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Anuses and Dicks: Why I Have Such a Negative View of Evangelical Christianity

jesus and bruce

Rarely does a week go by without several Evangelicals telling me that the real reason that I left Christianity was that I was emotionally “hurt” in some way; that I deconverted because my fee-fees were “hurt.” This claim is patently untrue, yet no matter how many times I correct people, they continue to assert without evidence that the reason I divorced Jesus was that the church or some person “hurt” me. Making this unfounded claim allows Evangelical zealots to dismiss my story out of hand. Regardless of what intellectual reasons I give for my deconversion, these zealots believe the “real” reason Jesus and I had a falling out was emotional, not intellectual. Sometimes, Evangelicals say that not only was I “hurt,” I am also angry and hate God. Again, by pointing to emotional reasons for my loss of faith, they can ignore anything else I say about the matter.

I willingly admit that people refusing to accept my story at face value irritates the heaven and hell out of me. When someone tells me she is a Christian and why, I believe her. Why can’t she extend to me the same courtesy and respect? My wife, Polly, and I were talking about this very thing last night. Such sweet nothings we talk about in bed. 🙂 As we talked, I had a Loki-inspired revelation: I HAD been hurt. I finally saw the light.

You see, after I publicly said I was no longer a believer (please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners), Evangelical family members, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members sharpened their knives and slashed me repeatedly from stem to stern. Their savage attacks drew blood and wounded me. I thought, aren’t we friends? Didn’t we spend countless hours fellowshipping with each other? Didn’t you love my preaching and appreciate my help when you had difficult times? So how did I go from you calling me Preacher to saying I am a child of Satan?

While several congregants sincerely tried to understand my story, most clerical family members and friends came after me as a shark would when smelling blood in the water. Their words caused great emotional harm to both me and Polly. While I bore the brunt of their ugly, mean-spirited words, Polly read their assaults and wondered, “how could Christians act like this? What did we ever do to deserve such treatment?” Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered to this day.

While “hurt” played a negligible part in my deconversion, the harm caused by Evangelical zealots post-Jesus has certainly affected how I view Christianity and whether I would ever reconsider becoming a follower of Jesus. After thirteen years, I can say that my treatment by Evangelicals has been overwhelmingly negative; that their words and behavior do little to commend Jesus to me, Polly, and the readers of this blog.

Thanks to establishing strict contact email policies, I get far fewer emails from Evangelical — especially Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) — zealots and apologists today than I did years ago. But, the cumulative effect of these emails makes it clear to me that Evangelical Christianity causes psychological harm, turning the abused into abusers. Every week, I feature at least one email or comment I have received from Evangelicals — nasty, hateful missives meant to cause harm, not redemption. I even let some of these people comment, setting aside my comment policy (“Dr.” David Tee/David Thiessen/Theologyarcheology comes to mind). Forget, for a moment, what Bruce Gerencser thinks about Christianity. Instead, ask long-time readers of my writing what they think about the “one true faith.” I’m confident you will likely not find one person who has a favorable opinion of Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement. Why is that?

If the goal, Evangelicals, is to reclaim the sheep who have gone astray, you might want to rethink your approach. Wildly running at these sheep with a butcher’s knife and loudly screaming epitaphs will only cause them to flee, seeking refuge in hills and valleys, safe from crazy, knife-wielding Evangelicals.

It is unlikely that Christians can provide any argument that would convince me that the God of the Bible is real; that Jesus is the virgin-born, miracle-working, resurrected son of God. However, how I view Evangelical Christianity as an institution and cultural force can be changed with kind words and good works. So far, all I see is a truck going down the road to a hot dog processing plant. The truck hits a big bump, jarring the back door of the delivery box open. And out fall boxes of anuses and dicks.

