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Bruce, You Are Misrepresenting Evangelicals

whining evangelical

I am often accused by readers of misrepresenting Evangelicals in my writing; that my descriptions and criticisms of Evangelicalism don’t apply to a reader’s sect, their church, or to them personally. I have heard, more times than I can count, Evangelicals say: my church is different, my pastor is different, my denomination is different, my college is different, I’m DIFFERENT, DIFFERENT, DIFFERENT! While it is certainly true that not all Evangelicals are the same, often the alleged differences are little more than the differences between ice cream flavors. Same basic ingredients with different flavors and toppings. Evangelicals can whine, bitch, moan, and complain about my writing, but the fact remains that I was part of Evangelicalism for 50 years, an Evangelical pastor for 25 of those years, and have Evangelical family members — including pastors, evangelists, and missionaries — and closely follow the machinations of the Evangelical community. I am confident I have a good handle on Evangelical beliefs and practices.

Over the years, I have perused the doctrinal statements of numerous Evangelical sects, churches, and parachurch organizations. The agreement I find in these documents allows me to conclude what it is Evangelicals believe. Add to that the fact that I pastored seven Evangelical churches, and I think I have a good handle on the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

But, Bruce, Evangelicals don’t agree with one another on a host of theological beliefs! I understand that, but such differences are tangential to the cardinal doctrines all Evangelicals profess to believe. Thus, Charismatics speak in tongues, Baptists don’t. Holiness Christians believe in entire sanctification, Baptists don’t. Some Evangelicals are Calvinists some are Arminians, and others are Calminians. Evangelicals are all over the place when it comes to eschatology and ecclesiology. Some believe baptism is required for salvation, others don’t. The list of differences is extensive. See, Bruce, you are proving my point! No, actually, I am not. If you look underneath these peripheral differences — often called “distinctives” — you find unity of belief:

  • The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sinfulness, depravity of man
  • The deity of Christ
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin (usually subscribing to the substitutionary atonement theory)
  • The resurrection of Christ from the dead
  • The second coming of Christ
  • Separation from the world
  • Salvation from sin by and through Christ alone
  • Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
  • Heaven and Hell are literal places

Anyone who claims to be an Evangelical yet denies one or more of these cardinal doctrines is Evangelical in name only. The fringe of the Evangelical tent is littered with pastors, professors, and congregants who hold all sorts of liberal/progressive Christian beliefs, yet refuse to own what they are. And I get it. Towards the tail end of my ministerial career, some of my beliefs were definitely not Evangelical. Yet, Evangelicalism was home. It was all that I had ever known. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my metaphorical family, even though I was liberal/progressive belief-wise. Even today, sixteen years removed from walking away from Christianity, I still, at times, miss my family. Not Jesus, not the ministry, but the social connection I had with many loving, wonderful people. 

Often, Evangelicals think I am misrepresenting them when I have the audacity to claim that Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. This argument alone has led all sorts of objections from Evangelicals who scream from rooftops, I AM NOT A FUNDAMENTALIST! However, as I show in my post, Are Evangelical Fundamentalists?, Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalists both theologically and socially. There’s simply no way to be a consistent Evangelical and not be a Fundamentalist.

Well, Bruce, I don’t care what you say, I am an Evangelical, and I am not a Fundamentalist! You can self-identify any way you want, but just because you do so doesn’t change the fact that your theological beliefs and social practices are Fundamentalist. If you walk, talk, and act like a Fundamentalist, you are one. 

I get it. Evangelicalism is the most hated religious group in America. Thoughtful, kind, generous Evangelicals hate what Donald Trump and his merry band of culture warriors have done to our country. However, is the answer to stay on the deck of the Titanic as it rolls into the sea? If you are truly not a Fundamentalist, then join up with sects and churches that reflect your progressive/liberal beliefs and practices. Stop enabling the Evangelical monster. Let it die the death it so richly deserves.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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    I don’t know about you, Bruce, but I don’t find the line,’not all of us are like that’ a convincing defense. God’s Chosen use it when they want to distance themselves from others of their kind, but dismiss it when it highlights the disunity within the faith. Then it’s, ‘we all believe the same at heart.’ 32,000 different sects, churches and groups is hardly a glorious ad for Christianity.

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    There are a handful of evangelicals from my past who struggle with being evangelical but also supporting social justice. There isn’t room for them these days in the Trump-worshipping GOP-following tent. Part of me feels sorry for them as they struggle, but then I am reminded that they still believe these awful evangelical doctrines about hell, the depravity of humans, etc, and I realize that they could go to the library and learn just like I did and get out but they don’t.

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    “Stop enabling the Evangelical monster. Let it die the death it so richly deserves.” But the ones who really believe those doctrines can’t stop, can they? Because then they are being a traitor to Christ. If only they could see what an abusive relationship to God that they are in!

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    Bob Felton

    The constant wonder to me is that so many Christians seem to have no idea how deeply degrading Christian teachings actually are.

