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Dear Jesus, I Want a Refund


Dear Jesus,

I was five-years-old when I remembered praying to you for the first time. My mother expressed to me the importance of praying every night before I went to bed, and for the next forty-five years, not a day went by that I didn’t bow my head, close my eyes, and utter one or more prayers to you. All told, I prayed tens of thousands of prayers, each uttered with sincerity and faith, believing that you, Jesus, would answer them.

For most of my life I believed, Jesus, that the Bible was your words — the Words of God. I believed you were a kind, loving, compassionate God who had my best interests at heart. When I prayed, I believed that you would answer my petitions according to your will, purpose, and plan for my life. There were times, Jesus, when you answered my prayers right on the spot, and other times when you answered after a short season of trial and testing. But most of the time, my prayers to you went unanswered. I wondered, did I say the wrong words or ask for the wrong things? Why, when it came to big-ticket prayers of life and death proportions, did you never say a word? I prayed and prayed and prayed, and all I got from you was silence.

As I read through the pages of the Bible, I came across promises you made to me and my fellow Christians. If we would have faith the size of a mustard seed — that’s a really small seed, Jesus, just in case you’ve forgotten its size — we could move mountains. You promised that your followers would do greater works than you, yet I never raised the dead, healed the sick, or fed five-thousand people with three Big Macs and a large order of French fries. Every dying person died, despite my prayers. Every sick person either died, stayed the same, or got better. Those who got better had doctors, nurses, and medications to thank, not you, Jesus. Yes, a lot of those sick people did give you credit for their healing, but everyone knew that without modern medicine they would have died. We all kept silent about this, not wanting to ruin your reputation.

I also read where you said that you would be with me through thick and thin; that you would never, ever leave or forsake me. Yet, why were you nowhere to be found during the darkest moments of my life? I wept countless tears, Jesus, calling out to you, begging you to please come to my rescue. I was devoted to you, an on-fire, sold-out preacher of the gospel. I lived and breathed the gospel. I tried my best to live according to what you said in the Bible, even when I found some of your sayings to be perplexing, stupid, or hard. Despite my devotion, you ignored me, choosing instead to help countless Christian grannies find their car keys or hearing aids. What gives, Jesus?

From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, I read about a hands-on God who was intimately involved with his creation, including with Bruce Duane Gerencser. I am the only Bruce Duane in the world, so I know you couldn’t have confused me with someone else. Verse after verse — your words, remember? — made promises to me. Surely, God keeps his promises, right?  And the biggest promise of all was the one where you promised that when I died I would receive a new/perfect body and spend eternity living in the snazziest city ever built — the New Jerusalem. Granted, no one has ever come back to earth to tell us what lies beyond the grave, but, hey, you are Jesus, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Surely, whatever the Bible says is true. You wouldn’t have just been making stuff up, would you?

All told, Jesus, I spent fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent gathering up disciples for you. I devoted my life to you, forsaking my family and harming my health. Hundreds and hundreds of people punched their tickets to heaven in the churches I pastored. While my colleagues in the ministry were busy golfing, taking vacations, or banging their secretaries, I was preaching on street corners, planting churches, and doing all I could to win the lost. Even when I decided you were a Calvinist, Jesus, I still did what you commanded me to do: work while it is yet day, for night comes when no man can work. Even though I knew that you had predetermined through some sort of divine lottery who would and wouldn’t go to Heaven when they died, I didn’t know who got the winning tickets, so I treated everyone as a potential golden ticket winner.

For most of my life, I lived in poverty, rarely making enough money to provide for the needs of my family. You told me, Jesus, that I would never have to beg for food, so it was good that Food Stamps didn’t count, right? The Gerencser family never missed a meal, but I do wonder: which of our meals did you provide? I worked and my wages helped buy groceries. For a few years, we received Food Stamps and made ample use of government food stuffs. And on more than a few occasions, kindly church members gave us groceries. It seems, to me anyway, Jesus, that you didn’t have a hand in feeding us. I know that you take credit for the sunshine and rain that causes crops to grow, but everyone now knows, Jesus — thanks to science — that you have nothing to do with where food comes from. Maybe, you should take those verses out of the Bible. Taking credit for something you didn’t do is lying. You don’t want to be a liar, do you?

My wife and I gave thousands and thousands of dollars to you Jesus, just like you commanded us to do. We gave tithes, offerings above the tithe, mission offerings, and revival offerings, along with giving money, cars, clothing, and food to people you told me to help. You never told Polly to do any of this giving, but she trusted that you and I were on good speaking terms. I wonder if I should tell her the truth, Jesus? Should I tell her that all those times I said you were talking to me, leading me, or prompting me, it was really just me doing what I wanted to do; that I wanted to help others, even if it meant hurting my wife and children?

You told me in the Bible, Jesus, that all my giving was being recorded and that every dollar I gave on earth was being stored in Heaven’s First National Bank of New Jerusalem; that someday, once I arrive at my heavenly mansion, I will have vast treasures at my disposal. I wonder, Jesus, would it be possible for me to get a refund? Since you never answered my prayers about my health problems, I have had to deal with chronic pain and illness. Twenty years now, Jesus, with no end in sight. I now know that you are never going to do what you promised you would do. The least you can do, then, is make a wire transfer from my Heavenly account to First Federal Bank of the Midwest, account number 6666666. I have lots of medical bills to pay, and now that my wife is having her own health problems, it would sure be nice if you would refund all the money I’ve deposited in your bank.

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. Yes, Lord. I can’t give you a refund. Imagine what would happen if Christians everywhere started asking for refunds. Why, there would be a run on the bank and before you knew it, I would be penniless. How will I be able to give all my followers rewards and gift cards on judgment day if I refund everyone’s money? Besides, didn’t you read in the Bible where it says, ALL SALES ARE FINAL? Where does it say that, Jesus? Well, you kind of have to read between the lines. Remember when I was dying on the cross — for YOUR sins, by the way? Remember what I said? It is FINISHED! That’s Greek for ALL SALES ARE FINAL.

Thanks for nothing, Jesus. I hope you won’t mind if I let everyone know that not only are you a liar, but you also are a hoarder; that any monies dropped in church offering plates will disappear into the heavens; that any requests for financial help will be met with silence.

Thanks for nothing, Jesus

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. Pingback:An open letter to Jesus | Civil Commotion

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    Reminds me of a quote by Daniel Dennet, “There’s simply no polite way to tell people they’ve dedicated their lives to an illusion.”
    Jesus didn’t leave you completely empty handed though. I wouldn’t lament that you helped people. I bet your children turned out ok…I doubt they are spoiled anyway. And of course you’ve got a great story. Thank ye Jesus!

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    Heartbreaking……..the only word I can come up with. I do not often weep over material that I merely read. Maybe it’s because the experiences you have described here are so intensely personal for you, and for me. I have worn those shoes, walked those miles, and asked those questions. I am, as yet, far too skeptical to ascribe any deification to humanity. If God is a myth, then all of the evil in the world is most definitely our own fault. All of it. 100%. By ourselves. Yet, the expectations that we are taught concerning God’s involvement with people He loves far too often come up short for us. I don’t believe you ever asked for anything selfish,sir, in asking for financial help, relief from physical problems or some sort of attentiveness to your biggest concerns in prayer. I am still crying. For you, for myself and for anyone else who has ever felt like you expressed here. Intense post.

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    I think it would be wonderful for believers to see that you are a good destination for their tithes. You very much deserve the payback for all you have given and why is it that only non-believers like me feel that you deserve monetary support? Might it be that Christianity is designed to harm us and that you will get nothing from the faithful because you are not to be supported but to be harmed, praise Jesus. Dear dear Bruce, We pray for you but cannot support you. (That would be a true statement because prayer is the harm in itself. Why not actually help, Christian?)

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    As I read this, I felt it was so close to my experiences of decades of being a x-tian. DH and I worked our socks off for jesus. We were secretly critical of other church members who sat in a pew on Sundays but did little else in the week. We used our holidays for missions etc when they lay on sunny beaches. Our car was the oldest in the street and our house smaller than our friends’ properties because we had given everything to jesus. I was sometimes vaguely envious that they seemed to feel no guilt that they weren’t jesusing as hard as we were. And xtians don’t think too deeply about unanswered prayers, there was always an (im)plausible explanation so we marched on regardless. The dissonances niggled away in the back of my mind for years – exactly as you said, Bruce, the sick died, bad things went on happening etc etc but I suppose I daren’t allow myself to think about them, or voice them….until I did…so thank you for being a big part of my daring to ask questions and see the madness, delusion and falsity of it all.

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    It is heartbreaking how many like you and Polly sincerely lived for your deity, giving life and health over, only to realize that it was all built on fiction. You both did help other people, I am sure, but that’s because you wanted to help them. You were the hands of Jesus. No, you were your own hands helping others.

    I see so many evangelicals from my past living, no, giving their lives in service to Jesus. It makes me sad, but I wonder if they are happy. Maybe they are. Maybe they can bury their doubts if they have any. Ignorance is bliss, the saying goes….

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    Great writing,Bruce. Very similar to my parents story. My grandparents made up the difference so that we did not have the poverty other ministry families had. But mom had to do all the worrying over finances with dad not caring at all. It has made her a bitter,controlling woman who is difficult to have a relationship with. This article was more helpful than you know. Thanks for all you do.

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    Charlotte D

    Thanks for this. It’s really opened up my eyes as to how you might feel in a post-Christian life. I never considered before that there would be those particular feelings of bitterness and betrayal and anger in there. But as others have said, it wasn’t a waste. You still did good because you were a good person. And that has more meaning than doing good just because your religion tells you to.

    My mother was brought up Baptist here in Britain, and while I don’t think the financial expectations on the congregation were there (US-style evangelism seems to have a peculiarly pecuniary nature), it’s influence was still pervasive with her. Up until her late 20s she was Baptist inside and out, devoted to the church, teaching Sunday school, etc.

    She “lost” her religion before she married & had me and my brother. She always says what precipitated it was going to college (to study literature & teacher training). There was no religious affiliation to the college, and her mind was opened. It all fell away. When I’ve read your blog, I’ve often wondered how different your life would’ve been if instead of going to study at a religious institution you’d gone somewhere “secular”. I suspect with your intelligence and literacy things may have been quite different.

    Because of my mum’s experience, my brother and I were brought up non-religious. (My dad was nominally Anglican but not in practice.) We were never baptised and only occasionally taken to church at Christmas & Easter.
    I’m very grateful for that. I believe it gave me a more open and comparative view of religion and the world in general. Sometimes I envy the religious for their certainty and solace, but the envy is mild and doesn’t last too long. I have so much more.

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Bruce Gerencser