by exposing some of the hypocrisy in the church. He has also posted stories about crooked pastors. To that I say “thanks!” Too many times, the church has excused bad behavior and criminal actions, sweeping them under a rug or passing the problem on to another unsuspecting congregation.

A lot of Christians have abandoned Bruce — people he used to call friends. That is too bad. If God is love, then why do we fail to love? I’m sure someone will find some scripture to say why we should treat Bruce like a leper, a tax collector, or some kind of apostate enemy of the faith. It’s easy to want to argue with him, feel superior to him, to be smug. But what if we Christians would just take him at his word, respect him as a fellow human, and treat him as we would want to be treated? I personally know some friends of Bruce that have not deserted him. Thankfully, they still care. But too many Christians are more worried about winning an argument, about being right, than loving a person just for who he is and where he is in his life.

Sorry to get a bit preachy, but we preachers tend to get out of control at times! I do want to thank Bruce for allowing me to share a bit about why I read his blog. I hope he keeps it up, even when I have to cringe a bit when I see the Songs of Sacrilege. I believe that if we don’t read things that challenge our thinking, then we can become lazy and rigid. I’m not in danger of losing my faith by reading ”The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser,” but it causes me to think.

Reverend Greg

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28 Comments

  1. Brent

    Thanks, Bruce, for posting this… and thanks, Greg, for writing it. When I finally came out to my family and friends as a non-Christian a few years ago, I feared the worst… but the people in my church for the most part have treated me the same way as Greg is writing here. I greatly appreciate the irenic spirit.

    I do want to respond to your closing sentence though:

    “I’m not in danger of losing my faith by reading ”The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser,” but it causes me to think.”

    I smiled when I read this… because this is EXACTLY what I would have said in mid-2009 when I (then a Christian) happened read an article written by an unbeliever. I thought, “Hm! This writer has a good point. How would I respond to this?” And it caused me to think. And two years later, having read more and thought more and read still more and thought a lot more, I had lost my faith.

    Reply
    1. Rev. Greg

      Thanks for your gracious comments.

      Reply
    2. Brian

      I wonder about the language used in these matters sometimes. I spent many years trying to talk Christianese to Christians because I had been one all my life and wanted to make them comfortable listening to my views, listening to my life with them, my life of accepting human reality and not belief in God.
      Just as a brief example, the phrase: I lost my faith….
      The inference is that something was lost and there was a dimishing, a funeral of sorts. The fact is that when I decided faith was a crock, I did not lose anything but delusion, illusory feelings and, well, Santa. But I gained my life! Perhaps the phrase is morea accurately expressed as, When I gained my freedom and life…..
      People talk of the loss of camraderie, the isolation from the woo-followers but I rejoiced that they were kept at a distance and judged me as they had always judged. Those who really wanted to know what I was about, asked…. wait, that was nobody. They did not care to know my journey when it diverged from their fantasy invention.
      What truly keeps them away from others, from wanting to know, is that humans are just that and always remain that even when they spout verses and memorize the way to go. I submit that the phrase, I lost my faith, is co-opted by religion. Faith is a human emotion and not about delusion and sky-inventions. I believe in the dawn. I really do. I lost my religion because it failed the test of basic humanity. It told me I was less-than and broken. It demanded I demean myself and then others too. Having walked in the light now, having left evangelical Christianity, I am so thankful for the dawn, so much with the day and the night and the spinning earth that is my life. How I love my children! i would put no other above them in love: How silly a concept! The natural world is what brought us into being and what will cradle us in non-being at what we call the end of time. I did miss some people at church who did not persue me in my departure but mostly I missed the help. I was doing my roof, alone, and my mother said, You should go to church. They will help you with your roof. Yep, could be that they would. I would rather take my time and do my own roof, thank-you.

      Reply
      1. Brent

        “Just as a brief example, the phrase: I lost my faith… The inference is that something was lost and there was a dimishing, a funeral of sorts. The fact is that when I decided faith was a crock, I did not lose anything but delusion, illusory feelings and, well, Santa. But I gained my life! Perhaps the phrase is morea accurately expressed as, When I gained my freedom and life…”

        Brian: I agree. I don’t actually use the phrase “I lost my faith” when I speak with my (many) Christian acquaintances, because I agree that it doesn’t convey very well the main points I’m trying to make: My beliefs changed as I realized that what I used to believe wasn’t true, and I don’t grieve the change as if it was something I wish I could have back. I want everyone to see that I’m very happy and purpose-filled now.

        The reason I worded it that way here, is that I am trying to draw a sharp parallel between Greg saying he’s “not in danger of losing [his] faith” by reading this blog which “causes [him] to think”… and the fact that this is EXACTLY what happened to me: I read, I thought, I deconverted. That’s why I used the same words he did.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          Thanks for this Brent. It made me think about the choice of words we use. I get what you are saying and we know that sometimes words, phrases are easily mistaken or can have inflections imposed by a reader just as well as the writer.
          Ir perhaps it is the case that these meanings are all there all the time and we take what we need in the moment, or give what we can, what’s available. I think you expressed yourself very clearly. There are many many people who seem to simply believe that correct, rigorous thinking leads to the end of God-faith. I am not sure if you are among them. For me, religious belief is about feelings, far beyond the ‘thinking’ mind. There are so many Christian thinkers who leave me well in their wake in any race of thought. Still, I tend toward a conviction that belief is about human feelings, far far more than any thinking involved. Thoughts?
          Feelings about that?

          Reply
          1. Brent

            “There are many many people who seem to simply believe that correct, rigorous thinking leads to the end of God-faith. I am not sure if you are among them. For me, religious belief is about feelings, far beyond the ‘thinking’ mind. […] I tend toward a conviction that belief is about human feelings, far far more than any thinking involved. Thoughts? Feelings about that?”

            No, I don’t believe “correct, rigorous thinking = end of God-faith.” It’s definitely not that simple. I think it can be head, or heart, or both… a different mix for different people.

            It’s wrong to say we are purely rational creatures, and if we just accept correct facts, we’ll have right beliefs. Emotions and chemistry (our biological nature beyond just the mind) play a big part. The more researchers learn about our minds and psychology (e.g. things like cognitive biases), the more we come to understand that we humans can be pretty flawed thinkers. Contrary facts can actually *reinforce* our beliefs (crazy but true). Our background and indoctrinations exert a strong pull to keep us where we are, whether we’re right or not. etc.

            BUT: It is also wrong to say, “It’s pointless to present facts to people or argue with them or try to make them think. People believe what they want to believe and they’ll never change.” My personal journey proves this false. I spent nearly 40 years as a Christian, puzzling over some questions but never once doubting the “truth” that God exists. And then someone’s writing, their argument, their facts were a few pebbles that started a 2-year avalanche. Eventually I crossed over, I had a paradigm shift, I ended up with a totally different worldview. It can happen.

            Jonathan Swift said, “Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired” — I’ve seen this paraphrased as “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” Well… for some people I’m sure that’s true, but it wasn’t for me.

            And for some, it will be contrary emotions (feelings) that will lead to the end of faith. I’ve read stories of those abused by a church leader, or who have gone through a tragedy, and the depth of their anguish is what caused them to reexamine their beliefs. And for still others, no facts or thoughts or arguments or emotions will ever shake their faith. We’re all unique.

      2. Reverend Greg

        Thanks for your personal story, Brian. I appreciate it.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          Best to you, Rev! My Fellowship Baptist preacher dad was a very kind man in his work, much as you sound to be here in your writing. I felt sorry for him when he was pressed by others to take public stands that were hot-ticket, to have to write that he agreed with the need for capital punishment and so forth. I know that was hard for him because he had a heart for people and was very lonely in this world.

          Reply
  2. anotherami

    I agree with Greg; reading here causes me to think. It has caused me to re-examine what I really do believe and why I hold to that belief. I think one of the most important things I have learned is that Calvinistic theology has overtaken many churches and that this theology is at the root of the ugliness so many see in American Christianity right now. They may still possess enough integrity to not claim to know who are the elect, but they damned well know it *ain’t* those heathens who sleep in on Sunday mornings* or go bowling on Wednesday night instead of the mid-week prayer meeting or vote Democratic and don’t even think about homosexuals or a woman who terminated a pregnancy being welcomed on Sunday or Wednesday either one.

    * NASCAR is ok because they have a church service right there in the infield on Sunday morning.

    Reply
    1. Rev. Greg

      Thanks for the comments. Do you read thewartburgwatch.com? You may it interesting as well.

      Reply
      1. anotherami

        I perused the website you mentioned and it’s too conservative for me to feel like I would be welcomed as a regular though I might visit from time to time, just to see what they are discussing. I cannot subscribe to the Nicene Creed as most people understand it. I come from a liberal Quaker background and left even that form of organized religion roughly 30 years ago because my meeting was withdrawing from the world at a time when I felt we needed to step forward. At the same time, it seems that Dee and Deb are trying to create room within evangelical circles for questioning and dissent, which I applaud.

        The more we can recognize that humans, regardless of religious beliefs or the lack thereof, are all in this thing together, the better off we will be. That starts with at least being willing to listen to other points of view.

        Reply
        1. Reverend Greg

          That’s right. We won’t all agree, but we can be civil and listen to each other. The Wartburg Watch ,at least to me, seems to be middle of the road to me, but that’s where I’m coming from.

          Reply
  3. Carmen

    You sound like a nice guy, Greg. Just like Bruce. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Rev. Greg

      Thanks. I have my moments, though!

      Reply
  4. John Arthur

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for this post and your gracious remarks. Have a wonderful day!

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Peace to you as well!

      Reply
  5. Byron Smith

    Great guest post. I wish more Christians were this way. This happens to be one of my favorite blogs. The only thing currently missing is Microsoft cultist or Ubuntu/Mint aficionado material which I would devour. 😉

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Thanks, Byron. This is one of my favorite as well.

      Reply
  6. Joel

    Civil discourse is quite refreshing!

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Joel, we need more civil discourse. Can you imagine what would be said today about President Reagan and Tip O’Neil working together? They’d both be lambasted by their own parties.

      Reply
  7. Becky Wiren

    Thank you, Pastor Greg. Your blog post seems kind and accepting of Bruce. Too many fundagelical Christians can’t wait to rip Bruce (and unbelievers) apart. You’re the type of Christian we LIKE to comment. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Thanks, Becky. Bruce and I may disagree about Christianity, but I’m certainly not called to come here and rip Bruce or anyone else. And I think those that do probably don’t have a calling for that either.

      Reply
  8. Melody

    When I first started reading this blog I was an Evangelical with many questions that I couldn’t find answers to. That I’d also learnt to no longer ask to my fellow Christians. While some of Bruce’s writing made me cringe too back then, I liked the open atmosphere here. Some of the harsher words hurt, but I also found myself agreeing with them sometimes and maybe that hurt even more as it felt pretty problematic. I had not intentions of becoming an atheist and as a result enjoyed some posts more than others: the ones that got to me the most – back then – were the ones about the box: crawling out of the Evangelical box. Looking around at whatever else is out there; they resonated the most with me. They were less confrontational atheist, you might say, but more encouraging to be open-minded and curious.

    I enjoy Bruce’s honesty most of all, and that’s what your post is about too. There is so much phony in the world already and especially in Christianity too – the stricter the rules, the stronger the masks, I think. It’s good to read an open-minded post of a pastor since there is so much of the opposite already. And I complete agree that it’s good to call out those pastors who cross (legal) lines and expose them. Members of churches deserve to be safe in their churches and sadly that is often not the reality. There is not always enough checks and balances – it depends a lot on the church and the rules in place for decision making and so on – some churches don’t have any rules at all in that regard and so the leaders can do what they want and often do.

    As for staying friends despite religious differences, you might find this video interesting:

    Reply
    1. Reverend Greg

      Thanks!

      Reply
  9. Sarah

    Thank you for your post. It was a pleasant surprise. Thank you for treating us like people.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Guest Post: A Christian Pastor Shares Why He Reads My Blog – FairAndUNbalanced.com

  11. Reverend Greg

    You’re welcome. That’s how we we should treat everyone. Too often Christians are all wrath and no love.

    Reply
  12. Carmen

    Bruce, I also wanted to sneak in a Happy Birthday here! Hope it was terrific! 🙂
    (I’ll soon be caught up to you!)

    Reply

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