    Y’all are no damn good.
    Y’all were born no damn good.
    Y’all can never be any damn good.
    And the only way to avoid the eternity of torture you deserve is to join our club.

    I really marvel sometimes that there’s a streetlight in the land without some idiot preacher hanging from it.

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    Barbara L. Jackson

    I just stopped in downtown Denver Colorado to get my i-phone fixed. There was a “preacher” starting the usual nonsense while we were waiting. I went up to him and said shut up go get a degree in Math or a Science, then maybe he could do some good in the world.

    I agree with Bob Felton completely.

    I also think they are addicts to their religion.

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    In my mind it’s always about biblical inerrancy and literal interpretation of the text. The Evangelicals/Fundamentalists I know are distinguished by this belief in the Bible as “the breathed word of God on the page”; all the mainline protestants and Catholics I know share many of the characteristics you list above, but none of them would assert that the bible isn’t sometimes allegorical and occasionally self-contradicting. They may believe it’s divinely inspired, and a more or less true history of The Adventures of Jesus and his forefathers, but they still acknowledge it was written and translated by multiple people at different times… Evangelical fundamentalists, not so much.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    “I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my metaphorical family.” Bruce, that says so much: The most difficult struggle is not necessarily in acknowledging what we believe or don’t believe, but in leaving behind the structures built around those beliefs–especially if we’ve grown up with disorder or dysfunction.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Bruce, you do indeed misrepresent evangelical faith by pointing out the delusionary reality. That is a foundational no-no because it exercises reason and once reason is allowed to be, well, then the house of cards comes tumbling down pretty fast. Let me acknowledge that many believers are entirely genuine in their belief an induvidual in history raised people from the dead and walked on water and these same folks, some of them, insist that it is imperative we accept this reality, get ‘saved’ or go to an eternal doom. Yes, many many people actually, genuinely hold this conviction. I held it for a few dacades of my life. That it is a very likely constructed on top of personal histories with disorder or dysfunction, makes the gross error in reason most possible and even probable in some cases. My dear friend is the daughter of a woman who used to have people in her past, long dead people, visit her and tell her stuff. She would share these messages with her daughter, my friend and now her daughter, in her sixties, also speaks of such visits. Reason is only required when the bearer insists it applies, when they personally apply it. It is not as simple as breathing. It takes effort and a willingness to admit being incorrect when reason uncovers it. If told a man around the corner walked on water, we have a choice to simply suspend reason and say, Wow! or to apply reason and follow ‘the money’. Bruce misrepresents miracles by saying ‘no’. Fortunately, we human beings have the ability to reason (at least sometimes) and it is reasoning, not walking on water that underpins what progress we make in this life and this world. As America goes to the polls in November, the choice will be to either apply reason or to stand with the abominable man of “Two Corinthians” as he continues to wreck the country and the world. You know, it has not been stated enough that we actively seek harm when we have succumbed to abuse in our histories. We look for ways to further hurt ourselves as we have been hurt in the past. Many many people speak of being routinely hit by adults when they were children and how they got what they deserved because they were bad. If only we could let these people know it was not true, that they were harmed and forced to comply. Do enough Americans realize they can choose to get help, to care for themselves or do the vast majority think they deserve what Trump is doing to them…

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    If you claim that you are a “different” kind of evangelical but still believe in a place of eternal torture I have no time or respect for you. When was the last time you or your church petitioned your god to abandon this unspeakable punishment? Whatever happened to bringing anything to god in prayer? If you fail to do this you are complicit and unworthy of respect

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    No doubt there are people who are going to say ‘ Well there is a lot of good in the IFB movement.” And I would absolutely agree with that. They would also say that yes there are a few bad people in said movement therefore you can’t judge the whole based on a few. To that I would say yes you can judge the whole based on a few for the same reason if you spit in my soup, I’m not going to eat around it because most of it is still good.

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    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    I would much prefer the cherry picking liberal and progressive Christians who emphasize God as loving and kind over the violence loving Evangelicals who accept unquestioning obedience to a very violent biblical God who sometimes supports gang rape of women by men, who supports slavery, genocide (including the murder of little children and babies), who is patriarchal and encourages the domination of men over women and who is a cosmic child abuser who must punish Jesus in our place, then tortures Progressive Christians, people of other religions, agnostics and atheists forever in a so-called hell for finite sins committed by finite people over finite time. Such a moral monster is the God that Evangelicals really believe in.

    It doesn’t matter to them whether people are kind, compassionate,considerate and treat others with dignity. All that matters to many of the violence loving Evangelicals is adherence to their holy book. Spaniard viii is a typical example.

  12. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Of course, Bruce, I agree that many Evangelicals are loving persons (at least when you attend their church, but forget all about you when you leave) but many of these do not realize that the bible that they claim to believe in and standard Evangelical theology has very violent implications. Most of these more loving folks give up on reading their bibles and go with their pastor’s view. However, people like Spaniard viii and many other internet Evangelicals have become like the god that in whom they fervently believe. This god is cruel.

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