My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the TNT show, Good Behavior, starring Michelle Dockery as Letty Raines and Juan Diego Botto as Javier Pereira. It took us awhile to get used to Dockery’s drug-using, booze-swilling, criminal character. Dockery played the prim and proper Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey, so playing Letty Raines was a huge departure from her previous role. As far as Botto is concerned, Polly would like to run off with him to the Bahamas. 🙂
During one episode of Good Behavior, Letty helps a recently separated woman break into her estranged husband’s home so she could reclaim her belongings. Letty used her criminal lock-picking skills to easily gain access to the home. The woman, amazed by Letty’s “skills,” thanked God for the opened door. Letty replied, Don’t thank God, thank me!
Millions of Americans go through life thanking the Christian God for every good thing that comes their way. In their minds, goodness flows from God’s hands — not man’s — and all the praise, honor, and glory belong to him. Have you ever spent significant time helping someone, only to have them dismiss your labor with a big THANK YOU, GOD? As a Christian, I knew that I mustn’t ever take credit for my good works. Doing so was prideful. According to the Bible, I was a loathsome, vile, worthless human being, and without God in my life, I lacked meaning, purpose, and direction. The Bible also told me that even after I was saved/born-again/redeemed, the only reason for the good in my life was Jesus. If it weren’t for the precious, awesome blood of Jesus, my life would have no value. Jesus was my go-between, standing between an angry, vengeful God and the saved sinner Bruce Gerencser. If Jesus ever stood aside, his Father would crush me and throw my sorry ass in Hell.
Sunday after Sunday, Evangelicals gather together to prostrate themselves before a narcissistic God and thank him for his awesomeness. Worship songs are sung in a masturbatory fashion, repeatedly praising God for his goodness. Testimonies by the faithful praise and thank Jesus for every good thing that has happened in their lives, right down to them f-i-n-a-l-l-y having a bowel movement. Think I am kidding? You need to spend time listening to praise and testimony time at the local Baptist church. The minutest details of goodness are ascribed to God. Never mind that you drank two glasses of fiber drink and swallowed four Dulcolax tablets. It was God, not the drink and tablets that caused your BM. Silly? Sure, but this illustrates the absurdity of the notion that every good thing comes from the Christian God.
Former Christians often were brought to unbelief by daring to question whether God really was materially involved in their lives. I know for me personally, one of the reasons for my deconversion was the fact that almost all the answered prayers I attributed to God were explainable by purely human means. And the handful of events that couldn’t be explained this way? These were not enough to keep me believing. As I scanned the history of my life, I concluded that virtually every event and circumstance — good, bad, and indifferent — could be traced back to myself or some other human.
Christians often thank God when their health problems are made better. Praise Jesus! God healed me, countless Evangelicals have said, never considering whether such claims are true. Most of the physical healing in the world today doesn’t come from the hands of the Evangelical deity. It is doctors, nurses, medical technicians, medications, and life-saving procedures which should be thanked. Think about your last surgery. Is there any reason to give God credit for its success? What did God do to warrant such praise?
I am a big proponent of giving credit to whom credit is due. That’s the point Letty Raines was making when she said, “Don’t thank God, thank me!” While it is certainly proper for all of us to have humility, there’s nothing wrong with us expecting to be thanked when we help others. Polly loves to cook. She will spend hours preparing scrumptious family meals. Imagine if no one ever thanked her for her labors. Imagine if we thanked Jesus for the meal instead of Polly. Why I suspect that the next Thanksgiving meal will feature Banquet turkey dinners and no pie.
Think, for a moment, about all the good that has come your way this past week. Was it God who did these things for you? Of course not. It was your spouse, children, friends, or other human beings. Everything that happens in our lives can be traced to hands that can be easily seen. There’s no need for any of us to say, Thank you, God. Instead, thank those who did well by you. Be grateful for the labor and kindness. As we traverse the plain of life, let’s give credit to whom credit is due. Thank you to everyone who helped this week to make my life better. And God, if you are reading this post, please know if you ever really do something good, something that alone can be attributed to you, you can bet your last dollar that I will say, to you, THANKS!
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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