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Tag: Christian Cliches

Christian Clichés: The Church is WHO We Are, Not WHERE We Go


As I was driving to my grandson’s baseball game several years ago, a message on an Evangelical church’s sign caught my attention. It said, The Church is WHO We Are, Not WHERE We Go. I chuckled as I read the sign, saying to myself, and I bet everyone who attends this church really believes this message is true. Evangelicals love their clichés. This one, in particular, presents a worthy, thoughtful sentiment, but does it represent how things really are in most Evangelical churches? This cliché suggests that the “church” is the people, and not the steeple. Is this really true? I think not.

I am an old, crusty curmudgeon these days. I have seen a lot of “church” in my lifetime, and, even now, I continue to pay attention to what churches say and what they actually do. Rarely do their words match their works. Christians may want to believe that the “church” is the people, but their actions suggest that buildings, steeples, and land are the church, and they are willing to fight to the death to hang on to their material possessions.

We are two thousand years removed from when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and later died on a Roman cross. His early followers met in the outer court of the Temple, in homes, and anywhere two or three of them were gathered together. The early church didn’t own buildings or land, nor did they have bands, programs, colleges, seminaries, or paid pastors. The Apostle Paul, the ministerial gold standard, was bivocational. He didn’t have a 401(k), medical and dental insurance, paid vacation, or a church-provided automobile. I roll with laughter when a pastor says his church is just like the church of the first century. Really? In what way?

Clergymen are religious professionals who are paid to preach sermons, visit the sick, bury the dead, and wed the clueless. Much like their counterparts in the “world,” clergymen have insurance, vacation benefits, and retirement plans. These humble men of God are also given special Federal and state tax breaks that are available to no one but them. These tax breaks save ministers hundreds and thousands of dollars a year. And because the churches they pastor are considered by default to be tax-exempt, pastors can also buy automobiles, books, computers, and anything else related to the “work” of the ministry and not pay sales tax on their purchases. But wait, there’s more! as TV pitchman Billy Mays would say. Clergymen also receive the same tax benefits as business owners/self-employed people, and, if they so choose, they can opt out of paying Social Security taxes. There is nothing pastors do — not even their preaching and teaching — that remotely resembles what is recorded in the gospels or the book of Acts. Whatever the early church might have been, it died centuries ago and no longer exists. In its place is what is called the ”institutional church” or ”organized Christianity.”  Evangelicalism, both at the church and denominational level, is a hungry machine that requires people and their money to fuel its work.

So, the church is certainly the people, but is also buildings, lands, and material goods. I live in an area that has a static, aging population. Dreamers speak of the days coming when our downtown areas will be bustling once again with people and commerce and churches are filled with people worshiping the Lord. These wearers of rose-colored glasses believe rural Ohio communities will return to the glory years of the 1950s. Millions of dollars are spent revitalizing local communities, yet nothing changes. Old people die, young people move away, and some dumb-ass business guru thinks we need one more pizza place. These eternal optimists never seem to see things as they are. I love listening to their magnificent plans, but I am a pessimist — also known as a realist — and I know that our glory days are behind us and all we can do is maintain what we have. One local politician suggested building a multi-million-dollar tri-bridge across the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers. Throw in some bike trails and dog-walking parks, and young professionals will want to stay or move into the area because of our wonderful amenities. I ask, and exactly where are they going to work? And does anyone seriously believe that someone is going to relocate here just because we have a fancy bridge? Stop with the nonsense, and see things as they are, and not as you wish-upon-a-star hope they will be.

Local churches are also in numeric and financial decline. More than a few local churches are on life support, managing financially from bequests from the estates of dead members. There are a hundred or so Christian churches within a thirty-minute drive from my home. Many of these churches are struggling congregations that would be better off if they closed their doors or merged with other churches. Why do they continue to hang on? Simple. The church may, to some degree, be the people, but it most certainly is buildings, lands, and stuff.  When faced with closure, churches will go to great lengths to hang on to their buildings. In their minds, they cease to be the church if they don’t have a building.

