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Bruce, I Want to Be Your Friend — Part One

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

Several times a month I receive emails from Evangelicals wanting to be “friends” with me. These emails invariably say that the writer is Evangelical, but not like the Evangelicals I focus on in my writing. Often, these writers attempt to “hook” me by saying that they “totally” understand why, based on reading about my past experiences, I would walk away from the ministry and Christianity. They too, I am told, would have done the same. Usually, these emails are filled with compliments about my transparency, openness, and honesty. These Evangelicals promise me that their motives are pure, and that they have no desire to try to win me back to Jesus. All they want is an opportunity to show me “true” Christian love and friendship.

I also get Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who, again, promise that they have no ulterior motive for friending me. Years ago, one such person friended me on Facebook. He knew “everything” about me, having read my blog and talked to his sister who was, at one time, a member of one of the churches I pastored. So, I friended him, thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was different from other Evangelicals. And for a while he was, but one day he became inflamed with righteous indignation over something I had written about Christianity. Our discussion quickly spun out of control, and the man unfriended me. He warned his sister about me, saying that I was satanic and Christians should avoid me lest I influence them with my demonic words.

These days, I simply do not respond to Evangelical friendship requests, be they via email or on social media. Several years ago, the president of a Christian college attempted to goad me into having lunch with him by appealing to my desire for openness and understanding. This man told me that he just wanted to share a meal and hear my story. I told him, as I do anyone else who takes this approach, Look, I have written more than four thousand blog posts. I have written extensively about my past and present life. If you really want to know about my life, READ!  If, after reading my writing, you have questions, email them to me and I will either answer them in an email or a blog post. Of course, this is not what these “friendly” Evangelicals want. They want a face-to-face meeting with me so they can probe my life, hoping to find that wrong beliefs led to my deconversion. Never mind that I have written numerous posts about my past beliefs. Everything someone could ever want to know about my life and beliefs can be found on this blog.

Perhaps the question these Evangelicals should ask is this: why would I want to be friends with you? What would a friendship with you bring to my life that I don’t already have? It’s not like I don’t have any friends. I do, and I am quite happy with the number of friends I have, both in the flesh and through the digital world. Not only that, but my partner of forty-five years is my best friend, and I am close with my six children and their families. I have all I need when it comes to human interaction. Why, then, would I want to be friends with Evangelicals who, as sure as I am sitting here, want to evangelize me? Friendship Evangelism remains a tool churches and parachurch ministries use in their evangelistic efforts. Friendship becomes a pretext. The real goal is to see sinners saved. Promoters of “Friendship Evangelism” know that befriending people disarms them, making them more sensitive and receptive to whatever version of the Christian gospel they are promoting.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am pretty good at stalking people on the internet and social media. I have learned that you can tell a lot about people just by looking at their Facebook wall, along with the groups they are a part of and the pages they like. Recently, a local man contacted me, offering to buy me dinner with no strings attached. What, no expectations of sex after the date? Consider me a doubter. I decided to check out the man’s Facebook profile. I found out that he voted for Donald Trump and supports most of the Evangelical hot-button issues. He opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. We have nothing in common socially or politically. Why, then, would I want to be friends with him?

Friendships are generally built around shared beliefs. I don’t have any interest in being friends with people who voted for Donald Trump or support political views I consider anti-human, racist, bigoted, and misogynistic. And I sure as hell don’t befriend people who root for Michigan. I have standards, you know? Seriously, most of us have friends who hold to beliefs similar to our own. We might have a handful of friends who differ from us, but we find ways to forge meaningful relationships with such people. I am friends with several Evangelicals, but the main reason I am is that our friendships date back to the days when we were walking the halls of Lincoln Elementary. We’ve agreed not to talk about religion or politics. We share many common connections that make such discussions unnecessary. I am sure they fear for my “soul” and pray that I would return to the fold, but these things are never voiced to me. If they did attempt to evangelize me, it would most certainly put an end to our friendship.

To the man, these friendly Evangelicals believe that my life is missing something — Jesus — and is empty, lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. In their minds, only Jesus can meet my needs. Without him, what is the point of living another day, right? In their minds, Jesus is the end-all. Why would I want to trade the life I now have for Jesus? What can Jesus — a dead man — possibly offer me? Well, Bruce, these Evangelicals say, Jesus offers you forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and eternal bliss in Heaven. Surely, you want to go to Heaven when you die? Actually, I am content with life in the present. Threats of Hell or promises of Heaven have no effect on me. Both are empty promises.

