Menu Close

How Do Evangelical Christians Explain My Life?

reprobate

Rather than asking each of my Evangelical critics to “explain” my life, I thought I’d let the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God answer for them:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I John 2:18-20

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections:… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…. Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:16 –32

My defection from Christianity is proof I never “really” was a Real Christian®. Real Christians® persevere to the end. Real Christians® keep going to church, reading the Bible, praying, tithing, and living according to the Christian social code until the end. Real Christians® believe, walk, act, talk, and live like Christians. And the standard for this believing, walking, acting, talking, and living? Each Christian’s interpretation of the Bible, thus reminding all who are paying attention that there is no such thing as Christianity; just Christianities, with each believer having their own form of the faith once delivered to the saints.

According to Romans 1, I have the clear marks of a reprobate. A reprobate is one whom God has condemned to Hell while still in this life, unless you are a Calvinist, then God condemns some people to Hell before they are even born.  To the reprobate, God says “ I am done with you, do what you will.”

Supposedly, since I am now a reprobate, this is how I live my life:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:26-32

In other words, I am now supposed to a homosexual, a murdering, evil, hater of God, among other things. Never mind that I live a better, more wholesome (whatever the hell that word means) life than most Christians. Never mind that I love my neighbor as myself. Never mind that I am faithful to my wife, love my children and grandchildren.  All that REALLY matters is whether I prayed THE prayer, where I park my ass on Sunday, what ancient religious text I read, and whether I pray, tithe, witness, oppose abortion rights, think homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a sin, and vote Republican.

Here’s how I see it: this is one of those did he resign or was he fired? moments.

Did I leave God or did God leave me?

Matters not.

The divorce is final.

The relationship is over.

All that is left is the scars and memories.

Telling me I was never a Real Christian® denies the life I lived for almost fifty years. On the other hand, telling me that I am still a Real Christian® denies the life I have been living for over a decade. The ONLY explanation for my life is that I once was a Christian and now I am not. I once was saved and now I am not. I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not. But, Bruce . . . the Bible says . . .

And therein lies the problem. Most Evangelicals are incapable of seeing what is right in front of them. The Bible has become the blinders that keep them from seeing and understanding anything that does not fit their narrow, Fundamentalist worldview.

I continue to mention this subject because Evangelicals-turned-atheists often complain about the refusal of Evangelical family, friends, and acquaintances to accept their stories at face value. It gets old, I mean really, really, really old, after a while having people deny/discredit my story or smear my character. I know that nothing I say will change this boorish behavior by arrogant, self-righteous Evangelicals, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’ve been blogging for fourteen years, and over that period of time, I have received scores of emails and comments from Evangelicals who refuse the plain reading of my story. These zealots are unable to square my story with their theology or personal experiences, and instead of pondering why that might be a problem, they choose, instead, to discredit, demean, and dismiss. This bad behavior on their part does Christianity no favors. Who wants to be part of a religion that refuses to accept and embrace people as they are? I know I don’t.

I suspect that my deconversion story scares the shit out of some Evangelicals. I’ve had former church members tell me that they couldn’t be friends with me because they find my unbelief unsettling. One former preacher friend of mine begged me not to publicly share my story. Why? He thought doing so would cause people to lose their faith. Now, this preacher wanted to keep sharing his story and keep preaching the gospel, but he wanted me to shut up, go away, and mind my own business.

As long as I continue writing, I know I will have to deal with people who lack imagination; people unable or unwilling to accept people at face value. Do you have family, friends, and acquaintances who refuse to accept your deconversion story? How do you handle them? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

17 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen

    “…unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful…”

    The thing is, I have a really, really hard time accepting that the non-Christians were all like this Back Then. How do you run a civilization if everyone is like this? So, if I’m right, that means the bible says ex-Christians are much worse people than people who haven’t bought into the Word. That’s just a breathtakingly difficult assertion for me to swallow.

    I think my mom-in-law is struggling with this. Her bible describes unbelievers one way, and her children and grandchildren who have walked away from religion behave very differently. In fact, they behave pretty well, on average. Actually, they behave pretty much within the same parameters as those children and grandchildren who are still Christians (nobody involved here is currently intensely Evangelical). That’s tough to get your mind around, especially when you’re in your 80s.

  2. Avatar
    Brian

    I admire your honesty, Bruce. Not many people are honest. It is a very high calling to live up to and it seems to me that you are doing pretty well in that department. For me, and this will no doubt seem odd, you stand apart in an age as Christ stood, hopelessly at odds with things as they are in the world. I feel very comfortable, very safe in your blog-home. Why was I never allowed to feel safe with Jesus at church…. I sure longed for that for a long time….