There are a lot of Methodist churches in rural Northwest Ohio. Most of these churches have small attendances, and are often pastored by men or women who pastor two or three churches at a time. Some of these churches are just a few miles away from one another. If, as the aforementioned cliché says, the church is the people and not their buildings, why don’t these small, struggling, near-death churches merge? Why? you ask. They would have to give up their buildings. Additionally, some of these churches are sitting on thousands of dollars. This money is used to keep the church afloat. If they merged with another church, that church would get all their money! No, we will not merge, churches say. Our communities NEED us! I thought the church is the people, and not buildings and lands. Jesus and his disciples did not concern themselves with this world’s goods. Shouldn’t twenty-first-century Christians follow in their steps?

I have witnessed and been part of countless church fights over material things. Several churches I pastored were sitting on large sums of cash, saving it for . . .? Well, no one could ever tell me what they were saving it for. In their minds, the value of their churches was reflected by buildings and bank account balances. These followers of Jesus would love to see attendance increases, but if that doesn’t happen, at least they have a beautiful near-empty building and lots of cash on deposit at the local bank. First Baptist Church — Making Jesus Proud for 200 Hundred Years! The pews are empty, the baptismal is dry, but, hey, did you see our fancy state-of-the-art kitchen and air-conditioned dining hall? Praise God!

Evangelicals love to present themselves as people who are above the fray; people who are devoted followers of Jesus; people who walk in the steps of the early church; people who are, thanks to the saving grace of God, morally and ethically superior. However, when the façade is ripped away, what we find is that Christians love this world every bit as much as atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-Christians. Their love of this world is reflected in the churches they attend; churches with expensive, ornate buildings; churches with overpriced, incestuous (helping fat sheep get fatter) ministry costs; churches with paid staffs, complete with all the benefits white-collar workers enjoy in the business world. These churches are often sitting on thousands and thousands of dollars. One banker told me, Bruce, if I told you their names, you be shocked by which churches in town have hundreds of thousands of dollars on deposit at our bank. He knew the church I pastored didn’t have two nickels to rub together. We literally lived from offering plate to hand. In the eleven years I pastored the church, I never received a regular weekly salary. For a while, the church took up a weekly offering for me and my family. This was great on the weeks people loved my sermon, not so much when they didn’t. This is not to say that we weren’t “worldly” too. We were, spending thousands of dollars and man-hours on our buildings and property. We may — in my opinion — have done “church” better than the Methodists and Presbyterians, but we loved the here-and-now too.

The cliché, The Church is WHO We Are, Not WHERE We Go, might be credible if it were lived out day by day by Christian people. But, it’s not. A nearby mainline church with an attendance of twenty-five or so people recently dropped $250,000 on repairs and upgrades to their building. Why? Wouldn’t it be better if churches merged? More people, more money, more outreach, right? Instead, dozens and dozens of local churches are hanging on until the last person with a key dies or Jesus returns to earth. Granted, churches — which are private clubs — are free to do whatever it is they want to do. Most Christians derive psychological benefits from belonging to a church. Being part of a Christian club gives them a sense of purpose and meaning. Who am I, then, to criticize what they do or don’t do?

I would agree with this sentiment if it wasn’t for the fact that many churches believe that they are making a difference in their communities; that they are indispensable; that if their church buildings were no longer there, local communities would suffer. It’s this bigger-than-life attitude of churches with which I have a problem. There are seven churches within five miles of my home: three Church of God, one Methodist, one Catholic, and two generic Evangelical churches. If all of these churches closed their doors tomorrow, community life would go on without a hitch. Members of these churches would certainly feel loss, but the rest of us? Ho hum, off to work we go. I see no meaningful imprint on the community from these churches. None. And that’s fine as long as these churches are just places for weekly social gatherings and fellowships. It’s when they take on in their minds a larger-than-life view of themselves that I begin to take a closer look at what they actually do compared to what they own and spend their money on. From my seat in the atheist pew, it sure seems to me that, yes, the church is the people, but those people sure are focused on buildings, bank accounts, padded pews, and all the creature comforts life can afford. It seems — dare I say it? — that most churches are in no hurry to pack their bags and leave this world of earthly sorrow; that having the next church BBQ, bake sale, rummage sale, ice cream social, and fried chicken dinner is far more important than caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for widows and orphans.

