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Dear Christian Friend and Former Parishioner, Am I a Good Person?

bruce gerencser august 2021
Bruce Gerencser, August 2021

A good friend of mine, and a former parishioner, wrote on Facebook an update that asked: can anyone be good without God? He then answered his own question with a No and quoted some Bible verses.

I replied:

Am I good? I am your friend. Does that make me a good person?

Evidently, my words cut to the heart of the matter because the update and my comment were deleted.

Christians are really good at spouting what they believe, what the Bible says, blah, blah, blah. On Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and in the safety of their houses of worship, the rhetoric and judgment flows, but when confronted with the reality of their words, Christians often backtrack, reverse course, apologize, or say they didn’t mean what they said.

Why is this? The short answer is that they realize their words are hateful, bigoted, arrogant, or judgmental, and since they care about what others think of them, Christians are quick to distance themselves from what they previously said. Perhaps they realize that words posted to Twitter, Facebook, on a blog, or in an email are not likely to convert a person to Christianity, especially when the words are hateful, bigoted, arrogant, or judgmental.

Of course, there are other people who say, I just let the chips fall where they may. It is GOD you have a problem with, not me. I am just speaking God’s words. They are so blind that they don’t see how arrogant and filled with self they have become. My friend knows, despite what his Bible and theology tell him, that I am a good person. He knows how good I was to him when I was his pastor.  And he knows how well I treat him now, even when his theological pronouncements irritate the Heaven out of me.

Reality almost always trumps theology, and this is why only a rocks-in-the-head Bible-thumping, Bible-verse-regurgitating, robot of a Christian will say that someone like me is not a good person. Unable to see beyond their theology, they are forced to judge and condemn good people who haven’t joined their Christian club. In their minds, all the good works in the world can’t erase the stain of sin, and the non-Christians’ unwillingness to confess Jesus as Lord makes them the enemy of God, headed for Hell unless they repent of their sins.

Back in the real world, “good” is defined by what you do. If Christians like my friend would look a little closer at their Bibles, they would find that this is how God defines good as well. Salvation by right beliefs has turned millions of Christians into hateful, bigoted, arrogant, judgmental people. There is no hope for them until they come to see that their theology doesn’t match reality.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Don’t quote the Bible to me. Show me what you believe by doing disinterested, no-strings-attached good works. Works such as homeschooling, pastoring, teaching Sunday school, inviting people to church, reading the Bible, praying, evangelizing, reading theology books, and tithing don’t count. These works are the price of admission to your Christian club, feel-good stuff that benefits the member and does little or nothing for anyone else. I’m interested in how you treat those the Bible calls the least of these. I’m interested in how you treat and help your atheist, Muslim, pagan or Buddhist neighbor. I’m interested in how you treat and help those who have skin colors or sexual orientations different from your own,

Evangelicals are so obsessed with right beliefs, building big churches, and laying up treasures in Heaven, that they wall themselves off from the rest of the human race.  Evangelicals make periodic forays into the land of the Philistines and Canaanites, hoping to gain members for their clubs, but then return to the safety of their clubhouses in time to hear the church band riff on the latest praise and worship song. Most of their time is focused on self-improvement and building the most awesome church in town. Lost on them is the fact that most of the new people joining their clubs are just transfers from other clubs.

If Evangelical Christians truly want to make a mark in this world, they must leave the safe confines of their clubhouses and join hands with those whom their theology says are broken, wicked, vile sinners. Let’s leave matters of salvation and Heaven and Hell to another day. War, violence, starvation, poverty, Trumpism, and global climate change threaten our collective future. Are not these matters more important than winning the village atheist to Jesus?

When I see Evangelicals knee-deep in the refuse of this world helping others with NO expectation of return, I might, at the very least, believe Christianity has something to offer to the world. While it is unlikely that I would ever return to Christianity, I could be persuaded to admire a religion that values others and invests its time and money in helping the least of these. (Matthew 25)

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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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13 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Actually, a number of the most generous, caring, nonjudgmental people I have ever met are conservative Christians of one stripe or another. Aaaaaand some of the biggest assholes, who wouldn’t give a member of the Great Unsaved the time, were also conservative Christians. What distinguishes the former was that they take the injunction not to judge seriously, as well as the instruction to care for the Least Of These. But on a more primal level, what you have is good people doing good, and finding religious justification for it; likewise evil people doing evil, and finding religious justification for it.

  2. Avatar
    Erin

    If judgmental, bigoted policing of everyone else’s behavior is being a “good person,” then I prefer to be a bad person. Yay for opposite day!

    Actually, when I was deconverting, that was pretty much my argument to god: “If this is what being a Christian is, I want no part of it anymore.” Of course, there were many more reasons, but in the midst of that process, the cognitive dissonance between how I was “supposed to behave” and what I felt was kind was my biggest concern.

  3. Avatar
    Brian

    Imagine what the tithe could do for The Least of These, instead of getting that new roof and gym addition, instead of buying up real estate in town. I have known wonderful people among believers and unbelievers as well but I do find that believers are more apt to ignore what I refer to as basic social boundaries. They feel free to give spiritual wedgies and then laugh it off as a joke. Should you try the same with them, well, the delete button… And if you allow them to be offensive and respond, they start to get all gung-ho and hurl verses at you, verses they understand whateverwhichway their pastor pleases. So then you go there and it comes back around to indecency in a social way, that you are not properly churched to know. It is a sick way of life, that club. I feel so much more content in my honest lack of belief. The highs of belief just don’t do it for me if I have to fall back into dishonesty again, saying yes to things I do not agree with, the maltreatment of children for God, the slap-down to women in church, the clique of those not-of-the-world when in fact that is exactly what their group is…. What we are supposed to do must mesh with the honest, the true who-we-are to be halfway reasonable as a manner of living. That way, I respect myself and can begin to respect others in a like fashion… Does it hurt to be prayed for without your consent? When you have asked that they cease and desist? YES. And you know why? Heaven Father, bless Brian as he has fallen from the truth and allows abortion on demand. His vision has departed and he mocks your great holiness, Lord. Convict him, Father.
    It is rude. It is unfair. It is mean-hearted. Christianity like this is emotional sickness in a culture.

  4. Avatar
    Kenneth

    In Christianity, there is no such thing as a good person. This makes it much easier to tell someone how they need to live their life.

  5. Avatar
    Benny S

    “It is GOD you have a problem with, not me. I am just speaking God’s words.”

    This sounds like the tired, old, worn-out and out-dated chestnut from Franklin Graham. If I recall, Graham’s also fond of saying: “God doesn’t send people to hell. They go there of their own free will.”

    Oh, and I almost forgot, Graham’s an asshat.

  6. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    Try to avoid talking to these idiots as much as possible. They know THEY are right and will accept no one who is different.

  7. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    so many christians are terrified to be held accountable for their nonsense. They want to claim everyone deserves hell, but when you go up to them and ask if you personally deserve it, they suddenly can’t find anything to say.

  8. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    There must be something in the DSM about those folks. I mean, they gaslight and provoke people. They don’t just violate the rules of polite society; the way they transgress boundaries can actually send someone who’s on the edge into a tailspin or worse. And they have an “end justifies the means” (which, by the way, isn’t all there is to Machiavelli) mentality.

    In other words, they simply can’t be engaged with on their own terms by anyone with a modicum of rationality, integrity or intellect.

  9. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    People who want to be a$$holes will find a way, deity or no deity. It’s funny how people’s deity reflects the values the people hold most dear.

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Bruce Gerencser