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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

27 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    I like the sexy, smoldering, “come hither” look of that Jesus in the picture at the beginning of your essay. “Follow me!” Yeah, baby, hallelujah! 😄

  2. Avatar
    missimontana

    Maybe if the Fundimentalists used Sexy Jesus photos (like the one at the top of this post) they would win people back. It sure works for your blog : ) All kidding aside, it’s amazing how churches rake in money. They have the worst customer service ever.

  3. Avatar
    Sage

    First of all Bruce, I haven’t eaten a hot dog in a very long time -years- but your analogy has ensured I will never eat another hot dog. Never.

    I am sure that it is completely unfathomable to many Christians that a person does not believe in their god or fear the threats of punishment and hell. They are so entwined in that belief, and avoiding punishment, and escaping guilt, that they assume everyone else faces the same thing. They do not understand that, once free of the talons of christianity you are no longer bound by the chains of belief. They assume we lie about that or simply are too blinded to see.

    Or they believe we deconvert so we can live in sin and enjoy our evil, perverse lifestyles. This is a common theme I encounter.

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      That’s a great comment, Sage, puts it in a nutshell. On another atheist blog last week, a troll uttered the memorable one-liner, ‘Unbelievers have a very erroneous view of what christian love is.’ I responded saying that he had the erroneous view, we’re not too ignorant and stupid to See The Truth. Many of us are not just former believers but former pastors, leaders, evangelists, theologians etc. We know exactly what x-tian love is and we rejected it not because we wanted a life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll but cos it made no sense when we began to engage our brains and apply reason to our faith. No prizes for guessing his reply. We never were true x-tians in the first place. Oh and No True X-tian, quoting C S Lewis, can ever be talked out of faith as we have been. Took great pleasure in saying this ignorant stupid ex-believer did her college thesis on CSL and his religious beliefs. Last troll comment was ‘Utter nonsense.’ That’s all he’d got! That’s roughly all any of ’em have got isn’t it?
      Bruce, I love your analogy of sheep and fundies rushing at them with a butcher’s knife, brilliant, better than ‘you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ (11million sheep here in Wales, so can always see some from my windows!)

      • Avatar
        Byroniac

        As a former devout evangelical (and five-point Calvinist, though I was never IFB like Bruce was—can only imagine that circus), I’ve developed a rather negative view of most forms of evangelicalism (reluctantly but unavoidably). Emotionally, I still value religious belief of some kind, but most days I live like a practical atheist. But getting to my point, people like me and other readers of this blog, know what love is, and also can recognize when someone is just feigning it (and often acts surprised at receiving the skepticism warranted from that activity). We can also readily recognize hypocrisy and cronyism. I hesitate to just throw out the carte blanche, Christianity is all fear-based and guilt-based, but all too much of it is and I think that explains the evangelical thought process and behavior much better than perhaps it should.

  4. Avatar
    BJW

    You hit the nail on the head. I might’ve been able to call myself a liberal Christian (very, very very) except the behavior of the good Christian people who come here is absolutely horrible. Apparently I concentrated on the love and kindness parts of the Bible, while these fundies are all about spite, and anger, and judgment, and being mean-spirited. Funnily enough, the fact they are all in for Trump (well, the white evangelicals) shows us who they are and want to be. They want to be mean to those unlike them, and hate those who are different, and want to oppress everyone who falls outside of their perimeters.

    Meanwhile, they worship a man (Trump, not Jesus) who cheated on all his wives, who grifted and cheated everyone he came into contact with, and who was willing to do anything to overturn the Constitution. THIS IS WHO THEY ARE, people who want to put their boot on our backs while they, too, cheat, grift, and fornicate with whoever they please.

  5. Avatar
    Glandu

    Hi Bruce. Brand new there, I’ve been led here from RollToDisbelieve’s excellent commentariat.

    That’s a very, very unpolite blog entry you have here, Mr Gerencser. but unlike most people who would raise this point, I am not complaining. I do fully approve. Unpoliteness is a tool in the box hard not to use against such an opponent. They make a big noise about “respect” and “politeness” because it works well in defending what should not be defended.