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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You Are Welcome Here, Evangelical Churches Say, But do They Really Mean It?

you are welcome here

On January 23, 2018, I wrote the following:

A tagline often used by Christian churches to advertise themselves to non-Christians is this: YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! This statement is meant to convey to people that their church is friendly and accepting of everyone. When mainline churches use this line, they often are just that: friendly, accepting, and welcoming. Years ago, Polly and I, along with our three youngest children, visited the Episcopal church in Defiance. On our first visit there, an older woman — whom we learned later was a pillar of the church — came up to us and said, WELCOME! We don’t care what you believe, you are welcome here. This congregation sincerely didn’t care what you did or didn’t believe, though there were several members of a Fundamentalist persuasion who likely were not as indifferent about our beliefs, especially our pro-choice view on abortion. There’s another church in Defiance, St. John’s United Church of Christ, that advertises the fact that they are a welcoming church. St. John’s caused quite of bit of controversy when they came out in support of same-sex marriage. Both of these churches genuinely accept people as they are, where they are, and don’t try to evangelize. They are more focused on good works than right doctrine.

However, when Evangelical churches, such as the one outside of Ney, say, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!, I chuckle, knowing that they mean something far different when they say this than do the aforementioned Episcopal and UCC churches. Evangelical churches want to be perceived as welcoming places where anyone and everyone can walk through their doors and feel at home. Little do first-time visitors realize that this friendliness is a con; that the church has an ulterior motive: to evangelize them and turn them into more soldiers in God’s Fundamentalist army. Evangelicals will piously say that they love everyone, just as God loves everyone. Sounds good, right? We all want to feel loved and accepted. With Evangelicals, however, their love is a means to an end. They might feign love for you for a time, but their objective is to save you, baptize you, get your checking account number, and add you to the church roll. Yes, Evangelicals say, we love you as you are, but we love you enough to not leave you there.

Some Evangelical churches are content to leave sinners alone, trusting that the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Word will bring them to repentance. Week after week, congregants will “love” on sinners (also called “love bombing”), leading them to believe that they are loved and accepted as they are. Little do they know that there is no way for them to gain membership in the club until they first change their ways. This is why I laugh when I hear Evangelicals say that their churches LOVE and ACCEPT LGBTQ people. Sure they do. Oh, they love and accept them enough to let them take two feet of real estate in one of the church pews, but let someone living in “sin” try to become part of the club and they will be told, sorry, only saved, sanctified, heterosexual people are allowed to be members. Want to sing in the choir, play in the church band, teach Sunday school, or work in the nursery? REPENT and believe the gospel. REPENT and stop being who and what you are. REPENT and realize you are a filthy, vile, broken sinner in need salvation.

It is really easy for anyone to test whether a particular Evangelical church is as welcoming as its members claim it is. Ask the pastor if you and your lesbian partner — whom you legally married last year — can join the church. Or, ask the pastor if you can recruit church members to work at the local Planned Parenthood. Take any of the hot-button social issues or any of the “bad” sins Evangelicals are obsessed with and work them into your life story. Ask the pastor if the church will accept you as a member as you are, with you not planning to change your ways. I guarantee you that Evangelical churches will let you in the gate so they can preach at you, but they sure as heaven aren’t going to let you be a club member unless you first go through their particular club’s membership rituals.

