Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.
Now that I am no longer a Christian, I really enjoy Christmas. I know this might be hard for Evangelical Christians to believe, but I enjoy Christmas now more than I ever did when I was a card-carrying member of Club Christian®. The reason is simple. As a pastor, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there were services to prepare, food drives to coördinate, and season-themed sermons to preach. Much like the Easter season, Christmas was a high-stress, lots-of-work time for me. Quite frankly, I found it exhausting. Rarely did I have the time to just relax and enjoy the holiday.
Christmas was also that time of year when it was my duty to focus on and harass relatives, friends, or neighbors who did not know the Evangelical Jesus. I mean know in the Fundamentalist sense. There’s Christianity, and then there’s Hell is real, souls are dying, I must make an ass of myself every Christmas, Big F Fundamentalist Christianity.
Consider these words from the late John R. Rice, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB)evangelist and editor of the Sword of the Lord:
“I still, from my armchair, preach in great revival campaigns. I still vision hundreds walking the aisles to accept Christ. I still feel hot tears for the lost. I still see God working miracles. Oh, how I long to see great revivals, to hear about revival crowds once again!…I want no Christmas without a burden for lost souls, a message for sinners, a heart to bring in the lost sheep so dear to the Shepherd, the sinning souls for whom Christ died. May food be tasteless, and music a discord, and Christmas a farce if I forget the dying millions to whom I am debtor; if this fire in my bones does not still flame! Not till I die or not till Jesus comes, will I ever be eased of this burden, these tears, this toil to save souls.”
For the John R. Rice type of Christian — and I was one for almost 20 years — Christmas can never be just about sitting back and enjoying the food, gift-giving, and family connections. Every non-Evangelical family member is viewed as a Hellbound sinner needing salvation. Desiring to make sure the Heavenly family circle is unbroken, Fundamentalist Christians will diligently attempt to evangelize non-believing family members. Instead of chatting up atheist Uncle Ricky, pagan Bobby, or Catholic Aunt Geraldine about family and football, the souls for Jesus is my battle cry Christians will, with little delay, attempt to witness to their heathen relatives. To Jesus-loving soul winners, putting in a good word for Jesus is far more important than the familial bond. Having been told that Jesus came to split families asunder and that their “real” family is their fellow church members, Fundamentalist Christians will insufferably badger anyone they consider unsaved. It matters not that Uncle Ricky and Aunt Geraldine have been witnessed to countless times before. In the Fundamentalist’s mind, this might be the day, the very moment, when the Holy Spirit comes over their lost loved ones and causes them to repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus. It matters not how unlikely this is: as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker sighting. Every breathing non-Fundamentalist Christian family member is a prospect for Heaven. And like relatives who shamelessly use family holiday gatherings to peddle Amway or Tupperware, Fundamentalist Christians will seek every opportunity to badger family members into buying a lifetime membership to Club Heaven.
Sometimes, Evangelical family members can become so aggressive, argumentative, and pushy that their behavior ruins family gatherings. Many Christian families give a hat tip to Jesus being the reason for the season and then focus on the food, gift-giving, and enjoying each other’s company. Fundamentalist Christians see this as a betrayal of Jesus and the salvation he graciously offers to sinners. In their mind, it’s all Jesus, all the time.
Many evangelizing Fundamentalists have a pathological need to be perceived as right. They spend their lives hearing that only Jesus gives life meaning and purpose, and non-Christians have a God-shaped voids in their soul. They are reminded by their preachers that non-Fundamentalist Christians have horrible, miserable lives that will ultimately land them in Hell. Yet, every year they can’t help but notice that their unsaved relatives seem happy. Their Hellbound relatives often have great jobs, treat others well, and genuinely seem to enjoy life. Their observations should suggest to them that perhaps their view of family and the world is skewed, right? Nah, who am I kidding? Their non-Evangelical relatives? They are all, every last one of them, blinded by Satan, unable to see the TRUTH. Until Fundamentalists dare to consider that they could be wrong, there’s no hope of them seeing their lost family members as anything more than souls in need of saving.
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.
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