  3. Avatar
    Palmer

    Bruce, I am deeply touched by your post. I understand the torture of trying to remain in the church while feeling like I must be faking it, trying to figure out what I believe with enough certainty to stay or leave, being caught in that limbo, being prodded by my parents (who are missionaries) and all of the evidence to make a choice either way. I have felt that pain, and my heart hurts with yours. I had been searching for answers for such a long time that I became jaded and my heart was hard. A real friend recently came to me with no prompting and said he asked God to let him help someone other than himself for once. And he talked to me about things no one else would allow. He is as rational and intelligent as I am and we went round and round. After months of this, and of what I have finally accepted as undeniable signs from God, I have finally found some degree of peace and understanding. I still have scars and bruises from the years of torture, darkness, confusion, and in no way have I figured everything out. I am wishing you healing and peace. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Avatar
    kittybrat

    Ah! It’s either good or evil, black or white, night or day, Christ or Satan… there is no in-between, no variance, no grey area, no dusk, no nuance… not with those blinders you described, Bruce!
    “The Bible has become blinders that keep them from seeing and understanding anything that does not fit their narrow, fundamentalist worldview.”

  5. Avatar
    Jada

    ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.’

    This verse has always been extraordinarily annoying to me as it’s so excessively wordy.
    ‘They weren’t like us, so they split.’ I could rewrite the bible accurately and cut the whole thing, at the very least, in half.

  6. Avatar
    Ian

    The exact same scriptures are used when speaking about me. No matter that people could feel the Holy Ghost moving when I led music. No matter that people were blessed when I spoke. God can use both clean and dirty vessels.

    The thing I learned from this all is that I should have just quit church and lived like hell. Then, when I died, church people could have said good things about me.

  7. Avatar
    Brian

    Hi Palmer, every dawn is is Creation made anew and every free breath that begins in now is glory wide and floors me with a whelming over…. Call it God or Lolly or Zimmy as you please. I prefer to let it be and be there with at as much as I am able this Friday dawn.
    I am happy to know that as somebody born to woo-woo and somebody who has survived it, you now experience some healing and some peace, and that you wish it for others. You sound like a reasonable (mostly, anyway, apart from the undeniable God-signs;))
    I am a child of the woo as well, my dad a Baptist preacher and my mom the daughter of a Baptist preacher. My family is spilling over with people who have given their lives. Thank-you for sharing too. You know I profess that I have begun to know my humanity but in so many ways I still deny myself and all humans. All the religious folk know that the answer is in denial, that denial is enlightenment and peace. Not for me, Palmer.

  8. Avatar
    Dennis Russell

    Yeah the love bombing/condemnation started Nd has increased as time goes on. Now Mormon missionaries have seemed to pick up on it but they’re fun to mess up their minds.

  9. Avatar
    Darcy Walker

    ” they find my unbelief unsettling.” We do like our certainty. We sometimes even reinforce it with violence.
    In tonight’s online Unitarian Universalist Friday Fellowship Zoom, we were asked about different lenses through which we had experienced religion. Two people said that they were told long ago that UUs were devil worshipers, and the following Sunday, they were sitting in a UU church to see what it was all about, and later joined. Be careful to whom you say, “They worship the devil,” because the results may not be what you expect!

    • Avatar
      Joseph Mitchell

      I am interested in viewing their equivalent of Sunday morning church, evening and mid week services. This is referring to not just UU but also Quakers and Mennonites. There are atheists who are associated with those 3 historical groups. I can’t find what I’m looking for not just from a birds eye view but also from SE which no longer surprises me.

  10. Avatar
    BJW

    Bob and I were converts to our religion. So when we stopped going to church, no family cared. In fact, they were generally happier because we were no long zealous. Both our families have diverse beliefs, but no one is evangelical or fundamentalist, thank (ha ha) god.

  11. Avatar
    Matilda

    How do evangelicals in my family and friendship/acquaintance circle explain my deconversion? They think it’ll be temporary and I’ll work through my issues and return, with a glorious testimony, to the fold. You see, rather like Bruce, I jesus-ed my socks off 24/7. But then in 2014, I became seriously ill at a point when I was working my hardest for jesus. During my recovery, I confronted the dissonances I’d failed to address from years back, found this blog and other atheist ones and deconverted. But my fundies are convinced I’ll return, no True X-tian deconverts. They know the exact reason for my loss of faith too they say, I need to work through my being angry with god for my incapacitating illness in 2014, god is being so patient with me, he understands my anger,and….any….minute…..now….I’ll acknowledge his mysterious ways and return. Ain’t gonna happen. As Bruce once said ‘I have found the Promised Land, why would I return to Egypt?’

  12. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I love that the “No True Scotsman” argument has been around so long that it’s captured in the Bible.

    My husband’s parents still have a hard time believing we are atheists. His parents were brought up Catholic, mass every Sunday, Catholic school. My father-in-law went to seminary to become a priest, but he liked the ladies too much for a life of celibacy. Interestingly, my in-laws barely took their kids to church, and after first communion none of them had religious education – none of the 3 sons were confirmed. So I can’t wrap my head around why it should be a surprise to them that their middle son is atheist.

    I still haven’t told my family….. My daughter is in an anti-theist stage right now as she is taking a college course “Communication and the First Amendment” and has a couple of classmates who lean Christian Nationalist…..so she is taking it upon herself to be the vocal atheist in the class…..

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser