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My Heart Goes Out to You, or Please Try My Flavor of Ice Cream

ice cream flavors

Well-intentioned Evangelical Christians read this blog and come to the conclusion that what I lack is love from compassionate, caring Christians.

They assume that there is no love in Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity. They assume Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity is all hate and law, and no grace.

Their assumption is quite wrong. I met many loving people in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, and Evangelicalism at large. Their love may have been conditioned on my fidelity to their brand of truth, but they loved me nonetheless (and I loved them too).

My wife’s parents are Fundamentalist Baptist Christians, yet they love me still.

So a lack of love is not the problem.

I tend to distrust people who tell me up front about how loving they are. Such people are similar to a car dealer who tells you how honest he is or a doctor who tells you how proficient he is. Why do these people NEED to tell me this?

Often, those loving Christians prove to be anything but loving.

Many people think my defection from Christianity was an emotional decision. Certainly, there was an emotional component, but my decision was primarily and ultimately an intellectual one.

The compassionate, caring, loving Christians want me to try their flavor of ice cream. Their flavor is different. It’s not like all those other flavors.

After all, THEY are special, and they want me to be special too.

So, let me ask the compassionate, caring, loving Christians a few questions.

  • Can I deny the Bible is the Word of God and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I question if God even exists and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I deny the Trinity and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I tell everyone at church that hell is a medieval fable and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I pass out books at church by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I espouse universalist beliefs and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I openly affirm pro-LGBTQ, pro-abortion, pro-drug, pro-sex worker views and still be a part of your church?

The compassionate, caring, loving Christians want to convince me that their church is different, that it is special.

But it isn’t.

They know it, and so do I.

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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  1. Avatar

    I am glad you are writing again and that I found you. I lost track after the last break.

    I must put in a good word for a specific denomination who accepted an inclusive policy several years ago.

    From the webpage –
    …because no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here. Here at the United Church of Christ.

    I’m pagan, my nephew has toyed with being an atheist. Now he says he rejects such things as labels and is going his own way. We all attended this church. The bible was described as “these are the stories that define us”, not this is the letter of the law.

    I’m not saying all this to convince you to try their flavor of ice cream, only to let you know they exist. I guess most folks would say those who attend the UCC churches are not REAL CHRISTIANS (TM pending) because they accepted gays in their congregations and allowed gays to become ministers (back in the eighties no less!) and they believe in the separation of church and state.

    Just want to put this out there because I am tired of society ignoring denominations who work hard to ensure they follow the spirit of their Christ and not the letter of a law written 2000 years ago. I read on Atheist blogs all the time – where are the Christians who are condemning the anti-LGBT voices? Well, here they are. Is it their fault no one listens to them?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Thanks Connie.

      If there was a UCC church nearby we would likely attend their services. Unfortunately, the closest one is 45-50 miles away. Polly and I would benefit from the community and fellowship.

      Sadly, the screaming, gnarly, hateful voice of Evangelicalism is the only voice that is heard. And when a liberal Christian is interviewed or makes the news, it is the same few people that make the news. The same goes for preachers turned atheist. I know numerous preachers turned atheist, yet the same three or so are interviewed every time they need a quote or a story. While I have no problem with them, there are more voices that need to be heard. I think we all need to hear diverse voices so we are reminded that our community/country is diverse.

      Even when I was a fundamentalist, it irritated me that people like Jerry Falwell became the talking head for Evangelicalism. More than once I screamed at the TV, THAT’S NOT WHAT I BELIEVE!

  2. Avatar
    Daniel Wilcox

    Well, Bruce, another of your articles hooked me into responding:-) even though I am on vacation, just drove across the nation, though not through Ohio; I drove through your state on my last trip from California to the East coast in 1967, in my Chevy van, the Mystical Hippopotamus)

    You wrote, “Certainly there was an emotional component, but my decision was primarily and ultimately an intellectual one.”

    My decision to leave Christianity was a combination of intellectual and emotional. However, I never was a creedal Christian however, so probably had far less emotional ties to severe.

    Then you wrote “…try their flavor of ice cream. Their flavor is different. It’s not like all those other flavors…But it isn’t.”

    Ah, but our “flavor of ice cream,” while not as true as we thought, was very different from the creedal name brands.

    Then you say, “So, let me ask the compassionate, caring Christian a few questions.”

    I’m no longer a Christian, but for the sake of answering your questions, let me step back and do it as I would have done it in my Christian past.

    “Can I deny the Bible is the Word of God and still be a part of your church?”


    “Can I question if God even exists and still be a part of your church?”


    “Can I deny the trinity and still be a part of your church?”

    Since many of us never held to the Trinity, or to the Creeds, obviously, YES.

    “Can I tell everyone at church that hell is a medieval fable and still be a part of your church?”


