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Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of “Friendship”

lets be friends

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for many Evangelicals to befriend people just for the sake of friendship. Much like Amway or Herbalife peddlers, zealous Evangelicals always have an ulterior motive when talking to and interacting with the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. The good news for us heathens is that many Evangelicals aren’t good Christians. They are content to let us go to Hell in peace. That said, there are plenty of Evangelicals who believe they are duty-bound to irritate, bug, and harass non-Christians, all in the name of evangelizing the lost.

Take Larry Dixon, professor of theology at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Missions in Columbia, South Carolina. Dixon is “convinced that there is a major element missing in many Christian’s lives.” That element, you ask? Befriending sinners as Jesus did. Dixon implores his fellow Evangelicals to leave the Christian Ghetto® and “develop meaningful relationships with those who are still outside of Christ!”

Dixon is so excited about annoying unbelievers that he wants to send pastors a free copy of his book “Unlike Jesus.” Dixon hopes his book will spur pastors to invite him to their churches to give a seminar on “friendship evangelism.” Dixon knows that the vast majority of Evangelical church members never share their faith with anyone — all praise be to Loki for this small favor. He’s hoping to guilt more Evangelicals into feeling contrite over their indifference to the plight of the “lost.” I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches. I browbeat congregants in my sermons over their lack of evangelistic zeal, and when that didn’t work, I taught evangelism classes or had special speakers come in to teach church members the best ways to “reach” their family, friends, and neighbors with the Evangelical gospel. Despite all of this, most church members kept their faith to themselves. Outside of leaving tracts at restaurants or in bathroom stalls, most of them were content to go to their graves keeping the “good news” to themselves. Sure, I made them feel guilty over their indifference towards the plight of the lost, but the fact remained, most of them were unwilling to make fake friendships with people they didn’t know.

Then there is Katy Morgan, a writer for The Gospel Coalition. Morgan believes in an especially pernicious form of friendship evangelism. In an article titled Three Reasons to Visit an Elderly Person Soon, Morgan gives several reasons why Evangelical zealots should prey on old people.

  • They’re probably lonely
  • They’re probably wiser than you are
  • They definitely need Jesus

There it is, the “real” reason for Morgan and her ilk to “befriend” the aged: they definitely need J-E-S-U-S.

Morgan writes:

After years of faithful but seemingly fruitless witnessing, my mother saw both of her parents become Christians in their 90s. From my perspective, it seems two aspects of old age were among the things the Spirit used to bring them to faith in Christ. 

First, age had stripped them of all their old routines and ways of doing things. Becoming dependent on others gives people a chance to rethink what’s important. The stereotype is that elderly people are deeply entrenched in their ways. But age also forces many people to relinquish what they once valued most. And, like my grandparents, they may come to reconsider faith. 

Second, they were coming face-to-face with death. They were confronted with the question of what would happen when illness became terminal. They began to number their days (Ps. 90:12) and asked the Lord for his compassion (v. 13). He had mercy on them.

I pray he’ll have mercy on increasing numbers of seniors. Recently, I saw some cards designed to help start conversations about Jesus with elderly people. Each one had a picture, a Bible verse, and a prayer. I’m hoping I can take these as a gift for my elderly friend around the corner. “What do you think about Jesus?” I’ll ask. “What do you think of these verses?” We’ve spoken a little about God before, and I know she’ll be willing to talk. And what a hopeful opportunity it will be!

There’s a mission field in our own streets: in lonely apartments and quiet care facilities. These men and women have not been forgotten by God. Let’s be his hands and his feet to them: visiting, befriending, learning, and proclaiming.

I am all for genuinely befriending and helping people, be they young or old. However, I despise Evangelicals who come bearing gifts of friendship when what they really want to do is “save” people from the wrath and judgment of their mythical God. Old people, in particular, are in the sunset years of life. Yes, we “feel” our mortality. We sense the specter of death lurking in the shadows. We know that someday, sooner than later, it will be our names on the obituary pages of our local newspapers. We don’t need fake friends reminding us of our frailty. My wife and I have lived in the same rural Ohio town for thirteen years. There are six Evangelical churches within five miles of our home. Want to know how many times the pastors of these churches have knocked on our door to introduce themselves, invite us to church, or share with us that wonderful salvation they prattle on and on about on Sundays? Zero. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, now there’s a Christian sect that takes the Great Commission seriously. Evangelicals? Why, they are too busy worshiping and getting (metaphorically and literally) fat to bother with the temporal or eternal needs of their neighbors.

Evangelicals love to talk about evangelism, reaching the “lost,” and all the other metaphors they use to describe those God will torture for eternity in the Lake of Fire if they don’t repent and believe the gospel. But the fact remains, most of them, including pastors, deacons, and Sunday school teachers, seem to have no interest in evangelizing unregenerate sinners. Why is that? I suspect that they really don’t like bugging people. Who among us loves having door-to-door salespeople knocking on their doors? None of us. And isn’t that exactly what Dixon, Morgan, and their fellow zealots do: without invitation, inject themselves into the lives of others? Believing that they have a mandate from headquarters to go into the highways and hedges and compel sinners to come to Jesus, evangelizers will the bug the hell out of family, friends, and strangers. Never content just to be decent, thoughtful, genuine human beings, Dixon, Morgan, and company scour the countryside looking for “opportunities” to become fake friends with young and old alike.

