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Do Christian Apologists Really “Love” Atheists and Other Non-Christians?

i love youSpend enough time in the trenches fighting against Evangelical apologists and you will more than likely be told by one or more of your combatants, I love you. Over the past decade, I have had countless Christians say they loved me. Recently, a particularly obnoxious Evangelical told me this and I replied, sorry, I am not gay. The man in question missed my dripping sarcasm and thought I was making some sort of homophobic slur. What I wanted this zealot to see is that I didn’t buy the notion that he “loved” me. In fact, based on my understanding of love, none of the Christian Romeos who have professed their love to me, actually do.

Evangelicals are taught from an early age that God commands them to love everyone; that demonstrating this love is evidence that they are children of God; that the two great commands are love God and love your fellow-man. Why is it then, that some of the nastiest, most hateful people on earth are Evangelicals? Long-time readers of this blog have witnessed numerous Evangelicals spew venomous bile in their comments about something I have written. Yet, these preachers of hate can turn right around and say, Bruce, I love you (and sometimes add, and God does too).

Many Evangelical apologists believe that telling people the “truth” — truth being their interpretation of a Bronze Age religious text — is an act of “love.” When confronted with their hateful, bombastic words, Evangelicals will often respond, I am just telling you what God says! In other words, God is to blame for their words, not they themselves. What a cop-out, right? This allows Evangelicals to rail against LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, abortionists, liberals, Catholics, and atheists without being held accountable for their words. All these zealots are saying is, THUS SAITH THE LORD!

People raised in Evangelical churches likely remember being told by their pastors that Christians are to speak the truth in love. This idea is found in Ephesians 4:15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. However, when taken in context, this verse teaches that Christian pastors and evangelists are to speak the truth in love to the CHURCH, not the world at large. Context is a bitch, eh?

Evangelical apologists who use hate and bigotry to preach their warped gospel of “love” do great damage to their cause when behaving in ways that cause non-Christians to feel hurt and shame. Of course, these zealots think that feeling “guilty” after being preached at is a sure sign of Holy Ghost conviction. I sat in countless church services growing up where a “man of God” stomped, spit, and thundered as he savaged the congregation for whatever behavior(s) he deemed an affront to the thrice holy God. A preacher skilled at manipulating human emotions can cause congregants to suffer emotional stress; that, come invitation time, will result in much weeping and wailing at the church altar. And then at the next preacher’s meeting, pastors will share stories about how God used their sermons to bring conviction and repentance. No, what brought conviction and repentance was skillful manipulation of human emotions.

True love is not found in words. Countless men have told women they “loved” them just so they could have sex with them. Women suffer and endure physical abuse because their abusers apologize and say, I love you.  The Bible says that the Christian God is a God of love. However, his behavior suggests otherwise; that God is, in fact, a mean, violent, sadistic son-of-a-bitch. There’s nothing in the Bible that remotely suggests that God is a loving deity. What about God demonstrating his love to us in the atoning death of Jesus? Sorry, but even here, God comes off as a bad person. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father violently and viciously punished Jesus, his Son, on a Roman cross. The father’s torture of his son led to his death. Why did the Father do this to his Son? Not because of anything he did. Oh no, God rained physical terror down upon Jesus because of what other people did — namely the human race. What kind of father acts this way toward his innocent progeny? Love? Not a chance. The death of Jesus and his father’s culpability in his death is better suited for an American Horror Story series or an episode of Criminal Minds.

The Bible does contain a wonderful passage that illustrates true love. I Corinthians 13:1:8,13 says:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Charity never faileth….And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

When is the last time you have seen this kind of love coming from Evangelicals — especially those who roam the internet and social media seeking opportunities to attack and condemn unbelievers? Not often, if ever.

Many Evangelicals believe that they have a duty to tell sinners (anyone who doesn’t believe as they do) the “truth.” It matters not whether they were given permission to do so. Sinners need to hear the gospel even if they don’t want to. These soulwinners likely have been told by their pastors that if they don’t witness to sinners when given the opportunity and these sinners die and go to hell, God will hold them accountable for the sinners doing to hell. Ezekiel 33:8,9 says:

 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

The majority of Evangelicals never share their faith, never witness, never preach the gospel to sinners. They might invite those sinners to church so their preacher can evangelize them, but outside of that, most Evangelicals keep the world’s greatest story to themselves (and we should be very glad that they do). The remaining few believe God has commanded them to preach the truth in love. Unbelievers, like it or not, will have to endure being harassed, cajoled, and shit upon by people who “love” them.