    “Can I pass out books at church by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and still be a part of your church?”

    YES and NO. I’ve read 8 books by Dawkins, including his amazing tome which traces the history of evolution back billions of years. BUT Dawkins isn’t brilliant when he denies moral realism, etc. Besides, why would a person who promotes Dawkins’ view of reality and ethics want to be a Quaker or liberal Baptist?

    “Can I espouse universalist beliefs and still be a part of your church?”

    YES. Many of us are universalists to one degree or another. Our view of salvation and heaven/hell is ethical not doctrinal.

    “Can I openly affirm pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-drug, pro-prostitution views and still be a part of your church?”

    If you mean, can you affirm “pro-gay” marriage? YES. If you affirm poly-forms of sexuality, NO

    Obviously, NO on “pro-prostitution.”

    If you mean by “pro-choice” that difficult pregnancies ought to be decided by a woman and her doctor, and NO one else, YES
    But if you mean by “pro-choice” that every woman has “right” to abort the fetus within her, NO.

    If you mean by “pro-drug” that individual adults have the right to decide whether or not to use alcohol and marijuana, YES.

    If you mean by “pro-drug” hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, then NO.

    Some of the churches where I attended (and was involved in leadership) were different.

    Such a version of Christianity was a different flavor.

  3. Avatar

    I remember this from 5 years ago. I don’t know if I ever said it exactly like this, but acceptance of LGBTQ people is what ultimately broke me away from Christianity. I have family members in that community, and I couldn’t understand how true love between 2 people of the same gender was wrong. I didn’t leave any church that day, as I had already stopped going to the church I had thought was the ONE TRUE CHURCH. But that set me on a path to seeing the Bible as less than perfect. And if the Bible has errors…then it is truly cherry picking to point to any church’s doctrines and say “THIS is direct from God.”

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      Lack of acceptance of LGBTQ people was a real issue for me, too, and I tossed the idea that such people are [wrong in whatever way that church likes to phrase it] way back when I was still nominally Catholic. I didn’t really know about trans people then, but I honestly couldn’t see how being attracted to whoever someone was attracted to was a problem. It upset me that my mother liked to make fun of people who were supposedly gay or had same-sex relations. When Jerry Brown was governor of California the first time (yes, I’m ancient, that was nearly back in the Pleistocene), he was single. Mama delighted in finding tabloid articles that told lurid and undoubtedly completely fictional tales about his sexual activities. It irritated the heck out of me, and I was young enough to start really associating that kind of behavior with Catholics in general.

      When I was a bit older, I acquired a trans friend on a Linux forum, and did some self-education. She was quite depressed and abruptly disappeared from that forum and from the other place we connected on social media. I feared that she had taken her own life, and that made me furious about the non-acceptance of trans people. Then some Christian relatives shared an encounter with a trans woman they had while camping, an extremely friendly, generous person who helped them with some problem they had, shared several pleasant meals with them, and sent them off with lots of home-canned goodies. They were shocked that such a nice person could be a “he-she”. (Yes, I winced at that term and tried a little education, but they are Christians and believe proper people accept the gender identity they were assigned at birth, full stop.)

      Such utter and complete garbage, and it would go away a lot faster if religion didn’t push it so hard.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    BJW-Thank you for your support.

    Bruce–Like you, I am wary of anyone who has to tell me up front how loving and caring they are. As a bisexual transgender woman (there, I said it!), my back stiffens whenever someone tells me, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Too often, it is a code for “I don’t approve of you and your kind; my God can fix you.” In other words, such a person is not owning his or her ignorance about people like me–or his or her straight-up (pun intended) homo/transphobia.

    Another thing I have in common with you, Bruce, is that my atheism is both an intellectual and moral decision. I was raised Catholic at a time when the church discouraged people from reading the Bible on their own. I did, and my faith eroded. I tried to “save” it by becoming an Evangelical–until I realized how much I would have to deny about, not only myself, but what I know, in order to have faith. Coming to terms with the sexual abuse I endured from a priest, I believe, simply “sealed the deal” against my following any sort of belief system that is not based on empirical evidence, experience and self-knowledge.

  5. Avatar

    I didn’t see the point of staying in an inclusive, loving, social justice community when I no longer believed in their Jesus mythology anymore. There was no preaching of sin, shame, hatred of others – yet I still couldn’t stay due to my belief that the “props” of Christianity were all manufactured centuries ago, founded on parables, and often used to control people.

  6. Avatar

    Once I realized that Christianity was based on mythology and turned through the years into a system to control people. As nice as the people were at our church – open and affirming, social justice oriented, not embracing sin, hell, shame, etc – I just couldn’t follow a group that was based on stories I didn’t believe were true.

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Bruce Gerencser