After I divorced Jesus in 2008, I lost all of my Evangelical friends and colleagues in the ministry, save one man and his wife. I have been friends with this man since third grade — fifty plus years. I just saw him at a basketball game last night. We chatted as I photographed the game. Both he and his wife attend a Nazarene church. Why did my relationship with this couple survive my deconversion? We agreed that we had many things in common, and instead of focusing on our disagreements over politics, God, and religion, we decided to focus on things such as family, grandchildren, enjoying good food, and taking road trips. My friends are willing to let me go to hell in peace. Sure, my loss of faith bothers them, and they wish I were still a club member. I was, after all, their pastor at one time. They have heard me preach countless times. We have shared numerous spiritual experiences together. However, they also know that I am not lacking in knowledge when it comes to the claims of Christianity. What could they possibly say to me that I haven’t heard or said myself? Instead of focusing on things we will never agree on, we choose, instead, to focus on the love and history we have with one another. None of us is in very good shape, health-wise. I suspect that death is going to claim one or more of us sooner, and not later. When that time comes, I have no doubt that one couple or the other will be at the bedside of their dying friend, offering the comfort that only true friendship provides. Perhaps stories of yesteryear will be shared, as the last breath is drawn. Sure, tears will flow. How could it be otherwise?

I know what true friendship looks like. In a 2017 post titled Why Our Christians Friends Leave Us When We Deconvert, I wrote:

As a teenager, I had lots of friends, male and female. Most of my friends were fellow church members, though I did have a few friends in the “world.” I always found it easy to meet new people and make friendships. I had no qualms about talking to complete strangers, a gift that suited me well as a pastor. As a nineteen-year-old boy, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I quickly made a lot of new friends, including one who sleeps beside me to this day. I lived in a dorm room with three other men. Virtually every waking hour of my life was spent with fellow students — at church, school, and social events. As anyone who has ever lived in a college dormitory will tell you, dorm life is busy and full of activity. Practical jokes were an everyday occurrence, and, as an expert joker, I found great satisfaction in pulling one over on my fellow students. I lived on a dormitory wing that was labeled the “party” wing. The other dormitory wing was called the “spiritual” wing. My fellow party-wing residents loved Jesus, but they loved having a good time too. The spiritual wing? They loved Jesus too, but frowned on doing anything that might be perceived as bawdy or mischievous.

One day, a pastor by the name of A.V. Henderson preached at chapel (students were required to attend chapel five days a week). I have preached and heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. I remember very few of them. I do, however, vividly remember Henderson’s sermon, even forty years later. Henderson was the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Temple was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch founded by Baptist luminary J. Frank Norris and later pastored by G.B. Vick. The 1970s were the zenith of the IFB church movement. Most of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Churches such as Temple Baptist were pastored by men who were great orators and pulpiteers. Henderson was no exception. Henderson’s chapel sermon was from the book of Job. It was, by all counts, a thrilling, rousing sermon. However, Henderson said something during his sermon that I didn’t, at the time, understand. He said, with that distinct Texas drawl of his, that people will go through life with very few true friendships; that most people were fortunate to have two or three lifelong friends. I thought at the time, what’s he talking about? I have lots of friends! Forty years later, I now know that A.V. Henderson was right; that true friends are rare indeed; that if you have two or three such friends, you should consider yourself fortunate.

“Friends” such as Dixon, Morgan, and their fellow evangelizers, will come and go in our lives. When they don’t get what they want from us — our salvation — they move on to other marks. A common cliché found over the mission board in Baptist churches says, “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?” Rebuff their attempts at friendship and Evangelical soulwinners will leave you in your “need” and seek out other needy sinners. And that’s fine with me. I am quite happy to be left alone in my debauchery and apostasy. I just wish the purveyors of friendship evangelism would leave others alone too. Want to truly help the elderly? Meet their temporal needs. Stop by their homes and volunteer to rake their leaves, paint their houses, or shovel their drives. Make them meals, and sit down and break bread with them. Ask them about their children and grandchildren. Ask them to share stories with you. Genuinely enter into their lives, not as Evangelical carpetbaggers looking at “selling” them Jesus, but as human beings who genuinely love others. Want to make friends with your neighbors? Try being like Wilson or Tim Taylor on the TV show Home Improvement. Wilson and Taylor spent countless hours and years talking to one another over a fence. That’s what friends do. Invite your neighbors over for a cookout. When you see they have a need, try and meet that need. We have a plethora of opportunities to befriend others. We share a common humanity, regardless of our political or religious beliefs. If you are a Christian and a neighbor asks about your beliefs/faith, by all means share them. However, attempting to befriend people as a means to an end — salvation — is repugnant. None of us like being used, and that is exactly what Evangelicals do when they target people for evangelization.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

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39 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Matilda

    I spent years believing I was ‘sowing seeds’ by befriending neighbours etc. I was convinced the craft club, the gardening club I went to, were also my missionfield and I could drop jesusy things into the conversation that would lead to conversions.. I had a wonderful, sad example this week. Elderly fundy I visit, said his new neighbours had a big dog, as did the previous occupants. Both dogs are left alone all day and bark a lot. My guy said why didn’t I offer to take the dog for a walk?….I don’t even know the owners, but I recognised immediately that my guy’s fundy mindset was that this would be a wonderful witnessing opportunity to his heathen neighbours (he still thinks I’m a believer and won’t accept I’m not, he thinks things like this will re-activate my faith if only I’d try them and I’d win souls!!)