So, when Evangelical churches put on their advertising signs, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! don’t believe them. When Evangelicals tell you that their churches love people unconditionally, feel free to snort, chortle, and laugh. They don’t love anyone unconditionally, and, according to the Bible, neither does their God. (Please read Does God Love Us Unconditionally?  Does God Hate? and Evangelicals Say They Love LGBTQ People, But do They Really?) I am sure Evangelicals reading this might say, Well, Bruce, you aren’t welcoming of everyone. You don’t love unconditionally. So there! Here’s the thing: I have never made such claims. I don’t live in a mythical world of cheap clichés. While I go out of my way to be kind to and respect everyone, some people are assholes and I have no interest in being, nor do I have the energy to be fake friends with such people. The same goes for unconditionally loving everyone. While I am generally a nice guy — just ask anyone who knows me — there are some people who don’t deserve my love. One of the joys of unbelief is that I no longer have to fake-love people. As a pastor, I had to feign love towards countless boorish, nasty people. What would Jesus do, right? Now that Jesus isn’t in my way, I am free to choose whom I want to love and whom I don’t. I spent decades putting up with relatives such as my grandparents, all because I thought that the Bible taught me to do so. Now I am free to say to them, I have no interest in you being a part of my life. (Please read Dear Ann.) Goodbye, good riddance, have a happy death.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelical churches to be honest in their advertising. Stop lying to the public. Stop feigning acceptance and admit that the only people who are truly welcome are those who believe the right things and live a certain way. And that’s okay. It’s your club, Evangelicals. You have every right to have membership rules and obligations. But, please quit with mimicking the small print at the bottom of an infomercial. Tell people the truth about what you demand and expect of them. Hiding your true agenda behind clichés and word salads only turn people off, especially when they find out you lied to them. Don’t tell LGBTQ people you love and accept them, when, in fact, you intend to do everything possible to turn them into Jesus-loving heterosexuals. Jesus said in John 8:32, the TRUTH shall set you free. It’s time for Evangelicals to put their Lord and Savior’s words into practice.

— end of original post —

Several questions were raised about what I wrote above, so I thought I would take a stab at answering them and better explaining how I view Christian churches.

Churches can best be described as membership clubs. As clubs, these churches have their own beliefs, rules, and practices. The club alone determines who can be a member. Members are expected to embrace the beliefs and practices of the club. No one should expect to be a club member without adhering to the beliefs and practices of said club.

I am a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. Every spring I say to myself, this is the year. The Reds are going to make it to the World Series. And by August the Reds will be out of the pennant race, just as in virtually every other year. This year, the team will likely end up with a franchise record number of losses. Yet, I continue to cheer and root for the Redlegs. So it is with Christians. Their systems of beliefs have no rational foundation. Based on ancient religious texts, Christian beliefs find their foundation in the myths and hysteria of a pre-enlightenment world. Such beliefs, to put it simply, make no sense to me. (Please read The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) And they don’t need to. The particular beliefs and practices of a church (or other social clubs) are immaterial to me, and it matters not that I think Christian beliefs are fantastical myths. Thanks to the U.S. Constitution and federal/state law, people are free to believe whatever they want. It’s 2022, and countless Americans believe the earth is flat, evolution is a myth, the Moon landing was faked, the Holocaust didn’t happen, and 9/11 was an inside job. Still others believe that Donald Trump was the greatest president ever to sit in the oval office. I have long since stopped arguing with the supporters of the Orange-Haired Toddler. No amount of rational discussion will change their minds about Donald Trump. That most of the former President’s supporters also happen to be Evangelicals is telling — a double-dose of delusion.

When I struggle to understand how such-and-such a person could be a Fundamentalist Christian, I remind myself of the fact that people join churches for all sorts of reasons: family, social connection, absolution of sin, certainty of moral beliefs and worldview. I find it helpful to view Christianity from an economic perspective; particularly from a cost-benefit point of view. Yes, joining a Christian club costs the member. Club members are expected to give money to the club. They are also expected to submit to the club’s leaders and obey their teachings. If the club believes certain human behaviors are verboten, new members are expected to willingly and happily not do these things. At the same time, the club is expected to benefit its members. Club members expect to be welcomed and respected. They expect to have meaningful relationships and social connections. As long as the benefits outweigh the costs, most members will remain in the club. For those of us who are Evangelicals-turned-atheists, one of the reasons we left Christianity is that the costs outweighed the benefits.

Many Christians believe that people such as myself should respect their beliefs. How dare you criticize my God/beliefs/church, Christians say. They wrongly think that religious beliefs are special and should never be critiqued, criticized, or, if warranted, mocked. I completely reject such a notion. I don’t expect anyone to respect my beliefs. I expect my beliefs to be tested and tried in the public square. I do, however, respect Christians as individuals, as fellow citizens on Planet Earth. This respect of person I grant to others means I won’t criticize or condemn their club memberships. Want to join a Christian club? Want to join a Satanist club?  Want to belong to the Moose, Elks, or the Masonic Lodge? I don’t care one whit about which, if any, clubs people join. Each to his own.

What I do expect is that Christian clubs be honest in advertising what it is they believe and practice. I expect clubs to be clear about their membership requirements. And therein lies the problem, and the reason I wrote the first post. Evangelical churches love to advertise that everyone is welcome, when, in fact, this is not true. Inquiring prospective members deserve to be told the truth about what will be expected of them if they become a part of the church. Saying that LGBTQ people are WELCOME sounds wonderful, but Evangelical churches are being dishonest when they don’t disclose the fact that to be members, non-heterosexuals will be forced to deny their sexuality and embrace heterosexuality. In some Evangelical churches, new members will be expected to dress a certain way, abstain from certain foods/beverages, and only attend club-approved entertainment events. More than a few people have gotten saved at the “friendliest church in town,” only to find out that once they were baptized and became members, club leaders expected them to change their behavior.

Evangelicals love to say that they leave it up to the Holy Spirit to change people’s lives, but rarely is this actually practiced. Using sermons, Bible studies, and other means of coercive indoctrination, Evangelical churches expect newly minted believers to change, and if they don’t, they are branded as sinful, rebellious, backslidden, and out of the will of God. In some instances, misbehaving members are cast out of the club, returned to the world from whence they came. Such actions are fine as long as there was a full disclosure of expectations. It is dishonest for churches to say to people that their assemblies are open to everyone and they let the Holy Spirit change people, when in fact they are only open to people who believe the “right” beliefs and live their lives a certain way.

What I am saying here is that Evangelical pastors and churches need to be honest and tell the truth to prospective members. Surely, if Christian beliefs and practices are as honorable and wonderful as Christians say they are, full disclosure should cause no harm. I suspect, though, that more than a few Evangelical pastors know that if they told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, their club memberships would be much smaller. Some Evangelical colleges refuse to give new students the conduct handbook until after they are on campus. Why do they do this? College administrators know that if they tell the truth before students are on campus, it is likely that more than a few of them will choose not to enroll. Students come to the college looking forward to freedom and fun, only to find out that the college is actually a prison work camp. It is scandalous that colleges such as Pensacola Christian College do not fully disclose to new students their draconian (and silly) rules. Yet, these same colleges expect students to be truthful in all things.

Cable and satellite TV companies hide taxes/fees/equipment costs from prospective customers so it seems that the service is cheaper than it actually is. So it is with many Evangelical churches. It’s the hidden beliefs and practices that I object to. Churches wait until new members have signed on the dotted line to tell them, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. If Evangelical churches are upfront about everything and someone decides to join their respective club, fine. Lying, however, about expectations is always wrong, whether through omission or commission, and Evangelical pastors and churches shouldn’t be upset when this practice is exposed to the light of day. Just tell the truth, Evangelicals, and you will not hear a peep from me.

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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Questions: Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?