Why would I ever want to be friends with someone who believes that, unless I believe as they do, their God is going to torture me in a lake filled with fire and brimstone for eternity? This same God — knowing that my present body would, in hell, sizzle like a hog on a spit — lovingly plans to fit me with a special fireproof body that will be able to feel the pain of being roasted alive without being turned into a puddle of grease. What an awesome God! No thanks. I have no interest in being friends with anyone who thinks that this is what lies in the future for me. I can’t stop (nor do I want to) such people from reading my writing, but I sure as hell don’t want to “fellowship” with them over dinner at the local Applebee’s.

I would like to make one offer to Evangelicals who want to be friends with Atheist Bruce. Fine, let’s go to the strip club and have drinks, and let’s do it on All Male Revue Night. I’m not all that interested in seeing males strip, but I thought taking these Evangelicals to such a place would help them see how I feel when they view my life as lacking (naked) and in need of clothing (Jesus).

My life is what it is. True friends accept me as I am, no strings attached. Evangelicals, of course, have a tough time doing that. In their minds, Jesus is the end-all, the answer to all that ails the human race. Life is empty without the awesome threesome — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I spent fifty years in the Christian church. For half of those years, I was preaching the Evangelical gospel. I was, according to all who knew me, a devoted, zealous follower of Jesus. Whatever my faults may have been (and they were many), I loved Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. Deciding to walk away from the ministry and Christianity were the two hardest decisions I have ever made. Yet, my life, in virtually every way, is better today than it was when I was a Christian. Quite frankly, Christianity has nothing to offer me. I am content (well, as content as a perfectionist with OCPD can be, anyway) with life as it now is. Sure, life isn’t perfect, but all in all, I can say I am blessed. Yes, blessed. I am grateful for my partner, six children, and thirteen grandchildren. I am grateful that I can, with all the health problems I have, still enjoy their company. The advice I offer up to people on my ABOUT page sums up my view of life:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

For me, the game of life is late in the fourth quarter. Time is literally running out. I must focus my attention and energy on relationships that are mutually beneficial, relationships that offer love, kindness, and acceptance. No Evangelical worth his or her salt can offer me such a relationship. Lurking below the surface will be thoughts about how much better my life could be with Jesus and thoughts of what will happen to me if I die without repenting of my sins. Evangelicals who really believe what the Bible says can’t leave me alone. They dare not stand before God to give an account of their lives, only to be reminded that, when given the opportunity to evangelize the atheist ex-preacher Bruce Gerencser, they said and did nothing. And it is for these reasons that I cannot and will not befriend Evangelicals.

Read Part Two here.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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  1. Avatar
    Neil Rickert

    “All they want is an opportunity to show me “true” Christian love and friendship.”

    I continue to doubt that there is such a thing as “true Christian love.”

    This reminds me of Larycia Hawkins, as it seemed to me that she was showing true Christian love. But she was forced out of Wheaton College, because the evangelicals did not see her action as being “true Christian.”

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    It seems that the people you describe see you as a potential “trophy” to show their God—or as an example of the “damnation” that awaits those who don’t believe as they do. No true friendship is ever made or used for such purposes.

  3. Avatar

    It’s so insincere and an obvious attempt to evangelize. It is ironic considering that only a single friendship survived when you came out as an atheist. It reminds me of some of the harassment tactics used by Scientology, though in your case it is only directed by the psychology of the believer not by an actual organization. Check out any time you like but you can never leave?

  4. Avatar

    As I have mentioned before, I lost a good friend when I told her I was no longer a Christian. She ghosted me. It still hurts, but not much. It turns out that being friends with really different people can be hard. But Bruce, you’re a magnet to all the evangelicals wanting to SAVE! YOU! Too bad they can’t have friendship with you and be sincere about it.

  5. Avatar

    News item today about the largest decline in church membership, supposedly, in the history of the country. Whether that’s raw numbers or percentage, it’s a lot of people “dechurching” as they called it. If that trend continues I may have to reverse my attitude on religion lest I become mainstream.

    Bruce, you went to Lincoln? In Bryan? The first time I went somewhere alone I walked up those intimidating steps.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Pulaski first, and then Lincoln. We lived on Mulberry St, a few blocks from Lincoln. Walked to school every day.

      I went to Lincoln less than a year. We moved to Lima (end of fourth grade). Lasted a year in Lima, and then we moved to Farmer (end of fifth grade). And then on to Deshler for seventh grade. And on to . . . Well you see where I’m going. 🤣🤣❤️

      • Avatar

        I lived 2 blocks south of Lincoln on Williams St. Yeah I moved around a lot too. It seemed normal. In hindsight I wonder if all the moving made me resilient or handicapped me. I’ll guess both are true. I learned not to fear change but it was harsh getting dumped into the middle of a class half way into the semester and the teacher with no time or interest in helping me catch up. But hey! That’s how we learned to cope, huh?