    The last 17 centuries, christianity has held power. That’s a huge amount of time. It has coerced everyone to see it as a respectable authority. The simple fact that they police people on politeness is a powerful tool in their hands. It allows them to have a debate on their own terms – which are very favorable. It allows them to always show as the respectable side. They are not. They never were.

    During the second and third century, roman historians mostly viewed the christians as clueless dangerous rabble. They had no words hard enough to wualify those disrespectful, unrespectable loonies. Then, the emperor did need to switch to the most untolerant religion possible to kick out his main rival, and found the perfect evil tool in christianity. Christians craved for power and respectability, Constantine craved for a tool to eradicate opposition. The unholy alliance between christian beliefs and secular power was sealed.

    Today’s christians have lost a lot of their undeserved grab on secular power, but want it to be back in their dirty hands. At all costs. Requiring the undeserved respect is a matter of survival for them : if they lose their appearance of respectability (they killed countless people to get it throughout the ages, remember), then they lose their main remaining tactical advantage : most people who are not religious anymore still don’t dare to look at them with fully open eyes.

    One needs to be very unpolite with them, Repeatedly – but accurately. You’ve been very accurate. Good job.

  6. Avatar
    Barry A. Watkins

    Then there’s the, “You obviously never knew the real Jesus that I know,” bit. The excuses are endless, and you’re right it instantly shuts down anything else you have to say. It’s clever and effective (for them) but ultimately just dodging the real issues that they don’t want to face.

    • Avatar
      Byroniac

      On the one hand, I can totally see (and agree) that that is the No True Scotsman fallacy. On the other hand, having been on the other side of the fence as a (mostly) supralapsarian five-point Calvinist, I think that it is a valid theological position, for whatever little that is worth, because it is coherent within the Christian soteriological framework and asserts something theologically plausible (if you already sign on to all the paper reams of prerequisite presuppositions that serve as its foundation). The glariing problem is, the spiritual reality it asserts of invisible spiritual transformation and either conversion or reprobation is completely unfalsifiable even in its own context. And that should bother the Christians more than it does, especially the Calvinists: how can you know you are elect? How can you know you are redeemed right now and will never fall away? How does it feel to ponder that your true status might be that of non-elect and forever condemned, and predestined to exist for God’s judgment and vindication of his holiness? As long as you (generic you, perhaps specific to the Calvinists) “feel” elect and continue to feel worshipful and do all the right things, then no worries, right? But if suddenly you fall away, of course those who remain in belief need a mechanism of victim-blaming to save the system itself, especially from knowledgeable ex-adherents. It’s brilliant in its own dark and beautifully (or not) twisted way.

      • Avatar
        Kel

        Hi Byroniac,

        I am both glad and surprised to find you’re an”ex-supralapsarianist”.

        I grew up in a Reformed church and used to be super convinced by Calvinist theology. However, I was constantly tortured by what I felt was the horror of supralapsarianism and double predestination (especially reprobation). My very first long comment on Bruce’s blog was on supralapsarianism. These concepts were very hard to stomach and had kept me awake at night. At one point, it nearly made me unable to function.

        Even at my church, people tend to emphasise election, not reprobation. Practically all theologically-minded Calvinists I met in person – not online as online commenters are a beast of their own kind – were infralapsarianists and also believed in single predestination (i.e. the reprobates are decreed to be condemned as a consequence of God’s not electing them and decreeing the salvation of merely the elects). I think most people just can’t wrap their head around such a “dreadful decree” – even Calvin himself agreed. (Well, my mom even believes in “free will” even though she has been going to a Reformed church all her life.)

        And you hit the nail on the head with your comment on unfalsifiability. Some Arminians I ran across online insisted that Calvin believed in the existence of “evanescent grace” (I haven’t confirmed that myself). What it essentially means is the grace God deliberately bestows on certain individuals only to have it withdrawn afterwards. This would give God even more license to punish the unbeliever ever more severely. Why? Well, because “God’s sovereignty” and “God’s glory” are more important than anything. Essentially might makes right, if you ask me.

