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Why does Michelle Lesley Try so Hard to Demean Other Women?

michelle-lesley-vile-sinner
Michelle Lesley

Some atheists and other non-Evangelicals are indifferent towards the beliefs and practices of Evangelical Christians. Who cares? such people say. However, as someone who swims in the Evangelical swamp daily, I can tell you that Evangelical beliefs and practices can and do materially harm others.

Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) As with all forms of religious Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, at the very least, causes psychological harm to its practitioners. And in some cases, Evangelical beliefs lead to physical harm — spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, self-abuse to name a few.

Central to the psychological harm caused by Evangelicalism is the belief that all humans are vile sinners. According to Evangelicals, every human is born into this world a sinner at variance with God. Every person is the enemy of God, a hater of all that is good. Even after salvation/conversion/new birth, Christians are still affected and marred by sin. This is why Evangelical Christians are told repeatedly that they must deny self and submit to the arcane, anti-human teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by Evangelical sects and clerics).

An apt example of this thinking can be found in the writing of Michelle Lesley, a homeschooling Evangelical mother of six children. Today, Lesley shot a double-barrel load of “God wants you to know you are shit” at her readers, reminding them of how the thrice-holy God really views them. Titled, You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It, Lesley piously stated:

You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

….

Ladies, stop listening to this hearts and flowers, cotton candy, pump up your ego so you’ll feel better about yourself dreck, and put your faith and hope in the One who will never let you down. The One who looked at all your nasty thoughts and evil deeds and said, “I’m going to the cross for her anyway.” The One who sees all your daily faults and failures and is still willing to forgive when you repent. The One who’s faithful to you even when you’re not faithful to Him.

Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – and put your focus on Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is. Because if you’re feeling bad about yourself, it’s not because you don’t have a high enough self esteem. It’s because you don’t have a high enough Christ esteem.

Got that? Lesley wants EVANGELICAL women to know, “You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. . . Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it.” If Lesley thinks this way about her fellow tribe members, imagine what she thinks about the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Lesley calls on her readers to abandon and deny self and put their focus on “Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is.” Does anyone doubt that Lesley has a life-sized photo of Jesus H. Christ above her bed and on her bedroom ceiling? Great, awesome, superfantasic, and terrific Jesus. He always hits the G spot. God spot . . . 🙂

While I am tempted to dismantle Lesley’s claims about the dead man named Jesus, I want to stay focused on the harm caused by Evangelical beliefs and practices. Imagine spending your teen years, married years, and every moment of every day hearing words similar to those written by Lesley. Remember, Lesley is not saying anything new here. Decades ago, a young Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor named Bruce Gerencser regularly pummeled congregants with similar dogma. How could I have done otherwise? I heard similar things my whole life, including at Bible college. The books that I read and the conferences I attended all reinforced the awfulness of the human condition. The only difference between the saved and lost was Jesus. 1 Peter 4:18 says:

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

Evangelicals believe that True Christians® are “scarcely” saved, with just enough salvation to make it through the pearly gates after death. In fact, point out bad behavior by Evangelicals, and you will be reminded that Christians aren’t perfect, they are works in progress. That’s why believers needed to be reminded of their wretchedness and propensity towards sinful behavior. Exactly, then, what good is Jesus? If this is the best Jesus has to offer sinners, what good is he? If the new birth leaves Evangelicals no different from their atheist neighbors save their room reservation in God’s Trump Hotel after they die, pray tell what good is Christianity? If faith is not truly transformative, why bother? If Evangelicals are as vile as Lesley says they are, why would I want to be a member of their club? 

Is it any wonder, then, that many Evangelicals — especially women — go through life psychologically marred and wounded? Spending your life being told you are a worthless piece of shit will do that to you. That’s why many ex-Evangelicals need extensive professional counseling. Personally, I had no sense of self. Bruce Gerencser had been swallowed up by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. I had no idea who I really was. In fact, I still battle these things to this day. And so does my wife. How could it be otherwise? A lifetime of anti-human conditioning will do that to you.

The good news is that both Polly and I are learning day by day to embrace self. We have learned that many of the behaviors that Evangelicals call sins and affronts to God, are anything but. We used to have extensive sin lists. Today, our “sin” lists fit on a post-it note. Progress, to be sure, but wounds from our Evangelical pasts run deep. Will we ever be whole again? I doubt it.

