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For the Sake of My Children and Grandchildren: I Hope and Work for What Might Be, Not What Is

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Cartoon by Matt Muerker

Evangelical Christianity taught me that humans are fallen, broken people, the world is sinful and wicked, and there’s no hope for a better tomorrow. Salvation through the merit and work of Jesus was personal, a promise of a better life after death. Until then, endure. Eschatologically, things are going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes again. Some day soon, God will unleash terror upon the earth, slaughtering billions of people. Blood will flow three feet deep in the streets as God violently kills virtually every living thing on earth.

Such beliefs lead to cynicism and fatalism. Why bother to do anything meaningful to change and transform our world . . . Jesus is coming soon! And after God is done burning the earth to the ground, he will make a new heaven and a new earth for Christians, a place void of sin, non-Christians, atheists, Democrats, and Bernie Sanders.

In recent years, Evangelicals have left their eschatology behind, seeking a theocracy on earth. Using raw political power, they hope to first make America Christian, and then the world. How will they accomplish this goal? Violence. The January 6, 2021 insurrection was just the first, not the last, attempt by right-wing extremists (who are largely Evangelical) to assert their theocratic will. What I find ironic is that Evangelicals have abandoned the hope and promise of a future heavenly kingdom for a bloody, ruthless, violent kingdom on earth. Instead of waiting for a divine payoff in the afterlife, Evangelicals want to cash in their life insurance policies now.

Evangelicals have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of following in the steps of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Evangelicals follow after political leaders, generals, and preachers — men who, themselves, crave power and authoritarian control. None of this is surprising. One need only read American history to see that this has always been our path, one paved with the blood of innocents, one where “might makes right.”

I have long advocated for a better way. Long before I became an atheist, I embraced pacifism and socialism (properly defined and understood, not as the words are ignorantly used today). I began pondering if there was any hope for a better tomorrow. Were Evangelicals right? Was the human race headed for destruction, doomed because of original sin? Should I bother trying to make the world a better place? As a cynic and a pessimist, it is easy for me to think, “fuck it, why bother?” Solomon was right when he said, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Reading the news only makes matters worse as the worst behaviors of humans (mainly men) are on display. From endless wars to stubborn inaction on global climate change, it seems the human race is determined to obliterate itself. Come, Lord Jesus, Come, right?

But then I think of my six children, their spouses, and my thirteen grandchildren. I will be dead in a few years, but they could live on another forty to eighty years. What kind of world do I want for them? It is for this reason I hope and work for what might be, not what is. If nothing is done about America’s war machine and its imperial ambitions, decimation and decline are sure to follow. If nothing real is done about global warming, my progeny will be left to live on a planet that is increasingly inhospitable and lifeless. If we don’t lay down our weapons of violence and turn them into plowshares, world war is inevitable. Donald Trump famously asked what good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them. Imagine having such a megalomaniac so close to the switch that could destroy the world (see the recent season of Fear the Walking Dead to understand what such a world would be like or read Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road). The next time, we might not be so lucky. Just last week, several Republicans were clamoring for war with China. I can imagine no scenario where that ends well for the United States. Arrogance and pride lead to destruction.

I don’t have all the answers for what a better world might look like. All I know is that hard decisions must be made if we want a safe, prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. How about we start by banning the use of coal and halving the indefensible, immoral defense budget? How about a living wage and health insurance for all? How about finally coming to terms with the systemic racism that plagues our nation? And finally, how about free and fair elections, term limits, and breaking the stranglehold right-wing extremists have on our political system? These would be a good start . . .

Or maybe Evangelicals are right. Jesus is coming soon. The world is fucked. Grab what power you can, kill those who stand in your way, and ride out the apocalypse until Jesus shows up on a white horse.

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.

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24 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    I’m glad you are willing to work for a better world. I’ve just about concluded that if the US (in particular) and the world (in general) keeps going down this road, it’s going to be the end of the human race. But I have no pleasure in this belief, only sadness. And I don’t want my descendants to live in a horrible world of increasingly dangerous weather, with authoritarian governments. So I guess all we can do is keep fighting for what is right.

  2. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I drive myself crazy reading books about how white Americans (conservative ones in particular) vote for policies that literally hurt them just to keep another group they don’t like from “getting something”. My reading has mostly focused on the US, so this tribalism probably exists elsewhere as well.