  2. Avatar
    Dr. Larry Dixon

    Bruce:

    Thank you for the pingback. With a title like “Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of Friendship,” I can see we have a lot to talk about.

    First, congratulations on your marriage of 41 years. Linda and I will hit our 49th this year. We are dinosaurs in a divorce-addicted culture, aren’t we?

    And congrats on your twelve grands. We have seven — and thank the Lord for each and everyone of them.

    I look forward to responding to your blog that mentions me, but I wonder if I could ask you for a favor? As you looked at my blog, I’m sure you saw that I’ve recently written “Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.” I’d be glad to send you a complimentary copy if you would agree to read it. I think we have much more in common (especially about conditional friendships) than you might imagine.

    Again, thanks for the connection.

    Blessings.
    Larry

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Preying on the elderly in nursing homes in order to get Jesus notches on one’s Jesus belt is particularly abhorrent.

    As an introvert, the thought of witnessing to people was more than I could handle. There was no point witnessing at church and Christian school because everyone was already a Christian. From age 16 on, I worked in biochemistry labs at a university, and I intuited that witnessing to all these people who had scientific degrees – in many cases, several scientific degrees – was flat out ridiculous. Some of the people in the lab were Christians, albeit the “wrong” kind like Episcopalian or Lutheran, but at least they already knew about Jesus, right? I had an opportunity once – one of the lab techs, a woman in her 40s, was lamenting the awful state of the world and was glad she hadn’t brought children into the mess. I knew this was the time to say that Jesus makes it all ok, but fortunately even inside my head it sounded childish, simplistic, and ridiculous, and I knew a statement like that wouldn’t convince a seasoned adult. I am so glad I stayed quiet, but there was some inner turmoil because I had lost an opportunity to prevent someone from going to hell. I was not 100% sure that all nonbelievers were going to hell – I had issues with God punishing those who had never heard of Jesus – Sunday school teacher told me that’s why I should tell as many people as possible, and besides, those who didn’t get an opportunity to hear wouldn’t be in as bad torment as those who did hear and rejected it. It still sounded like an unjust situation to me.

  4. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    I was embarrassed by my faith because my brainwashing was not complete and so, especially a young teen (teens are famous for their ability to embarrass both themselves and others) I had great difficulty pouncing on strangers with God’s Truth. This was, I see now in later life, something healthy that endured in my then young body wracked with the viral intonations of Church teachings. It just seemed so doltish to witness! I could see the sense in my dad taking the pulpit and preaching because after all, the congregation came to be preached at! But to stop some poor walker on the public street to share Jesus loves you this I know??? Made no sense to me at all but that does not mean that I could not feel uber guilty about my lack of preaching ability and I certainly did berate myself for feeling my natural feelings. Christianity was doing its job, make another simply human being feel shitty about self.
    Now, when my family members assault me with a book or a verse, i try to take it without too much ado. Because religion of the fundagelical strain teaches people to harm themselves, they sometimes become more than willing to go out and harm others with the same sickness they have embraced. (I really think The Walking Dead is based on this phenomenon in our society, the reborn moving among us only to devour the remaining untainted souls. They do not seem to chew on each other much, just those who have not been reborn. When the JW’s or IFB’s come knocking at your door, keep in mind that they are hungry for you and would like nothing better than a pound of flesh to chew. 😉

  5. Avatar
    TLC

    Oh, so true! The woman who led me in the sinner’s prayer was our office manager. I thought she was a good friend. Well, that friendship lasted until she was sure I was saved and started going to church. She was sure to gift me with the all-important copy of “Purpose-Driven Life.” And then, she was done. Mission accomplished! She didn’t need to be available anymore. Time to move on to the next one. I’ll never forget it.

  6. Avatar
    Ami

    I’ve had a similar conversation with many people.
    They agree that the ‘go tell everyone’ thing just goes along with the general craziness of believers.

    Their God says,”Let’s see how stupid these people really are… I’ve already made them kiss snakes, pretend to babble in a ‘special language’ and jump in the water with all their clothes on. Made them give up money they can’t afford to lose every week, ignored them and their petty requests forever. What else can I do to prove I’m in charge? I know! Let’s make them tell everyone how wonderful I am and make them feel guilty if they don’t!”

    A recent talk with a close friend wandered around to the ritual bullying of the long-suffering Job. If the Christian God exists, he’s a bully, an asshole and has questionable morals.

    What a scam.

  7. Avatar
    Dr. Larry Dixon

    Bruce:
    I’ve thought quite a bit about how to respond to you and your post entitled “Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of ‘Friendship.’” I believe you first mentioned me in your blog back a few years ago when you took issue with my position on premarital sex.

    I posted a preliminary comment on your blog a couple of days ago asking you to read my book “Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.” I think you’d be surprised at how much you and I agree with one another.

    I don’t want to be like an “Amway or Herbalife peddler.” I’m deeply concerned with your very accurate statement that “many Evangelicals . . . are content to let us go to hell in peace.” I also don’t want to “irritate, bug and harass non-Christians.”

    [Just a minor correction — I am now retired from my teaching position at CIU].

    I agree with you that “most church members keep their faith to themselves.” I’m not at all interested in “fake friendships,” Bruce. [I’d be glad to send you the pdf of my book if you wish. You and I may disagree, but I’d like you to see that we’re attacking the same problem of insincere, conditional, blackmail-type, temporary friendships]. We all have a worldview that we want to “share” with others, right?

    I don’t know Katy Morgan, but your attack on her article seems unfair. Is she really advocating fake friendships with the aged?

    You write: “There are six Evangelical churches within five miles of our home. Want to know how many times the pastors of these churches have knocked on our door to introduce themselves, invite us to church, or share with us that wonderful salvation they prattle on and on about on Sundays? Zero.” I agree with you that that’s sad. But if they did visit you, would you criticize them for their “fake friendship”?

    “Never content just to be decent, thoughtful, genuine human beings, Dixon, Morgan, and company scour the countryside looking for ‘opportunities’ to become fake friends with young and old alike.” Wow, Bruce. You don’t know me.

    You “divorced” Jesus 12 years ago. I’m sorry you lost all your Evangelical friends. They are rightly criticized for abandoning you. Jesus is clear that those who turn from the faith (either morally or doctrinally) should be treated as tax collectors and pagans. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and pagans? He sought them out! He befriended them. But He told them the truth about forgiveness.

    You speak of your friend of 50+ years and that he is one who is “willing to let me go to hell in peace.” I’m glad you have that friendship. Would you be angry with him if you found out that he prays for your re-conversion?

    I appreciated your point about true friends, as you reminisced about A.V. Henderson’s sermon. I want to be an exception to your comment that “When they don’t get what they want from us — our salvation — they move on to other marks.”

    You write: “I am quite happy to be left alone in my debauchery and apostasy. I just wish the purveyors of friendship evangelism would leave others alone too.” I agree with your attack on conditional friendships and I am with you in meeting the temporal needs of the elderly, etc. You write: “However, attempting to befriend people as a means to an end — salvation — is repugnant. None of us like being used, and that is exactly what Evangelicals do when they target people for evangelization.”

    Again, Bruce, I think we have a lot in common. But if I’m a true follower of Jesus, I would not just want to meet your temporal needs, but deeply care about your eternal needs. Wouldn’t that be consistent Christianity?

    Blessings. Larry

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      As long as the motivation for friendship is evangelization, such friendships are necessarily “fake” or at the very least established for ulterior reasons. I have a problem with anyone who wants to befriend me for ulterior reasons — religious or not. If the motivations of zealots such as yourself and Morgan were just friendship, there would be no need for books, seminars, or blogs posts sharing effective ways to hustle unbelievers. Sorry, Larry, but your words, and those of countless friendship evangelizers betray your motivations. What you fail to see, due to a false sense of Christian privilege, is that most unbelievers don’t want your offer of friendship, especially if the terms of the relationship is disclosed up front. Again, no need for your book or seminar if your true motivation and objective is to just be your neighbor’s friend.

      You say that we have much in common. I assure you, we don’t. I’ve read your blog for years. I read and follow several hundred Evangelical blogs/news sites. It’s my job, one I take seriously. As far as you and Morgan are concerned, I responded to your words. As a man who spent most of his life in Evangelicalism, I know the “cult” inside and out; the theological jargon, buzz words, methodologies, and motivations. It is more likely that you are so immersed in the Evangelical culture that you cannot see how offensive your words and actions are to many unbelievers. Either that, or you know they are offensive and don’t care. Jesus said, the gospel would bring offense. Of course reprobates like me are going to be offended, right?

      You can’t write ten posts on why you believe Hell is/will be the final home of all non-Evangelicals and then say we have much of anything in common. Eternal punishment of unbelievers is an abhorrent doctrine, one that reveals the violent, anti-human nature of Evangelical Christianity. Forget all the peripheral doctrinal bullshit, it’s Evangelical dogma on sin, judgment, and eternal punishment in Hell/Lake of Fire that I find repugnant, and I have no interest in being friends with people who believe such things. Acquaintances? Sure. I live in an area where most people love Jesus and believe liberals, atheists, and LGBTQ people will get their just desserts in the end. I need to get along with locals and productively function socially and economically, so I frequently grit my teeth when people say and do things that betray the fact they think I am on their team. Fortunately, many Christians are hypocrites, so we get along fine. I can only imagine how life would be for me if they truly believed what their preachers said on Sundays about liberals, atheists, and evangelizing unbelievers. That they don’t — we do what we really believe — is certainly a small blessing and favor.

      I have no illusions about Evangelicals keeping their religion to themselves. It’s in their DNA to bug, irritate, and harass others. Whatever it takes to win souls for Jesus, right? The end truly does justify the means.