        All in all, these Arminians argue that even though their assurance of future salvation is conditional, they can at least be sure of it for the present time. A Calvinist, even at their spiritual peak, cannot discount the possibility that God is not orchestrating their spiritual growth to their eventual reprobation and damnation. In this system, only God gets the final laugh.

        As you said, it is indeed brilliant in a twisted way. I must say that, taken to its logical conclusion, strict Calvinism is intellectually satisfying but rather devoid of any semblance of human empathy.

        P.S. And no, no matter how supposedly different God is from us (“Creator-creature distinction”), if you concoct a totally different meaning for each adjective as it applies to God (“God’s compassion” vs “human compassion”, “God’s justice” vs “human justice”), we would lose all the ability to communicate. “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful” would be devoid of any meaning if God’s compassion is completely alien to human compassion.

  7. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    I mean, when you believe that you have a Holy Spirit with unlimited wisdom living inside you, it’s pretty easy to become an insufferable know-it-all prick.

    One of my favorite things to do is to insert nonsense words in the place of Christian names or concepts. It is funny, and it helps me see the indoctrination factor.

  8. Avatar
    Theologyarchaeology

    Not trying to convince you about God being real. You should have seen that when you were a pastor. I already know you cannot be re-saved so i do not even try. All you have done is put yourself in a position where you have no right to criticize those that do believe.

    • Avatar
      Byroniac

      This does not logically follow. It is awfully convenient to blame the skeptic for not believing in the asserted deity, for failing to believe, rather than question why the deity being asserted does not help the skeptic with their unbelief, but such is the logic of evangelicalism. Also, beliefs are not immune from criticism, and I hope we retain actual religious liberty to continue that freedom. What is important is not, whether or not criticism is taking place, but the factual value and logic of the criticism being offered and how meritorious its position is.

    • Avatar
      BJW

      Dude, this is the US. You may think you are in charge and can tell Bruce who he can and cannot criticize, but the fact is, Bruce DOES HAVE THE RIGHT TO CRITICIZE. Do you even know the 1st amendment? It’s part of that Constitution that fundies like you claim you love, while you work hard to take rights away from those you don’t like. You get to criticize whoever you want on your blog, and Bruce can criticize whoever he wants on his. I guess we should be thankful that you show what an authoritarian jerk you are every time you come to Bruce’s blog.

      • Avatar
        Byroniac

        1st Amendment: Christianity is first. All others are second-class.
        2nd Amendment: Well-armed Christian militia to enforce the first point of view.

        When they say that the Bill of Rights are eroding, sometimes I wonder what they mean. I enjoyed your comment, but I doubt that the T guy will.

  9. Avatar
    Bill

    Bruce: I can relate to what you’ve said on a partial basis, although I am not an “un-believer,” or at least not yet anyway, I’ve lost faith and trust in my fellow “Christians.” I use that term – Christians – loosely. as FAR too many so-called Christians today act in a Christ-like manner. I’ve been in every type of church, liberal, conservative, even Quakers, and have taken an indeterminate break from attending any corporate worship service, not seeing or even desiring to see, or feel, a need to return to such activities: I am simply unable – and probably unwilling – to even consider it. I’ve been hurt by many in the church world, seemingly well-meaning people in their own minds I would venture a guess and say they want to help, yet are – as I see it – insensitive oafs, who have/demonstrate zero compassion to the hurting, wanting us to “hurry up and heal,” or get the hell out.

    Thank you, Bruce, for speaking your truth and saying/writing what you do. It’s made me realize, now more than ever before, just how broken “the church” really is, and how far it must go to make itself into what I believe God intended it, and that is not what exists right now, as rock-concert music and excesses of every imaginable sort proliferate, and many churches are reduced to handing out free coffee and Krispy Kremes, just to get people in the door, when they would much rather be watching their favorite sports teams on television, or at the beach.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser