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Tag: Bitterness

Bruce, You are a Very Sad and Bitter Old Man

pastor steve proctor

Steve Proctor is the pastor of Westwood Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Westwood Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Springfield, Missouri. I was saved, baptized, and called to preach at a BBF congregation — Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — in the early 1970s.

Proctor came to this site via Google search. Proctor, as is common among his species, showed no interest in learning anything about me. (Please see the WHY? page.) He read all of two posts:

After spending ten minutes on this site, Proctor deemed himself sufficiently informed to comment on my psychological state and my age, along with throwing in a not-really-sorry for the “hurts” in my life that must have caused “this” — whatever “this” is — and a promise to pray for me.

Proctor’s comment — which he posted twice — patience pastor, patience — was succinct and to the point:

You are a very sad and bitter old man. I’m so sorry for the hurt in your life that must have caused this. I will pray for you.

Proctor uses the word “sad” not in the sense of depressed or discouraged, but to say that I am pathetic or a joke. He then says I am bitter. Knowing that he only read two posts on this site, I have no idea how this IFB Freud determined I was bitter. And for the record, I am not. I have debunked this claim numerous times, so I won’t do it again. I will say, however, that Proctor has zero evidence for his claim. First, he didn’t read enough of my writing to know anything about me. Second, he made no attempt to reasonably and politely interact with me. Instead, he just threw the word bitter out there, hoping to wound me. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but I’m immune from such juvenile attempts to cause harm.

Proctor goes on to call me an old man. He got that one right, but how is my advanced age relevant? Besides, doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are supposed to treat the elderly with honor and respect? Evidently, God’s commands don’t apply when commenting on an atheist senior citizen’s blog.

Proctor goes on to allege that some sort of hurt in my life caused “this.” Proctor doesn’t say what “this” is, but I assume “this” is my atheism and my opposition to Evangelical Christianity. Had Proctor bothered to have curiosity (please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait) about the man, the myth, the legend Bruce Gerencser, he likely would have found that I have addressed the “hurt” allegation numerous times. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but some sort of “hurt” didn’t cause me to divorce Jesus and walk away from Christianity. I deconverted for intellectual reasons, not emotional ones. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am more than happy to engage you on THOSE issues, if you are so inclined. Warning, I know the Bible well, have spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, and have preached more than 4,000 sermons.

Evidently, Proctor’s Bible is one of those new-fangled translations that leave words and verses out of the one true and perfect Bible — The King James Version. (That’s sarcasm, by the way. Proctor is King James-only.) The verse that seems to be missing from Proctor’s Bible is Proverbs 18:13:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

I love how The Living Bible translates this verse:

What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts!

God says that Pastor Proctor is shameful and stupid for judging me before knowing the facts. I agree with God.

Westwood Baptist’s website states:

At Westwood, we want you to feel at home and be part of our family. Westwood is a church with a heart where loving and caring friends will help you and your family grow in God’s grace.

On a page titled, A Word From the Pastor, Proctor says:

Here at Westwood, we are known as “A Church with a Heart.”  God has truly given our church a heart for people.  Our desire is to provide effective ministry to every person of every age from all walks of life.  From the moment you visit for the first time, we hope that you sense the love that fills our hearts.  More importantly, we hope that we are able to show you our Lord’s heart.

Sounds like a church pastored by a loving and caring man, a church with people who are filled with love. How do we square these advertising clichés with Pastor Proctor’s comment on this site? Where’s the love, pastor, where’s the love?

Proctor says he will pray for me. If he is the typical IFB preacher, he won’t do so. You see, “I will pray for you” is meant to convey judgment, that Proctor deems my life insufficient or damaged in some way. It is often an epithet preachers hurl at people they disagree with. They have no intention of seriously storming the throne room of Heaven on your behalf. That would be too much work. There are too many other unbelievers to vanquish and condemn to bother praying for them. That said, thousands of Evangelical Christians have said they are praying for me. Despite thousands and thousands of prayers asking God to save me, kill me, or chastise me, I remain an unrepentant atheist. Why, it is almost as if prayer doesn’t work.