    • Avatar
      dover1952

      Hi Dr. Larry. I am one of the many Christians who visits Bruce’s blog regularly. You are welcome to visit me at my blog one time—-and one time only. Be sure to read a number of my old articles, the “About” section, the “My Profile” section, the “Blog Policy” section, and the “Contact” section. Just click on the following safe link:

      https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

      Bruce and many of his other readers visit my blog for (said tongue in cheek) “continuing education.” I really enjoyed your posts and Bruce’s response to them. Bruce was right on the money. You fundies need to be bare bones honest with people rather than dealing in dishonest trickster PR techniques. The next time you want to evangelize someone, just step straight up to them the old-fashioned way and immediately state your business:

      “I’m Larry—and I am here to Jesusize your sorry ass today because I know everything—and you know nothing—and I am going to hold you captive here and beat you bloody with my words and arm flailing until you submit to my personal take on the Christian faith.”

      That is the tried and true old time fundie way of doing things. Why would you ever abandon it for slick public relations BS? Yes, I know. When you are that honest with people, they slam the door in your face. Funny thing though. No one ever slammed the door in the face of Jesus. Great throngs of people were magnetically drawn to Jesus. I bet hardly anyone is magnetically drawn to you. Have you ever wondered why you are so unlike Jesus of Nazareth? If you could ever figure out that key difference, maybe so many doors would not be slammed in fundie faces. I see very little of Jesus in most of the fundies I meet—particularly the hard core ones.

      • Avatar
        Diet With (@DietWith)

        Yeah Larry, what’s the deal?? Why are you so unlike Jesus?

        Everyone loved and welcomed him (Matthew 22:15)! They were always drawn to him magnetically because of who he was (John 6:26). They never slammed the door on him (John 6:66, )! When he was crucified the crowds of Jesus lovers fought the authorities, surrounded and rushed cross weeping and praising him (Luke 23:35).

        Larry, we never met, but I have read a bit on your blog and some comments on another blog and I am here to correctize your ass because you think you know everything but you do not. I would never claim to know everything but I do know YOU PEOPLE are all the same – remember, I have read your comments. I know you – you ill-willed, fake-American-Jesus-loving, hypocrite.

        Let me ask you something LARRY – were you born of a virgin? Have you raised any dead Larry? Where do you live Larry? Anything matching up with Jesus yet “king Larry”? Let me ask you this Larry that blog of yours, is it self-written? Where did Jesus write about himself Larry?

        But, Larry, you know Jesus, right? Because you know your Bible right? Let me guess, you ever read the New Testament Larry?? Find me ONE INSTANCE “lord Larry” where Jesus is reading the New Testament!? You fundie!

        Let me guess, you fundies are going to try to make some claim that Jesus was like a singularity or something. That like Jesus was unique and unlike any other man to walk this earth!? NICE EXCUSE LARRY! Why are you so unlike Jesus Larry!?

        You can prove me wrong Larry. Pick up your cell phone – no wait, Jesus didn’t use one… Umm… Well, I’ll give you a pass. You know what, it doesn’t matter how you accomplish it (but no sin Larry – have you sinned – JESUS DID NOT – man, you;re so unlike him), die and then bodily rise again in a few days and then me and @dover1952 might soften our stance.

        Until then just know you’re very unlike Jesus you’re much more like one of those sinners in the Bible. You know, the ones who are not LIKE Him but NEED Him. You make me sick Larry… You judgemental jerk!

  8. Avatar
    dover1952

    Now that I am an old guy, my mind does not work as well as it once did—particularly my memory. Does anyone remember the name of the famous fundie evangelist who told his followers it was okay to run down and tackle a stranger on a concrete sidewalk—and even break his leg doing it—if it would get the injured man into Heaven—-and the victim would thank them later? Does anyone remember the name of this fundie evangelist? Is he dead now? I sure hope so—just as a matter of public safety.

    I have been suspicious of this friendship evangelism tactic, as well, over the years. I will never forget the story of the girl at some workplace who tried to repeatedly build a friendship with another person at their workplace so they could evangelize them. Every work day, the fundie gal would ask her new friend to go out to lunch with her. Finally, after numerous lunches, the fundie gal made a final evangelism press, and her new friend said “No” to Jesus. The next day at work, the gal asked her evangelical friend if she would like to go to lunch with her at a new restaurant that had just opened. The little evangelical gal said “No.” Then she followed it up with:

    “I’m sorry Fran. You rejected Jesus yesterday. I am a member of an evangelical church that requires its members to separate from sinners and have almost nothing to do with them. Therefore, I cannot be your friend. You and I are never going out to lunch together again or doing anything else together. Here in the office, from now on, I will have only the minimal contact with you that is absolutely necessary to get our jobs done. Now leave me alone.”

    Fran was heartbroken—just accepted it—and soon healed from the encounter. Me? I would have had some choice words for this two-bit fundie bitch—warned my fellow employees about her—and had a good talk with my boss about this “minimal contact necessary to do our jobs” bullshit.

    Modern white collar businesses want team members who are all-in as team members on a project and are fully committed to getting the work done—with great interpersonal chemistry and friendship often being the key factors that drive success. I have seen the success driven by those factors alone so many times in my work. People who are close friends at work have no problem banding together as blood brothers and sisters and resolving to work hard on a deliverable at the office until 4:00 a.m.—and great success was usually our outcome because our competitors’ teams did not have the friendship, interpersonal chemistry, and spirit to come together like that in the face of a challenge. Those late nights were sometimes hard, but they were also some of my fondest memories from my work days. We worked hard, loved each other a lot, and ordered out for ice-cream at midnight and real food even later from places that were open really late or all night. We always finished our work that night and later basked in the rays of praise for a winning job that was far more than well done.