I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

ObstacleChick asked:

Related to questions others are asking, when you were fully in the fold, sold out, dedicated to the Trinity, did you ever feel any discomfort when you read things in the Bible that didn’t make sense or add up? Like, where did the children of Adam and Eve get their mates? Or about the dead that supposedly resurrected in the Easter Story in Matthew’s version? Or did Noah’s offspring all procreate with their siblings and cousins? (And why if it took so long for Noah and his sons to build the Ark there were no grandchildren running around during that time – or were those kids horrible reprobates too?) Were you a “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kind of guy? You mentioned that you actually would study and prepare for your sermons, so you must have seen all those issues and more…you’re a smart guy.

Let me start by giving a short answer to ObstacleChick’s question: “Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?” No, I was, instead, a “God Said It, That Settles It” Christian. For most of my years in the ministry, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Thus, I viewed the Bible as the very words of God — written by men under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit.

I was a serious student of the Bible, spending upwards of twenty hours a week preparing my sermons. I had a large library, but most of my books were written by people who believed as I did. Thus, I rarely read dissenting voices (this changed in the late 1990s as my theology and political views became more liberal). Did I see the issues raised by ObstacleChick? Sure, but the authors I read always seemed to have answers that satisfied my questions and doubts. I was, in every way, a true-blue believer.

I believed that God would, in time, answer any doubts or questions that I might have. I might have to wait until I got to Heaven, but all things would one day be revealed.

My view of the Bible gradually changed. First to go was King James-onlyism — a cardinal sin in the IFB church movement. Then, in the early 2000s, I started preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). Influenced by the Emerging (Emergent) church movement with its post-modernist thinking, I began entertaining my doubts and questions — at least in my study — instead of turning them away with Evangelical cliches. While my preaching remained orthodox until the end — with liberal tinges — I ended the ministry a far different man from the one I was as a young preacher. After I left Christianity in 2008, several former parishioners told me that “books” were my problem; that I just needed to ONLY read the Bible. Alas, the horse had left the barn, never to return. Thanks to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and others, it was impossible for me to return to a supernatural view of the Bible.

I regret not voicing my questions and doubts from the pulpit. I owed honesty to the congregations I pastored. Of course, I am not certain church members could have handled the truth. I might have found myself unemployed had I cast “doubt” upon the Word of God. Years ago, I shared some personal details about my life in one of my sermons. Afterward, someone came up to me and expressed displeasure over what I had said. “We want a pastor who is an overcomer, one who is victorious over sin.” Evidently, being open and honest was not appreciated. This man wanted me to “fake it until I make it.” He preferred the facade instead of the real (very human) structure.

I appreciate ObstacleChick saying I am a “smart guy.” I don’t think ignorance is bliss. As Matt Dillahunty is fond of saying, “I want to know as many true things as possible.” However, as an Evangelical Christian, my thinking processes were corrupted by religious indoctrination. “God said it, and that settles it” thinking causes untold harm. As former Evangelicals know, taking God at his word is a bad idea.

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

You’ll Believe God is a Woman

god is a woman

Guest post by ObstacleChick

There is a popular song sung by Ariana Grande called God Is A Woman that has some Evangelical Christians up in arms. When it was released, my 18-year-old daughter and her friends were excited that this might be a song about female empowerment. They were hoping that Ariana Grande would sing about women pursuing their dreams, breaking through glass ceilings, being recognized as equals in the workplace and in politics, doing all the things that their grandmothers and great-grandmothers were prevented from doing as 18-year-olds. My daughter’s friend group were a bit disappointed that this was a song about sex with one’s lover. The song is empowering in that the woman is communicating to her lover what gives her pleasure, and she tells her lover what she will do to give her lover pleasure. Yet my daughter and her friends, all high-achieving young women who grew up in the shadow of New York City, wanted more:

You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you
My one, when all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
And I, I feel it after midnight
A feeling that you can’t fight
My one, it lingers when we’re done
You’ll believe God is a woman

I don’t wanna waste no time, yeah
You ain’t got a one-track mind, yeah
Have it any way you like, yeah
And I can tell that you know I know how I want it
Ain’t nobody else can relate
Boy, I like that you ain’t afraid
Baby, lay me down and let’s pray
I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it

