Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.
Evangelicals are primarily known for the things they are against: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, socialism, atheism, humanism, liberalism, Democrats, and former U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama. The further you move to the right of the Evangelical scale, the longer the list become. Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I heard countless sermons about this or that “sin.” Years ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon based on the text, neither give place to the devil. After reading the text the preacher spent the next forty or so minutes listing all the things he was against. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List.) Most of the preachers of my youth believed the following were sins: women wearing pants/shorts, men having long hair, dating couples have any physical contact before marriage, listening to rock music or contemporary Christian music, going to the movie theater, using non-King James version translations, and cursing. Awful sins, right? As a teenager, I believed that my pastors were against e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I am sure the teens of the churches I pastored said the same about me.
One of the first challenges I faced after leaving Christianity was determining a moral/ethical framework by which to govern my life. Let’s face it, having an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible as the moral arbitrator makes life easy. No need to think about or ponder certain behaviors. God said ____________________, end of discussion. Lost on people who think this way is that it is not God speaking. If sermons are anything, they are preachers giving their personal opinions about what this or that Bible verse means. Opinions vary wildly, leading to one group of preachers saying particular behaviors are sinful and other groups of preachers saying they aren’t. They fight among themselves, each certain that their interpretation of an ancient religious text is infallible.
When I first deconverted, I was blessed to have for a friend a charismatic pastor who had also told Jesus to take a hike. He and I spent countless hours together, talking about Christianity, the Bible, and the ministry. We both laugh at how we acted and reacted back then. My friend got his ear pierced. He also got a tattoo. One day we were out and about and we saw a sign in a church parking lot that said, Parking Reserved for Pastor. A photograph was taken of middle fingers extended as we stood in front of the sign. I know, quite juvenile. But remember, Evangelicalism robbed us of much of our lives. We came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. While our non-Evangelical schoolmates were enjoying free love, drugs, and rock and roll, we were in church praising Jesus. So in many ways, we are living our teenage and young adult years now. We are experiencing things that our contemporaries experienced forty plus years ago.
Now that Jesus, the Bible, and the screaming voices of preachers no longer guide us, we are free to do what we want. Several months ago, a Fundamentalist family member asked me why I was growing my hair so long. My response? Because I can. And when they see me again and notice that I am now sporting a bald head again, I am sure they will ask me why I shaved my head. The answer is the same. Because I can. The answer to every behavioral question is the same. Because I can.
Now, lest Evangelical zealots say I am preaching nihilism or licentiousness, I want to be clear: just because I can, doesn’t mean I will. What I am saying is that I don’t need a deity, a religious text, or pompous, self-righteous Evangelical preachers to tell me how to live. Using reason and common sense, I weigh each and every choice and decide accordingly. Well, most of the time, anyway. I can, at times, be impetuous, making decisions without taking time to weigh the consequences. Most of the time, I survive my impetuous behavior with nary a scratch. There are, however, those times when making rash decisions has had poor outcomes. When this happens, hopefully I learn from it. If my poor judgment harmed someone else, I do my best to make things right.
I think I will end this post here. Why? Because I can.
Do your Evangelical family and friends “question” some of your post-Jesus decisions? Have you ever said, because I can? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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