  9. Avatar
    Diet With (@DietWith)

    These fake “let’s be friends” Christians remind me of Ledge/Jumper officers. They make fake friendships with people to keep them from jumping off a ledge, bridge, whatever, hoping to keep them from killing themselves. But you know what, after these sick cops talk someone off a ledge or bridge (saving their lives) do you think they’re still involved in the person’s life 12 months later? Nope. It’s like they think “I saved their life, on to the next one”. EVIL!

    Christians and cops should be upfront, no PR. The cop should be honest – “Look, I don’t know you but I am paid to come here and talk you off this ledge. So if you jump, it really is bad. You’re going to die, and that’s not cool and I am going to have failed at my job. I know you feel lonely and need a friend, but I just don’t have time for that… Again, I wouldn’t even be here but it is my job. So don’t jump, then I’ll have a bunch more paperwork to do and I will not get another notch in my talked-down-a-jumper belt.”

    And do you think these people who are at the jumper’s edge really want someone pushing their “you should not kill yourself” agenda on them? What right do they have!?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Cute sigh

      Big difference between Christian evangelists and police officers. Trying to save someone from killing themselves? Real life circumstance with real life consequence. Trying to “save” someone from hell? Fake circumstance with no consequence (except annoying and irritating people).

          • Avatar
            Diet With (@DietWith)

            Thanks Bruce. I understand that; but there is also some implication made that ulterior motives are intrinsically bad. But, of course, they are not. It is simply that in this case (under the belief that Christianity is false and bad) that they become bad. So we’re back to the basic idea again – Christianity false/bad, Christian zealots false/bad.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            No, you are missing my point. Evangelical zealots come offering “friendship,” when, in fact their goal is salvation and gaining new members. Thus, they are lying about their true motivations. When I befriend a neighbor, it is with no strings attached. Evangelicals can’t say the same, and all I am asking is that they tell marks their motivations, giving them an opportunity to say, “no thanks.” Evangelism is necessarily coercive, and any Evangelical who says otherwise isn’t being honest.

    • Avatar
      JW

      Ahh, I see where you’re going with this, Diet With, but I’m not sure that you’ve gone far enough. Fake “let’s be friends” ledge/jumper officers aren’t just like fake “let’s be friends” Christians, they’re also like fake “let’s be friends” Proponents that the Moon is Made of Cheese.

      Now, as everyone knows, Proponents that the Moon is Made of Cheese (PTTMIMOCs) encourage everyone to believe that the Moon is made out of cheese in order to get them to eat Moon rocks. PTTMIMOCs only pretend to be your friend in order to trick you into doing this. Of course, given that eating Moon rocks will instantly convert the body of the typical human being into that of an immortal mindless slave, it’s clear that PTTMIMOCs do not really have your best interests at heart.

      As you have previously established, Diet With, ledge/jumper officers pretend to be friends in order to manipulate the behaviour of jumpers. In addition, as you have so astutely pointed out, certain types of Christians also try to manipulate people via friendship, leading us to conclude that ledge/jumper officers and “fake friends” Christians are equivalent. Given that PTTMIMOCs ALSO try to manipulate people with friendship, we must therefore conclude that ledge/jumper officers, “fake friends” Christians, and PTTMIMOCS are ALL equivalent, and thus all secretly harbour evil plans to dominate the world.

      This is, of course, a very long-winded way of saying that some of your premises are gibberish, your arguments do not follow, and your conclusion is gibberish.

  10. Avatar
    Dave

    One of the many advantages of deconversion is no longer feeling “convicted” when you fail to harass other people who don’t believe as you do

  11. Avatar
    Dr. Larry Dixon

    Bruce:
    Thank you for your reply (which I should have seen a couple of days ago). I guess I’m going to have to fight to get the benefit of the doubt from you. But I’m arguing (as you are) against condition friendships. I’m trying to make the point that real Jesus-followers should deeply love others whether they come to faith or not.

    The thing is both of us have a worldview. Granted, some Christians have used dishonest ways of presenting their worldview. I admit that. And the ends doesn’t justify the means. But I’m not sure any of us do anything with pure motives.

    You have a worldview, Bruce. And you spend hours immersing yourself in your former Evangelical world to find reasons to criticize Jesus-followers. You’re on a mission, right? I’m just saddened that you feel you must judge my motives without knowing me.

    May I ask you a couple of questions?
    1. Is any friendship with one’s concern about another’s eternal destiny automatically fake? Or do other factors make that friendship fake?
    2. You don’t believe in a God who is holy and that we’re in a lot of trouble. But I do. Shouldn’t I want to share that message with others?
    3. Lost people often don’t want to be told they are lost. But I answer to a higher authority. And I need to do my “job” with love and care. If a bridge is out and yours is the car behind mine, isn’t warning you an act of love?
    4. Why do you work so hard, Bruce, to prove Christians and Christianity wrong? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your rejection of Jesus? Just a question.

    Blessings.
    Larry

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Larry: I’m trying to make the point that real Jesus-followers should deeply love others whether they come to faith or not.