  3. Avatar
    GeoffT

    I read comments elsewhere from RWNJs (right wing nut jobs), mainly on Patheos non religious. Some are capable of making seemingly articulate comments but either they contradict themselves in the comment, or have such daft views that it’s impossible to take seriously anything at all that they say. One ensures that in every comment there’s reference to a phrase that distinguishes ‘Americans and Liberals’. I’ve no idea if he does it only to provoke, but it does mean that nothing he says is taken seriously. Another buys into every bit of RWNJ lunacy there is, including ‘Trump won by a landslide’, masks are an invasion of personal liberties, and vaccinations are part of a conspiracy. Oh, and there’s no pandemic as that’s conspiracy. She claims she has a good education but I suspect it’s based on religious schooling and unaccredited colleges. Trouble is these people would be marginalised in most European countries, whilst in the US they ‘punch well above their weight’.

    • Avatar
      aylogogo77

      Yes, it’s sad how many right wing religious fanatics we have in the USA and also how they wield disproportionate political power. If you don’t want to be bothered by RWNJ trolls on Patheos, I highly recommend Roll to Disbelieve on Patheos non religious. Vibrant flourishing secular humanist community where trolling is not tolerated. And it’s growing fast; lots of young people there as well as those young at heart. When not on Patheos, I highly recommend this site. Of course. 🙂

      • Avatar
        GeoffT

        Yes I like Captain Cassidy’s posts: her style is very quirky. I do find the comments section something of an echo chamber at times, which I suppose makes me hypocritical. I complain about the extremes of the RWNJs then complain when they’re banned! Something of a balance would be nice.

  4. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    Bruce, you are fighting the good fight and are making a positive difference in the world. Kudos to you for your courage and convictions. And many thanks for giving others, like me, a safe forum on your website to air their views. 👍🙂👍🙏

  5. Avatar
    Kris

    You’re not working for a better world. Your complaining behind a keyboard. This is really no different then how some Evangelical Zealot gets on a keyboard and bemoans some random sin and vice that violates their religious beliefs. Got you Bruce, you don’t like war. Neither do I and I unlike you have been to war. The cold hard truth of reality is that in the end of the day your views get people killed. France failed to stop Nazi Germany when they were strong enough to do so because they embraced your views. The French Army failed to protect France in 1940 because they embraced your views.A Germany quickly defeated by France in 1937 would not have been a Germany which did the Holocaust. France could have quickly knocked Germany out after it invaded Poland in September of 1939. Germany’s border was open barely defended. Yet another time the Holocaust could have been prevented. Unfortunately for the world France was filled with people who thought like you and created the disastrous lack of action that caused France to be defeated so quickly in 1940. The very same France which had held off the same Germans in 1914.

    All your views cause in the real world is mass genocide.

    And you know why we don’t go to war with China. They can defend themselves. Look what happened to China in the 1930s when it couldn’t. I am sure the residents of Nanking would have found a strong military to be far more useful then your platitudes.

    You know why China doesn’t go to war with the US. We can defend ourselves. What do you think would happen if we laid down our weapons. Ask Nanking. Or you could ask the Uyghurs and the Kazakhs who are currently be oppressed and murdered by the Chinese Government.

    I will await you or anyone in this forum who can show me a singular instance where any large group of humans embracing pacifism in front of hostile opposition did not result in that population being conquered. Pacifist can only survive in societies which protect them. It’s people like me who are making sure your children and grandchildren are safe, not people posturing and making moral platitudes online doing that.

    I do suspect the US and the West in general is going to learn the truth of this quote. “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

    The extreme right is creating armed militias. Conservatives are more than likely to own guns than liberals. Law Enforcement and the Military is very conservative and in some case right wing. Most farmers are conservatives. Republicans directly control 23 states. They control the Supreme Court. They will have Congress by the end of 2022. They have a good chance of winning the presidency again in 2024.

    The left is moaning on twitter about microaggressions and demanding safe spaces. The left cannot even find the strength to pass election laws which would benefit them when they have political power at this moment. The left cannot even find the strength to pass an infrastructure bill.

    One does not need to be a military genius to see how this hypothetical civil war would end.

    Knowing this people like Bruce will still scream pacifism. I do not know whether I should laugh or cry at this absurdity.

    If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win. Thomas Sowell

    The Right is not barbarians, but dang it the Left is a bunch of wimps.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You made one mistake: the right are a bunch of barbarians, as your post makes clear.

      You are a bully, Kris, unable, unwilling to understand any viewpoint but your own.

      But what do I know, I’m not working for a better world. I’m a keyboard warrior, my views will get people killed or cause mass genocide, that I’m a weak man, a wimp.

      I looked in vain for some point of common ground between us. Alas, I could not.So . . .

      • Avatar
        Kris

        Utterly amazing Bruce.

        I do to you what you have done to everyone since you were fifteen first as a Christian and now as an Atheist. Well if doing that to you makes me a bully what are you Bruce??

          • Avatar
            Kris

            Amazing Bruce the Atheist chides me for insulting people when I didn’t then insults me. He cannot hold to his own principles on such a small issue yet he thinks his pacifism would hold up the moment he was in the slightest danger. I love seeing reality vindicated in such an ironic way.