  6. Avatar
    Charles Kelley Jr

    You will NEVER have a greater friend than Jesus Christ who died and rose again to save you from sin and hell.

    And secondly you will never have a greater friend than someone who seeks to lead you to him.

    Any “friend” that leads you away from him to hell (and yea it does exist! I’d suggest listening to Bro Howard Storm who was an Antitheistic atheist) amongst many.

    Any friend who leads you away from the Saviour was NEVER a friend.

    • Avatar

      Charles, it is execrably rude to call someone “friend” without their explicit permission. Bruce has clearly indicated that he does not consider preachy strangers like you to be his friends, so cut it out.

      As for Jesus, if there ever was such a person, I believe with certainty of 99.999%+ that he died and remains dead to his day. People don’t come back from the dead. If the Romans did crucify him, they would have left him staked up until his corpse was thoroughly rotted, and then disposed of it in a mass grave. They definitely wouldn’t have handed over his body for private burial, and any centurions stupid enough to do so would have been executed for insubordination.

      Hell is obviously a bullying tactic used by church leaders to keep people in line. I saw through the ruse when I was seven years old. Although I believe that hell does not and cannot exist, and that believers would be no safer than unbelievers because a god that would create a hell is obviously batshit insane, I use threats of hell as a quick guide to the character of individuals. (TL;DR: You failed the test miserably.)

      Finally, anyone who acquiesces to a torturer-god and consents to Jesus dying in his place is a coward. Christianity is a morally bankrupt belief system that favours obedience and fear over good works (in stark contrast to what Jesus supposedly said in Matthew 25:35-40, the only sensible part in the entire New Testament).

      Fuck thee off to the trollbridge whence you came.

    • Avatar

      Hmmm… you didn’t really read the post, did you. All those words in Bruce’s post, which you seem to have read as “blah blah blah”, were actually directed at you, and your comment proves the point.

      Yet another evangelical who fails to see then irony.

      This tunnel vision of Christian’s, proven yet again by Charles, is all consuming. They cannot see, cannot even begin to comprehend, that the vast majority of the world is not like them, does not think like them, and does not need their god. They are convinced that their thoughts, feelings, and needs are exactly the same as everyone else in the world. It’s just that the rest of the world pretend they don’t feel the same, or lies, or is deceived by some evil entity.

      And any attempt to explain to them that their lives do not apply to anyone else is incomprehensible to them. Their are so caught up in their group think, which proves them right, that they have no ability to understand people outside of their tiny church dominated world.

    • Avatar
      W.W. Jacobs

      Yes, and reading comprehension is your friend.

      Bruce no more wants to befriend you than I want to befriend the evangelical man who stole at least one person’s identity, physically and verbally abused multiple women, abandoned at least one child, and objects to me calling myself a Christian because I disclosed these facts in a manner he cannot refute. (No, seriously, he can’t; these are things he acknowledged under penalty of perjury and the statute of limitations hasn’t expired.) And yet, a like-minded man who posts here recently – even with the knowledge of these facts – proclaimed his belief that God is on this man’s side because he talks the talk of being on God’s side. (You’ll notice I didn’t say he walks the walk. Because he doesn’t.)

      But see, those are the kind of people who show up here “just wanting to talk” and “just meaning well.” The God I worship has plenty of use for people with checkered pasts – as long as they repent and change their ways. The God you worship will let this man continue as he has for the past 30 years with no comment other than “it’s under the blood” and call it good, even with no outward repentance or change in his conduct.

      The God I worship does not compel me to metaphorically beat Bruce over the head with my Bible. Bruce knows I’m a believer. Most of the posters here know I’m a believer. The aforementioned individual questions my profession of faith, mostly because he believes a true Christian would apologize publicly for disclosing factual information that is damaging to his ostensible ministry, but he’s aware of me identifying as a believer. Revival Fires, you, and many others feel a spiritual duty to run roughshod over Bruce, his testimony, and his website for no reason other than you believe that You Are Right.

      The God I worship, on the other hand, wants me to be more concerned about the log in my own eye than the speck I perceive in someone else’s. (No, Mr. “I committed voter fraud,” the context of this Scripture does not preclude me from pointing out that you have an entire forest in your eye.)

      But you know what? If Bruce or anyone else (even the aforementioned wife-beating loser) wants to know anything about the path my walk with Christ has taken over the past 33 years, they can ask and I will answer. If they don’t ask, I won’t answer. Fairly simple concept that you and your ilk feel doesn’t apply to you.

      Thank you, but I don’t care to be friendly with you either.