      Bruce: You say “whether they come to faith or not.” There’s the condition, whether you can see it or not. I’m going to befriend my neighbor without any such motivation. Last year, I had an across the fence interaction with my neighbor’s father. I had no thoughts of evangelizing him or converting him to atheism/humanism/liberalism/Bengalism. We talked like two people getting to know each other.

      Larry:The thing is both of us have a worldview.

      Bruce: I’ve never said otherwise. The difference being, of course, I don’t write books, hold seminars, or cajole atheists, agnostics, humanists, or Bengalites to “reach” unbelievers. I don’t make fake friendships with people so I can evangelize them or add them to my “church.”

      Larry: You have a worldview, Bruce.

      Bruce: Again, I never said otherwise.

      Larry: And you spend hours immersing yourself in your former Evangelical world to find reasons to criticize Jesus-followers. You’re on a mission, right?

      Bruce: I’m a critic of Evangelicalism, right-wing politics, and the designated hitter. I have countless Christian readers whom I never criticize. It is your religion’s beliefs, practices, and cultural/social influence I have a problem with.

      My mission? To be a good father, husband, and grandfather; to love my neighbor; to work for a better tomorrow; to take outstanding photographs; to take road trips with my wife; to endure chronic pain in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day; to photograph 50+ high school sporting events a year; to cheer the Reds on to a World Series championship. You see, I have lots of interests now that I don’t have to concern myself with God/Jesus/Bible/afterlife/judgment/hell. All that matters is now, today, the moment.

      Larry: I’m just saddened that you feel you must judge my motives without knowing me.

      Bruce: Yet, you do the same. Snap. I write about what I read on public blogs, websites, news sites. Don’t want my critique, don’t write. Besides, do you really think I can’t “know” you to some degree through your writing?

      Larry: Is any friendship with one’s concern about another’s eternal destiny automatically fake? Or do other factors make that friendship fake?

      Bruce: By all means pray, be concerned, etc. Just don’t bother others with these things unless they ask. Just befriend people for the sake of who they are, and not based on their “need” to be won over to your peculiar flavor of Christianity. You wrongly think your “duty” and “right” to evangelize others trumps respecting them or accepting societal boundaries; that your fear of hell, love for Jesus, and commitment to the Bible supersedes the rights of others — especially the right to be left alone or not be bugged by Jesus salesmen.

      Larry:You don’t believe in a God who is holy and that we’re in a lot of trouble. But I do. Shouldn’t I want to share that message with others?

      Bruce: Religion is a personal matter. By all means share it, if asked. However, you are advocating befriending people so you can evangelize them; of using subversive means to gain a religious objective. That’s different, little more than a bait an switch.

      Larry: Lost people often don’t want to be told they are lost. But I answer to a higher authority. And I need to do my “job” with love and care. If a bridge is out and yours is the car behind mine, isn’t warning you an act of love?

      Bruce: Really? You are going to go with the lame “bridge” analogy? Just because you feel “led” doesn’t mean you should bug others. Instead of using fake friendships to evangelize people, how about letting your “little light shine?” You know, like publicly repudiating Donald Trump and his abhorrent anti-human policies and working to make the world a better place. So much good you could be doing Larry, but you waste your time trying to get people to join your club.

      Larry: Why do you work so hard, Bruce, to prove Christians and Christianity wrong? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your rejection of Jesus? Just a question. Blessings.

      Bruce: No, you are making a fucking judgment. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about why I deconverted and why I’m a critic of Evangelicalism —a sect I think is a cult that psychologically (and times physically)harms people. Besides, “Why do you work so hard, Larry, to prove Christians and Christianity right? I can’t know your inner motives, but could it be that you’re trying to justify your delusional need and worship of a dead man named Jesus?” Your words, right back at ya, dude.

      Of course, you think there are “other” reasons I’m an atheist, right? Cuz, the Bible says . . .

      Only thing worse than fake friendships is refusing to let people tell their stories on their own terms. Everyone has a story to tell, and we should accept them at face value. I accept that you are a Christian. I would never question how you became one, why, or any other aspect of your “testimony.” Simply put, I believe you Larry when you say, “I’m a Christian.”

      I’ve said all I can say on this matter.Maybe others will weigh in with their comments.

      • Avatar
        Dr. Larry Dixon

        Bruce:
        You’re probably done with my responses, but allow me one more brief comment.

        It seems that no matter what I say, you’ve convinced I’m into conditional friendships. I’ve seen the damage done by misinformed Christians, and I’m trying to fight against that.
        I understand your point about simply being a friend of others. With no expectations. No message. No conditions. But Bruce, you were in Christianity for a long time. You know what the message is. You have rejected it. Forgive me, but you have no message that transcends this earthly (but important) life, right?
        Regarding your worldview, you challenge me for writing books, holding seminars, and trying to reach unbelievers with my worldview. Is that fair? Knowing what you know, wouldn’t you criticize me if I didn’t care to share the gospel with others? Can you give me the benefit of the doubt that I am trying to do what Jesus told me to do?
        I commend you for your mission of being a good father and grandfather, etc. At least we have that in common! But I’m also convinced there’s an eternity awaiting everyone.
        When I said I’m saddened that you felt you needed to judge my motives, I was not criticizing the research you do to combat Christianity. You accused me of fake friendships — based, I guess, on your past experiences with professed Christians. I’m fighting that same practice. Of course, you can “know” something about me by reading what I write, that’s true. But you can’t see my heart, nor I yours.
        I’m intrigued by your suggestion that Christians shouldn’t “bother others” with the gospel “unless they ask.” I’m so glad someone “bothered” me years ago with the gospel. I wasn’t smart enough to ask how I could be forgiven. I think if you were to ask some of my friends who are not yet Jesus-followers if I respect them or supersede their rights, you might be surprised.
        I certainly don’t want to be guilty of “bait and switch.” I’ve never appreciated that approach by used car salesmen. And I don’t want to be guilty of it either. But, Bruce, if the gospel is true (work with me here a minute?), then I am under obligation to love people into the kingdom if I can. Doesn’t that make sense?
        I thought my bridge-being-out analogy makes a good point. If you were in the car ahead of me, wouldn’t basic compassion for another human demand your warning me?