And I can be all the things you told me not to be
When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing
And he see the universe when I’m in company
It’s all in me

You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you
My one, when all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
And I, I feel it after midnight
A feeling that you can’t fight
My one, it lingers when we’re done
You’ll believe God is a woman

I tell you all the things you should know
So, baby, take my hand, save your soul
We can make it last, take it slow, hmm
And I can tell that you know I know how I want it, yeah
That you different from the rest
And boy, if you confess, you might get blessed
See if you deserve what comes next
I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it

And I can be all the things you told me not to be
When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing
And he see the universe when I’m in company
It’s all in me

You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you
My one, when all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
And I, I feel it after midnight
A feeling that you can’t fight
My one, it lingers when we’re done
You’ll believe God is a woman, yeah, yeah

(God is a woman)
Yeah, yeah
(God is a woman, yeah)
My one
When all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
You’ll believe God
(God is a woman)
Oh, yeah
(God is a woman, yeah)
It lingers when we’re done
You’ll believe God is a woman

Video Link

As we drove from northeastern New Jersey through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Kentucky to my daughter’s university in middle Tennessee, we marveled at the bumper stickers and highway signs we saw along the way. Living in a diverse area where people of many faiths and no faith reside, we see religion represented by religious houses of worship and through religious dress. We are not accustomed to seeing signs with religious messages. Here is a small sample of the messages we saw during our road trip – I wish we had been able to photograph or write down each one, but this selection is representative of the messages we saw.

“Lust Will Drag You Down to Hell” (And there were flames in the bottom right-hand corner, because that’s where hell is, the bottom right-hand corner)

“Prepare To Meet Thy God” (Is that a threat or a promise? I can’t tell….)

“Todd’s Auto Body – Serving You AND The Lord” (Because if Todd is serving the Lord he TOTALLY won’t rip you off)

“God Loves You! Jesus Is Coming Soon!” (OK cool….does he want to text me to meet for coffee?)

“This Cross Is a Memorial to All the Aborted Babies” (Um….OK)

“HE > i” (and no, the lower-case “i” is not a typo)

“Jesus Forgives Our Sins” (Isn’t that special?)

Two separate billboards advertising the Planetarium and Creation Museum in Kentucky

A farm named “By Faith Farm”

A bumper sticker shaped like the Jesus fish, with American flag background, and prayer hands in the middle of the fish’s body with the text “For Freedom” superimposed over the flag (I suppose the meaning should be translated to “please pray for Christian religious freedom in America”)

T-shirt proclaiming that “Sundays are for Jesus, Family, and Football” (How about we skip the Jesus part and just go straight to Family and Football, OK?)

T-shirt proclaiming “Nope Satan, Not Today” (I found this particularly funny)

As we passed more and more of these types of signs, heard a political ad in West Virginia against a candidate who supported funding Planned Parenthood and appealing to the pro-life crowd, and saw Christian memorabilia for sale in the convenience stores, my daughter suddenly understood. She said that driving in a part of the country which was so overtly Christian made her aware that Ariana Grande’s song could only receive air time if her empowerment message was disguised as a love song rather than as an outright feminist anthem. While fundamentalist evangelical Christians are outraged over the notion that their God might be a woman (because, God forbid, complementarianism, y’all), they are focusing more on “God is a woman” than on a woman communicating her desires to her partner and promising to fulfill the partner’s desires in return. They are focusing on the outrage that their deity may be portrayed as a woman, someone who is commanded in the Pauline epistles to submit to the husband’s authority and to remain silent in church. They aren’t focusing on Ariana Grande’s encouragement of women to communicate with their partners as equals.

From my perspective, if some Evangelical teenagers listen to this song, I hope that the message of equality gets through to them. And yes, from my experience growing up as a Fundamentalist teenager, many teens do sneak and listen to “worldly” radio (or these days, streaming music) without their parents knowing. No matter how much youth pastors rant and rave against the influences of “the world,” the ranting and raving only make the appeal of “worldly” media that much more enticing. Who knows, maybe some of these Evangelical teens might embrace the concept that god could, indeed, be a woman!