  7. Avatar
    Charles Kelley Jr

    Well Astro I feel very very sorry for you 😭.

    You are already a sinner on your way to hell and Jesus Christ loves you and wants to save you.

    But you choose to reject him and one day will wish you had never been born or even conceived.

    • Avatar

      Your threat against me has been noted, Charles. Yes, your threat. You’re a holier-than-thou, power-tripping POS, pretending that you have “wisdom” when in reality all you have is second-rate mythology that’s hundreds of years past its “best-before” date.

      Reality check: I’m not going to hell and you aren’t going to heaven. We’re both going to our graves and nowhere else, because there is no credible evidence for life after death.

      May you awake every morning with a vague and troubling memory of your own loved ones burning in the flames that you imagine for me and other people who don’t want any part of your human sacrifice cult.

      • Avatar

        Many thanks Astreja for these eloquent and excellent replies to this troll. And Charlie boy jnr, teensy little hint, if you want Astreja to take your (ridiculous and laughable) comments as worth reading……..then at least take the trouble to to get their name right!, Astro it ain’t.

    • Avatar

      Wow, the arrogance is thick in this one.

      First, her name is not Astro, and I see what you did there. So,please, do take this in the spirit it is intended as a response to your smug insult so typical of your ilk…. What a wonderful example of christian love.

      There is that ugly irony again…

      Second, I am curious, how can you judge anyone? I don’t recall any such concept in the red words (by the words..that’s a hint,…). There were a few words about humility and where one should place themselves in relation to others. Perhaps you missed those? I know, it is that long soliloquy that was thrown in between all of the action and miracles. I would assume, based on the reading and comprehension skill you display through your posts, you may have just not quite grasped those words.

      Or maybe its just too hard. Skip straight to the apostle so you can feel good about judging people.

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      I was thinking Charles about those I’ve been with who are nearing the end of their lives.

      Christian family. Christian friends.

      No one realizing and in some cases realizing, I simply no longer believe what they believe.

      Never once did I try to talk them out of their belief system. As my mother quoted some scripture to dad, I never rolled my eyes or scolded her. As the preacher came to sit with him, I respectfully made room for his presence. If someone had asked me to sing a hymn, I’d do so or at least hum it as they went to be with their Lord as they understood it. Something that is helpful to many, is massaging their feet, their hands, their back. The gift of gentle and compassionate touch. No matter their religion or lack thereof, I simply sojourn with them until the end.

      I don’t believe in “God” as defined by you. I live my life as an atheist. Kind, compassionate and for some reason, gifted in being present with those who are dying. I have friends who say the gift is from God. It doesn’t offend. I can understand why they think that. Dying is not something we humans enjoy. They think it’s obviously a gift from the divine one.

      I believe as well, that if someone wanted some sort of peace before they died and that peace took the form of asking God for forgiveness and accepting Christ as their Saviour, I would be willing to assist them towards that end. Why? Why not? I wonder, under those circumstances if you would accept that person’s salvation if an atheist brought them the good news?

      Life is short. Even those who live a long life will tell you how short life is. As you go about telling people they are going to hell, try to do so lovingly. And when you meet your end, don’t lose sight that one day, the only one there with you may in fact be an atheist and you’ll never know it.

    • Avatar

      Charles, you said “… one day you will wish you had never been born or even CONCEIVED,” which indicates that you think babies go to hell. Man, I’m so glad I left the Christian cult behind.

  8. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Mr. Kelley—I would never presume to address you as “Charles,” let alone “Charlie” or “Chuck” unless I came to know and trust you. (If we were speaking Spanish or French, I would not use “tu;” I would say “usted”or “vous.”) I was raised to see assumed familiarity and informality as disrespectful and rude. That includes calling anyone you don’t know “friend.”

    You compounded your disrespect for Astreja by talking at them and making a threat. (I regard the warning of Hell as a passive-aggressive threat, i.e., a threat without physical force.) Your behavior is a pretty good working definition of contempt. I don’t understand how you can use it to deliver a message of “Christian love.”

  9. Avatar

    Wow, this post sure triggered the snowflake evangelical proselytizer-wannabes! That’s fun! They don’t like getting called out for their boorish behavior!

  10. Avatar

    Friend requests from evangelicals? Hell no. They always try to suck you back into the vortex. But universalists or deists, maybe. They’re good conversationalists and won’t buttonhole you to the wall while yelling, “TURN OR BURN.” Me? I’m an Ietsist, or a “something’s-probably-out-there-but-I’ve-no-idea-who-or-what-it-is” kind of person. But whatever it may be, it’s not a bloodthirsty deity.

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Bruce Gerencser