        Looks like you want to move on “to other targets.” Thanks for posting my responses, Bruce.

        Blessings. Larry

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          So this is your takeaway from my post and responses to your comments:

          “I’ve recently been corresponding a bit with a couple of people who hate Christianity and have attacked me. Some of the things they have said about Christians are true. We often come across as holy know-it-alls. We are guilty at times of trying to manipulate conversations to spiritual things. And the “friendships” we develop with “lost” people are conditional and sometimes shallow and end when the other person refuses to become a believer.

          I’m not sure any of us do anything out of 100% pure motives. But that’s no excuse for not loving others the way Jesus loved them. But I think if Christians were almost perfect in their interactions with those not yet in God’s family — they would still be criticized and hated.”

          Hate Christianity? Attacked you? Really? My aren’t you the persecuted one. Another “martyr” for Jesus.

          • Avatar
            ... Zoe ~

            Larry started out as a caring Christian who offers “friendship.”

            When his expectations for connection weren’t made, he ramped it up to another level . . . bullying.

            When his expectations for the responses he desired weren’t achieved, he fell into victimhood.

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      A lot of execrably rude presumptions on your part, Larry.

      You seem to be missing a very significant point about non-belief: When you “warn” us about various consequences, you are not meeting our standard of evidence. If one does not believe in gods or eternal punishment, your admonitions have no more weight than telling us that we must pray to the ghosts of Bruce Wayne’s parents if we don’t want Batman to push us off the top of a tall building.

      It’s also rude to threaten people. Period. You can protest all you want that it’s your alleged god making the rules, but at the end of the day you are the one whom I am going to blame for uttering threats.

  12. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    From the doctor’s blog:
    “…But if I’m a true follower of Jesus, I would not just want to meet your temporal needs, but deeply care about your eternal needs. Wouldn’t that be consistent Christianity?”

    That’s a valid point and should be emphasized. The vast majority of witnesses ‘care’ about the temporal needs of others and do nothing whatsoever to help in that regard. Rather, they care-share their love of Jesus and/or inform the victim of their eternal demise. THAT is the practiced Christianity that Dixon is comfortable in because he can tell himself it is not the real deal.
    What has been most plain to me since I escaped belief, is that simple human kindness seems far more genuine among non-believers. Jeeber people explain to me that this is so because Jesus died etc. and that is the real truth about Christianity, isn’t it? You have to be a sinner, always and forever and Jesus has to save you, always and forever. And yet, you are not that evil, are you, Doctor? You are not any different than the vast hoarde of us and we are not perfect and we are not damned either. When I think on the words, Help thou my unbelief, I mean it. I say to myself, help me have less and less belief in the invisible King and more and more trust in humanity. I know that we are never perfect and I will have my trust hurt in sundry ways in a similar form as when I was a believer but with one primary difference. My trust now is not based in the foundational self-disgust demanded by the Christian God. Christians are asked foundationally to hate themselves and call it God’s love.
    It is fake. It is a construct put in place of the simple human reality that we are a process of being. Science helps us understand this verifiable reality by demonstrating the only way we can truly move forward, by trial and error, by the peeling of the onion. The world remained flat until we could demonstrate that it was clearly bending around and not flat.
    Christianity is essentially anti-human in its basic foundation of original sin. Dr. Dixon is velvet Christianity but he hates his own core without magic Jesus. There is good help for that, excellent human support but velvet feels just right for some; perfect contentment. And Bruce, Bruce, your emotions reveal themselves and you are ‘attacked’ in your heart by your lack of faith! Look how you ‘attack’ even with all the velvet offered you…
    Dixon Larry Doctor, you are all turned around, as I see it. The ultimate goal in human relations really ought to be human and not eternal by any stretch of the imagination. Continue to be as kind as you can, Larry. Be human. Don’t care about what does not exist so much and more about what does. Share a sandwich with a man in the gutter… that is human. Sharing the Bible and not the sandwich is what I see most often. Your Bible offering is very gentle. Ever chewed Revelations for breakfast? It makes you crazy!

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      He just can’t let it go, can he?

      His commentators are predictable, too — usual mix of smarmy comments and thinly-veiled threats. Why would I ever want people like that as friends?

      • Avatar
        Tony

        Most of these folks can not (or will not) “let it go”. God – created the world in 6 days but needs my help to prove his case. There are days I wonder how stupid I was to believe all the nonsense.

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