I hope Pastor Proctor will remember this post the next time he leaves a stupid — to quote God’s Word — comment on someone’s blog. I hope he will stop being a Fundamentalist preacher, choosing instead to be kind, decent, thoughtful human being who sincerely tries to get to know people different from him — be they atheists, agnostics, humanists, socialists, liberals, or others.

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.

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The Emotional Effects of Divorcing God

divorce-decree

Evangelicals-turned-atheists are often accused by Christian zealots of being angry and/or bitter. The goal is to dismiss the intellectual reasons people deconvert, painting former Evangelicals as emotionally damaged goods. By doing this, Evangelicals are free to say things such as, you are just mad at God or my all-time favorite, someone hurt you. Of course, this argument works both ways. Few Christian converts convert solely for intellectual reasons. I have heard hundreds of salvation testimonies, and every one of them had an emotional component. In fact, for some testifiers, that’s all their testimony had. I’ve even seen deader-than-dead Calvinists get a bit emotional when talking about the wonders of being chosen by God from before the foundation of the world.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists were devoted, on-fire, committed followers of Jesus Christ. They were, in every way, the bride of Christ. These former Evangelicals loved Jesus, often daily spending time praying, reading and studying the Bible, and sharing their faith. Thoroughly committed to God’s Kingdom, they liberally gave their time and money to their churches. Some of them went further still, answering the call of God to be pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and teachers. When critics question my devotion, I find myself thinking, would anyone live the way I lived if they didn’t really believe what they were selling? Of course not.

For many Evangelicals-turned-atheists, Jesus had seeped into every fiber of their being. The words that flowed from their mouths spoke often of Jesus and the wonders of his grace. Married to Jesus, they only had eyes for him. Satan and the world would sometimes cause them to stray, but these followers of Jesus were quick to seek forgiveness, knowing that sin marred their relationship with God. Their motto was only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. Better to burn out than rust out for Jesus, they cried.

And yet, these followers of Jesus no longer believe. Instead of attempting to understand their stories, critics focus on their emotions. I have had hundreds of Christians tell me that I am angry, bitter, jaded, or hurt. For a long time, I refused to admit that emotions played a part in my deconversion. I wanted my decision to leave Christianity to be judged on an intellectual basis, not an emotional one. Through counseling, I was able to see that it was okay for me to be angry and bitter. It was okay for me to feel hurt by the words and actions of those who once considered me their friend, pastor, or colleague in the ministry.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists go through an angry phase. As these former servants of the Most High God reflect on their failed marriage to Jesus, they become angry over the time and money they spent chasing a lie. It is perfectly normal to feel this way. The same can be said for bitterness. As I reflect on the thirty-three years I spent preaching the gospel, I can’t help but be bitter as I think about the sacrifices made by my family and me for the sake of the “cause.” I gave up everything to follow Jesus, choosing poverty over wealth and deprivation over comfort. And now, I face the consequences of these choices.

The key, for me anyway, is to channel my emotions into my writing and helping people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left. If every blog post of mine was an angry rant against Christianity, atheist and Christian alike would soon tire of me and move on. If I spent all my time whining and complaining about how bad my life now is thanks to Christianity, why before long even my wife would stop reading.

My point is this: emotional responses to leaving Christianity are absolutely normal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The key is what to do with those emotions. It’s not healthy to spend life angry and bitter. I met plenty of such people in the churches I pastored; bitter, angry, mean people who took out their “love” for Jesus on anyone who dared to cross them. Instead, let your emotions fuel your passion for a better tomorrow — one not dominated by ignorance and religious superstition. Start a blog, write a book. Do whatever YOU want to do. Now that you are freed from guilt-inducing Christianity, you are free to throw yourself into whatever floats your boat. Want to take your anger and channel it into being an atheist stripper named Darwina? Go ahead. The only person standing in your way is you!

And sometimes, just because you can, it is okay to tell overbearing, deaf, in-your-face Evangelicals to go fuck themselves. Then, kiss your significant other and say, Life is good!

Bruce Gerencser