I continue to work towards the marginalization and death of Evangelicalism because I know firsthand the harm it causes. I suspect many of the readers of this blog have similar testimonies. If you do, please share them in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

11 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    The beliefs I had in the Adventist church weren’t exactly the same, but similar enough. We were supposed to follow a bunch of nonsense rules. My life is much easier now in terms of a religion or philosophy: be kind to my fellow man (as I am able). The sum total of what I consider necessary. And you, Bruce, helped me.

  2. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Thank-you, sir, for telling the truth. I might state things in a bit more coarse way… Christianity itself is designed to harm because Christianity itself is founded in the debasement of humankind, the design itself a dagger in the back. So it is that Michelle Lesley can sit down at the keyboard and tell women that they are pure dung and know it, that they lie, cheat, steal and commit all kinds of acts to prove that they are worthless and caused the death of Jesus.
    This Atonement spoken of by abusers in pulpits is a carrot carried in an offering plate being passed around a congregation of poor suckers who have suffered such abuse in their human lives that going to a Christian church confirms their damaged inner lives and gives them a free hit of mainline Jesus. The cycle of abuse goes on and on from week to week, the sinning, the forgiveness, the memorized verses to keep the victim from thinking clearly; the awful exhortation: More Jesus and less me!
    Well, fuck off Jesus-mongers. Take your filthy, ordained virus and hoot all you like in your closet but leave humankind, the public, alone. Michelle Lesley could use some serious psych counselling to even begin to look at her own self-hatred with some basic self-esteem. Damn religion for hurting people like this for profit, for tax-free profit. Damn Christian parents for giving their children over to this kind of harm. It causes lifelong suffering. My father was an addict. My mom too. Most of my family are users. I’ve seen the needle and the damage done…

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Every person I know who was the victim in an abusive relationship was told by their abuser things like “no one else will love you”, “you’re too dumb for X”, “you’re wothless”, or “I am the only one who can tolerate you”. Fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is an abusive structure. Period.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I forgot to add that labeling everyone as a filthy, vile sinner makes it a lot easier not to be compassionate or to support policies that benefit the greater community. And let’s not forget religious charities that make their benefits and services contingent on listening to or accepting a particular version of a deity. I mean, if they don’t accept this version of a deity, that’s on them, they’re vile sinners anyway, so it’s their fault if they are poor or sick.

    What a vile sect of religion.

  5. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    Michelle Lesley: “You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

    You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. […]

    “Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – […]”

    Zoe: How many people have heard those words right from the start of their formative years and beyond? A child with an abusive parent? A woman with an abusive husband? The list is long.

    One could/can understand the lure at first of the gospel message . . . the good news so-to-speak. Someone loves me and his name is Jesus. A welcomed relief from the despair of being abused in a toxic home. Finally, I am loved. I am loveable. Righteous in the eyes of Jesus, adorned in a white robe.

    Slowly over-time one notices something familiar about the good news. It’s not.

    Like minnows swimming into the baited trap they are “saved” only later to realize they have now become “unsaved.” So they swim and they swim and they swim. They must be saved again. And again. And again. They serve in ministry, they give more money they can’t afford to give and tithe the cupboards empty. They frantically attend every service they possibly can and callous their knees begging for mercy. Why are their robes filthy now? They are weary, abused, ignored and shattered. They are blamed and told they are no good and never will be. They have become “unsaved.” And it is here where the honeymoon = “saved” phase of abuse occurs reminding them that they need to cleanse their filth and start over again.

    And they do.

  6. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    I am a firm believer in the Gospel according to Granny Weatherwax:

    “And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.” — Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

  7. Avatar
    Matilda

    In my mind, I put this awful advice alongside the fundy prescription that wiminfolk, though dirty and vile must look gorgeous 24/7. They may have ten kids in almost as many years, be very stretched financially, but if they ‘let themselves go’ beome overweight etc, then hubby is bound to stray…and it will be all her fault for not keeping herself ‘beautiful’ or worse, ‘pretty’ for her lord and master.

  8. Avatar
    Sharon

    Joel Osteen has the exact opposite message. What fascinates me is how you can get opposite takes from the same Bible. One preacher says you’re special; the other says you’re vile. Can be quite confusing.

  9. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    This kind of psychology is used in many groups to control individuals. You the individual are never good enough so you must submit until you reach the almost impossible goal. I saw this in high school and college especially in science and engineering groups. There are now high school students who commit suicide when there college entrance exam test results are not high enough to get into the college their parents or the student wants.

    Every individual in the group should be valued and treated with respect. It is difficult for information systems to deal with older employees who cannot work quite as fast as the younger workers. The companies find ways to get rid of them.

    Thank you
    Barbara L. Jackson

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Bruce Gerencser