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Smile God Loves You — Just Kidding!

smile god loves you

Imagine a story that goes like this . . .

One day, a young man walks up to a young woman and says:

I love you and I want to marry you. I know we have never met before, but I really, really, really love you, and if you will love me back, I have a wonderful plan for your life. I will be right by your side twenty-four hours a day. In fact, you will never be free of me because I promise to never leave or forsake you. I know you don’t know me from Adam, but if you will love me and never forsake me, I will be your BFF.

Suddenly, the young man’s face turns dark, and with a stern, threatening voice he says to the woman:

And if you don’t accept my proposal of love and lifelong commitment, I promise to make your life miserable. I will afflict you, burn your house down, and reduce your life to Job’s ash heap. I will make your life so miserable that you will wish you never had been born.

Any normal woman would recoil and run from such a man. Who would ever want to love such a person, one who offers conditional love, a love that promises violence and death if not requited? Yet, this is exactly the love that many Evangelicals try to sell to non-Christians.

Let me illustrate this fact with a tract from Osterhus Publishing House in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I picked this tract up at Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream in Findlay, Ohio.

osterhus publishing tract 2
Osterhus Publishing Tract, Front
osterhus publishing tract
Osterhus Publishing Tract, Back

Is this not the essence of the gospel many Evangelicals preach?  God says, “Love me or you’ll wish you had.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ami

    You know you’ve been on Facebook too long when you’re looking for the like button.

    I wonder if this logic would make a serious christian person stop and think.

    No, I guess not.

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    Then why was I born? Is this a calvinist way of looking at things? If so, in that case I couldn’t have accepted his love anyway. No matter how you look at it is an illogical circle. I don’t punish people if they don’t want my friendship or love. Why bother wasting my energy when I could give it to those that do want it.

  3. Avatar
    Ahab

    The fundamentalist Christian God IS like a psycho stalker. Where can people buy god-sized cans of pepper spray? 😉

    Like Stephanie, I too wonder why God brings humans into the world who are so flawed in his eyes that he cannot help but fling them into hell. He’s also a needy deity — why would a perfect, omnipotent being get so worked up over whether a bunch of hairless apes like him or not?

  4. Avatar
    Byroniac

    As an ex-Calvinist (and ex-Christian) this really hits home with me. Christianity’s very existence and evangelism depends upon fear and guilt, and I have wondered as a former believer why I initially found this so compelling. I think that the reason why centers around the issue of authority. It seems logical that someone with supreme authority also has the right to make supreme promises (and supreme threats!). There is no better example of the logical conclusion of this kind of thinking, along with all the baggage that was my former Calvinism, than this example of a evangelism article that I found online. I hope it is okay to post the link. And I would advise you to not read it unless you have a strong stomach (Yoda might give his famous speech about fear leading to the Dark Side here). http://reformedbible.com/Mourn.htm

  5. Avatar
    ann bowen

    I knew the Osterhus family when I was a kid. My moms family used to go to their revivals and my mom and her sister sang at them when they were in Central Wisconsin. We made several trips to MN to see them and stayed at their house and worshiped with them as well.

    We got to open foreign envelopes and take the foreign currency out and put it in piles. It was fun for kids to do.

    The old man was one heck of a preacher, but to my Lutheran heart he didn’t make much sense. What happened to faith and grace and love of God?

    Thanks for bringing back a memory. Somewhere in a box of books is a hymnal I bought from their store to practice on.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I read their IRS 990 form for 2012. It is evident that they are a dying concern with decreasing revenues. I used to listen to a fundamentalist Lutheran on the radio years ago. Can’t remember his name. I always thought it strange that there were fundamentalist Lutherans, coming from a fundamentalist Baptist background where Lutherans were considered watered down Catholics. 🙂

      • Avatar
        ann bowen

        Probably was a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran. They are very retro. Mo Synod is just a bit more open than WLS. But my beloved ELCA, well we are the wild children who accept pretty much everyone, welcome all to the table, and have pastors like Nadia Bolz-Weber. But evidently we ELCAers were just too much for some congregations and they have broken off to become Lutheran Church in Missions. No gays in their ranks.
        My husband has become an atheist and I asked him one day if he ever considered that he might be wrong in his beliefs? He said he’d wait and see what happens. This of course pisses off his Pentecostal sister and her in the closet husband.
        Happy New Year!!!

  6. Avatar
    Scott

    Love it. I live about 5 miles away from the store. It’s a quaint building. They advertised on the local Christian radio station for a while. They have a service where you can get your name embossed on a bible. 🙂

    I’ll have to go explore the store sometime.

    Scott

  7. Avatar
    Ami

    I try not to discuss religion with my aging mom. She doesn’t know I have broken up with Jesus. Telling her would change nothing except that she’d spend whatever years she has left on earth worrying over my immortal soul. It would break her heart for no good reason.

    But once in awhile she tells me a story of a person who was in a terrible car accident or fell out of a tree while working as a logger or was accidentally shot during hunting season. If the person survives the injuries, she says in a proud and righteous tone, “God was looking out for him!” My answer is usually something like, “Seems to me that if God was looking out, Bill wouldn’t have driven his car off the road.”

    Then we change the subject. Usually she asks how my weather is.

    But I always wonder about all the horrible things that happen to people, children in particular. Seems to me a ‘loving’ deity would do everything in his power to keep those children safe, isn’t that what he’s supposedly doing?

    I have told my mom that if my neighbor stood by and watched a child be molested or had it in his power to keep someone from being badly injured and didn’t that I wouldn’t have anything to do with that neighbor ever again.

    So why would we follow a being whose only thought is to hurt us if we don’t?

    Sick, sick, sick.

  8. Avatar
    BJW

    Yeah, it seems like most Christian relationships with God are abusive. Never mind their God doesn’t exist, they believe he does and act abused. Not very promising to lure people into their churches.

    • Avatar
      Ami

      I have wondered about that, too. My mom (and most of the other churchy ladies I knew while growing up) is a doormat. “Yes, Dear/sir/Oh Godly man.”

      To her husband, to the pastor and elders and just about everyone.

      They put up with spousal abuse, verbal and physical. The bulk of the actual work in the church falls on them.
      Never complain, just keep that sunshiny countenance and do your work with a cheerful heart ’cause that’s what their god wants.

      And they just go back for more, believing that it’s their lot in life.

      Again, sick, sick, sick.
      Horrible relationships.

  9. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    If someone told me that, I would get a restraining order. It’s a good thing that the evangelical deity is fiction, and I can tell evangelicals to mind their own business.

    I think I will have one of my atheist young adult kids read this sometime and give me their thoughts on it – like, does the message resonate at all, do they feel scared, or comforted, or like they really are a piece of crap in need of salvation. I really would like to know what someone not raised in this thinks about it.

  10. Avatar
    Yulya. Sevelova

    I never heard of this Osterhus family, and I’m so glad to have missed out on all that. I do see how being steeped in all that negativity would warp one’s brain. I was never around organized religion growing up, and though it was a poor household, headed by a single,very reluctant mother, it’s preferable to that Fundy stuff. That tract above,one line says,,,” It’s better for you not to have been born.” Exactly one of the reasons why abortion is seen as a service and a right. Also, abortion is an avoid-hell – free card. So why do conservatives have a problem with it ? The percentage of converts is so small. Why fill hell up,then ? I always will feel anesthesia for the fetus must be used, just in case they’re aware of something happening, and pain prevention. This should always be provided free. Yet the hard- core conservatives insist on everyone breeding like rabbits.

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