            I treated you as you treated others, but unlike you I don’t cry when people strongly disagree with me.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            Outside of telling you to fuck off — which is not an insult — I haven’t said anything to you I regret. I told you several times that there was no discussion to be had between us. Yet, you continued with your insults. I’m sure you feel vindicated, thinking you vanquished yet another socialist and pacifist. Shit, Dude, you couldn’t even parse the title of this post, let alone understand anything I said.

            This is my last response to you. You are no longer welcome on this site. Rage away, but you will have to do it elsewhere. Any further comments from you will be deleted.

            Bruce Gerencser

          • Avatar
            BJW

            Kris is another one of those who comes to your blog spewing garbage, who claims he’s not insulting, and then continues to insult. Kris certainly doesn’t have any self knowledge.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            Kris has commented infrequently since 2019. Never a problem until now. Kris objected to my post on spanking/child abuse and things went downhill quickly from there. I mean q-u-i-c-k-l-y. Unfortunately, this happens. Nothing I can do about it. I tried to avoid conflict with Kris, but he was determined to duke it out.

          • Avatar
            BJW

            That seems to make his current behavior worse. All the sudden he’s attacking you over child abuse? Hit dog hollars.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            His argument is the same across the board: parents have always beat/spanked/whipped/hit their children, it’s just the way it is. Our disagreement is over what is and what could be.

          • Avatar
            BJW

            So he is for child abuse. And has to spew idiocies to “defend” himself. And to be honest, I spanked my kids. I wouldn’t do it now and I think it is a bad idea.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            We (primarily me) spanked our children too, primarily our three oldest sons. I have admitted and apologized for discipline that I now call abuse. I followed what was modeled to me by family, practiced what I thought the Bible taught about corporeal punishment, and followed the teachings of pro-spanking preachers such as John R. Rice.

            You can’t undo the past, but you can choose a better path going forward.

    • Avatar
      GeoffT

      The thing is Kris that right wing conservatives aren’t making the world a safer place. Pacifism isn’t what brought about WW11, it was a variety of factors, of which a failure to recognise at an early stage the dangers represented by Hitler and the Nazis was the biggest. Though having just fought WW1 it was an understandable reaction. The point is, though, that guns don’t make a country safer, and the largely unfettered gun ownership that the US enjoys makes it both an outlier in leading western democracies, and a much more dangerous country than it would be with even some simple element of gun control. A country is militarily only as strong as its military, and having citizens armed in significant ways represents a threat to that strength, as the military, far from being enhanced, must always be looking two ways: the enemy without and the enemy within. Rampant gun ownership is not the opposite of pacifism.

      The overriding irony is that had modern American evangelicals been alive and present in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s they’d have been queuing in line to join up to his Nazi party, and positively salivating at the prospect of burning and pillaging Jewish houses.

  6. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    We have to keep working to make the world better bit by bit. If we have a safe place here with Bruce to talk about our views that is one bit. Another bit is voting which I did yesterday. Democracies can be messy but it is better than authoritarian government right side or left side. I give money to charities like Planned Parenthood which help women get contraceptives and abortions when they need them other charities also another bit. I also give to environmental groups, another bit. I got solar panels 9 years ago before Denver Colorado (where I live) had set up a program to help people get them. This is probably more than just 1 bit. It lowers our electrical bill in the summer when we use air conditioning. We still have natural gas heating. We need help from other institutions to create a replacement for natural gas from things like composting. The city of Denver now haw separate composting bins it you can pay about $20 per month to get one. (Colorado had an amendment put in the state constitution that does not allow taxes to be raised without a general election so it makes it hard to raise money for things like composting)

    It makes me feel better to write about the good things I have tried to do to help the people and the planet. Usually I feel bad like Bruce does when I see the news on TV etc.

    Let’s keep trying to do the little bits we can and work with other groups that would do things like getting people solar panels, and getting any waste disposal group, public or private to have composting.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      We voted today too. I also got my COVID-19 booster.

      As the title of this post says, I hope and work for what might be, not what is. If I focus on what is I feel despair. So, I try to focus on ways I can make the world a better place to live — not just for Americans, but everyone. Change typically takes place incrementally, often with almost imperceptible changes. I want my grandchildren to see and know violence and killing is not necessary. I model that by not killing spiders, snakes, and other creepy crawlers. When an ant 🐜 crawls on the sidewalk and my grandson wants to stomp on it, I tell him no and explain why. Countless little things makes for a better world, and perhaps one day we will reach a place where we finally are willing to address the bankruptcy of our political structures and their (and our) continued support of war, violence, and death — both at home and abroad.

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Bruce Gerencser