I spent fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent “loving” people as detailed in this post. This warped idea of love caused me to view unsaved family members, friends, and neighbors as prospects for heaven. I wasn’t interested in them as individuals. All that mattered were their souls. If I determined they were unsaved, I attempted to evangelize them — either verbally or by giving them literature/tracts. Holidays with unsaved family were opportunities to witness to my heathen relatives. Several times a year, I would have evangelists come and preach to the churches I pastored. The evangelists and I, along with zealous congregants, would make a concerted effort to knock on doors and witness to the lost. I would ask church members to submit the names and addresses of people they believed needed salvation. We would then go visit these sinners and attempt to evangelize them. Having their names ahead of time gave us an in, much like vacuüm salesman who knock on your door and say, Hello Mrs. Jones. My name is Clarence. Betty Jones, your sister-in-law, gave me your name and asked me to stop by and share with you the dirt-cleaning power of the Rainbow vacuüm cleaner. May I come in and share the good news of clean carpets? Most people aren’t interested in getting “saved” (or buying a vacuüm cleaner), but once their friend or family member’s name is mentioned, they feel obligated to listen to the sales pitch. (There is a close connection between door-to-door sales methods and the techniques used by many Evangelicals to evangelize unbelievers.)

love 1 corinthians 13

During the deconversion process, I realized that I had a warped understanding of love. I had to learn to love people without condition or expectation. Evangelicals can often be busybodies, sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Believing that the Bible is some sort of divine blueprint or owner’s manual will do that to a person. Having marital problems? Let Evangelical Sally “share” with you what the Bible says about marriage. Having financial problems? Let Evangelical George “share” with you God’s plan for economic prosperity. Whatever problem people are facing, Evangelicals have a Bible proof text meant to address their “need.” Behaving this way is seen as “love,” but it is anything but.

Polly and I decided ten or so years ago that when our children became adults and later married that we would not “lovingly” meddle in their lives. We love our children enough to let them live their lives on their own terms. Do they make stupid decisions? Absolutely. Do we have opinions about the choices they make? Sure. But, as long as they are not doing something that causes physical harm, we intend to leave them alone. And we expect the same from them. I am sure our children have opinions about decisions Polly and I have made. Because of the love we have for one another, we recognize personal boundaries and don’t cross them. Now, if one of my children asks for our opinion or advice, then we will give it. If not, mouths are zipped.

In the same manner as we treat our children, Polly and I treat our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. We love these people as they are, expecting nothing in return. We love them because they matter to us and we want them to have happy, prosperous lives. Again, this doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say or do.

One other thing I have learned post-Jesus is that I don’t have to love everyone. That’s right, not everyone is worthy of my love. In fact, there are a few people I despise and hate — here’s looking at you, President Trump. Generally, I try to treat people with respect and I expect the same in return. Those who don’t respect me for who I am are quickly erased from my iPad contact app. I couldn’t do that as a pastor. Frankly, I had to “love” more than a few asshole church members. I find it refreshing to shower my love on those deserving of it. Life is too short to spend much time trying to love those who hate and despise who and what I am. Does this make me a bad person, an unloving man? I don’t think so. I have a great capacity to love others — even people I disagree with. The people closest to me know that I am polite and respectful to everyone I come in contact with. It’s not in my nature to be mean or hateful. That said, I won’t go out of my way to love people who have misused and abused me or my family.

I have met numerous good people over the years through this blog. For those I have known for years, I have come to love them. Two years ago, a woman sent me an email that said, I love your writing, but your grammar needs some help! At first, I was offended, but then I realized she was right. From that point to today, virtually everything I have written for this site has been edited by her. We have become friends. We likely will never meet one another face to face, but yet we are friends and have a love for one another as good friends do. All of us, I suppose, have people we have met on the internet/social media who have become friends we dearly love. Isn’t that awesome? I can love people all across the globe without ever meeting them in the flesh.

Have you experienced the Evangelical “love” mentioned in this post? Did you have to relearn what it means to love after you deconverted?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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  1. Avatar
    Ian, for a long time

    After I came clean about my deconversion, I received 4 emails.

    One came from a friend who told me our friendship was not based on beliefs. He didn’t understand or agree with me, but he still loved me. I count him a brother.

    Two emails came from people who preached good, harsh sermons and wrote me off. No mention of love anywhere in their emails.

    One email came from someone who preached softly to me. At the end of the letter, they said they loved me, but were now worried for my soul. I feel that person does care about me, but can’t have me around because I threaten long held beliefs. This person has made two or three professions of faith, so there is obviously some doubt inside.

    The church I attended, and it’s sattelite churches, was filled with people who knew me for 20 years. I never did anything outwardly wrong and lived a clean life. They showed their love by cutting me off, with most never speaking to me again. Occasionally, I run into some of them. Some will exchange pleasantries, as decent people will do. Some won’t even acknowledge me. Those actions tell me all I need to know about their love.

  2. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Well, I told a close friend I was no longer a Christian. And I never saw her again. I really felt the (lack of) Christian love there.

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    My experience with evangelical fundamentalist Christianity was that there was a mixed bag of people, just as I find in any other organization/workplace/social setting. Some people are just good people who want to help others. Some people use their religious rules to judge and try to gain power over others under the guise of “tough love” or “speaking the truth in love”. There is one woman at my church who definitely comes to mind. She considered herself to be the epitome of a good Christian wife, mother, church member, servant of God. She was the mother of one of my friends, and my friend and her sister were 2 of the most unhappy girls I have known, but on the outside, they appeared to be the most pious. My mom referred to this lady as “intimidating” and commented that she felt that Mrs. B was constantly judging her every word and action. Mrs. B taught Sunday school and called out one of my friends (we were teens at the time) for some comment, saying, “I’m not surprised as your mother doesn’t even submit to your father’s authority”. This woman appeared to be a paragon of Christian life, yet I found her to be cold, judgmental, and honestly, I was afraid of her. Her words and actions made me wonder how a religion that is supposed to be about helping people, leading them to a “loving God”, could also be one in which members are encouraged to approach other members about supposed transgressions – this seemed like a religious version of a police state.

    As far as witnessing goes, we were encouraged to do so, but I can only think of one occasion in which the Southern Baptist Convention encouraged a huge door-to-door witnessing drive. Our church was singled out because supposedly churches had X number of members on their roll but only Y number who actually attend. Our church had a much greater percentage of active members than members on the roll, so we were told we needed to go out into the community and add people to the roll in order to be more in line with the numbers represented by other churches. I guess it was like a massive cold call campaign to be used for future contacts of community members. It was uncomfortable though, having to go out door to door bothering people who just wanted to be left alone on a Sunday afternoon. Somehow my husband got on a list for Jehovah’s Witnesses, so once every couple of months the same guy and some other person will come to the door and try to witness to my atheist husband. My husband likes talking to the main guy but I think he’s worn out the poor guy’s arsenal of responses to atheists, and now the conversation isn’t as interesting. The other poor person he brings is like a trainee and acts like a deer in headlights. It might be a way to train JWs to talk with a real live atheist, who knows….

  4. Avatar

    So interesting that we can both love and hate people we have never met. It will get even more interesting when AI gets to the point where we are loving and hating someone that may be (unbeknownst to us) a machine entity.

  5. Avatar

    Born as I am seeing both sides of the veil and not trained to keep my mouth shut about it, I was a target for proselytizing in college. A ‘friend’ confessed she was terrified she wouldn’t be saved or worse, she would be raptured but I would be left behind when the big day arrived. Nervous about being an adult and feeling ‘not quite prepared’ I did my best to view religion as my friend did, but seeing both sides… Yeah, I kept blurting out that the fat man in the middle of the room really needed a robe because he looked chilly.

    Attacked as a witch, feminazi, atheist, slut… the labels are the same. Its as if there is a mimeographed sheet of how to insult a strong female. I wear these slurs as badges of honor. I’ve been called the worse thing ever*. How can they compare.

    I learned to practice Unconditional Love when my husband was living with cancer. I’d encountered Universal Love while in college – I freaking glowed with the stuff. I’m surprised I survived to be honest. Drunk on love and grooving to the theatre beat is no way to go through life. There has to be balance. The Universe always finds a way to bring Balance. BTW – I define Unconditional Love as Love without strings. I don’t have to like a person to love them. It’s a Mobius Strip of logic that appeared to me when dealing with really hard times. Cancer never makes it easy. Ever.

    Joel – It makes me curious – how would one program love? Blade Runner came out again, and isn’t love part of what drives some of the AI to revolt – well, other than they believed they had value too.

    PS – I view these nosy folk who have to apply their template to my life as black and white thinkers. If there is color in their life, it’s always within the lines. Me? I understand life is more of an Impressionistic Painting. It’s messy and sloppy and sometimes a person has to do what they have to do to get by. If I dipped too deep into the dark of my soul a few times, well, I’m not there now. I managed to climb out into the light. Step by step seeking always For the Good of All and May it Harm None. Not an easy creed to follow but I said I would and I’m a Lady of My Word.

    *Worse thing ever – (sob and a bit of snark) Late for Supper!!!!

    • Avatar

      On naturalism, the feelings and behaviors we ascribe to the concept of “love” are simply neuro-chemical signals derived from information stored in our DNA. I don’t find it much of a stretch to translate that same type of information into an AI mind, in order to signal a similar response.

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Bruce Gerencser