How Christianity Sounds to Someone Not Initiated in “Christianese” 

justificationHave you ever wondered how Christianity sounds to people not initiated in “Christianese” — the special language Christians use to talk to one another about their faith? Evangelicals, in particular, have a complex vocabulary of words that only they use. When people unfamiliar with Evangelical Christianity hear or read these words they often scratch their heads and say, huh? As my wife and I travel the rural roads of Northwest Ohio, we come across church signs with all sorts of silly, stupid clichés. If the goal is to convey a certain message to unbelieving passersby, churches are miserably failing. Instead of using words that are easily understood by everyone, Evangelicals use code words or buzz words to get their message out. Christians will understand what they mean, but unbelievers won’t. Perhaps the real purpose of church signs is to say to Christian passersby, Hey, we are on your team! Praise Jesus!

The Dictionary of Christianese website has a list of jargon and clichés used by Christians to converse with one another. I have reproduced some of their list below, along with other words that came to mind as I was writing this post.

  • 10/40 Window
  • A going church for a coming savior
  • Agape love
  • Anointed
  • Apostate
  • Armor-bearer
  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • At home with the Lord
  • Baby Christian
  • Backslider
  • Baptized with the Spirit
  • Bible belt
  • Body of Christ
  • Born again
  • But for the grace of God, there go I
  • Calminian
  • Carpet time
  • Cheap grace
  • Child of God
  • Child of Satan
  • Christianity is a relationship, not a religion
  • Covet prayers
  • Divine appointment
  • Drive-by evangelism
  • Evangelistically speaking
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • Family of God
  • Feel God’s presence
  • Filled with the Holy Ghost
  • Fire insurance
  • Food, fun, and fellowship
  • Friendliest church in town
  • Friendship evangelism
  • Frozen chosen
  • Give your life to Jesus
  • God is a perfect gentleman
  • God is good all the time
  • God is in our midst
  • God is my co-pilot
  • God never gives us more than we can handle
  • Godly Woman/Man
  • God’s in this place
  • Going out into the highways and hedges
  • Have you been in the Word
  • Have you talked to Jesus today
  • Heart for God
  • Hedge of protection
  • I see that hand
  • Is God speaking to your heart
  • Jesus is coming again
  • Jesus junk
  • Jesus loves you
  • Justified/Justification
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Lie from the pit of Hell
  • Life verse
  • Living by faith
  • Lord willing
  • Lost
  • Love the sinner, hate the sin
  • Lukewarm Christian
  • Missional
  • Missionary Kid
  • Name it, claim it
  • New life in Christ
  • Not inspired version (NIV)
  • On fire Christian
  • Only one life, t’will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last
  • Praise report
  • Prayed up
  • Prayer breakfast
  • Preacher boy
  • Proverbs 31 woman
  • Put on the armor of God
  • Putting out a fleece
  • Reaching the lost
  • Redeemed by the blood
  • Redeem the time
  • Redeemed
  • Red-letter Christian
  • Reprobate
  • Saved by the blood
  • Sanctified
  • Sawdust trail
  • Saved
  • Sinner’s prayer
  • Smoking hot wife
  • Soulwinning
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Spirit led
  • Spiritual birthday
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Sword drill
  • Thank you for the blood
  • The blood, the book, and the blessed hope
  • The Holy Spirit is moving
  • The Lord has placed it on my heart
  • There’s power in the blood of the lamb
  • This is between you and God
  • Transformed life
  • Traveling mercies
  • TULIP (the five points of Calvinism)
  • Turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh
  • Under the blood
  • Unspoken prayer request
  • Walk with the Lord
  • Washed in/by the blood
  • Which dog are you feeding
  • Word from the Lord
  • Worldling
  • WWJD
  • You take the first step and God will help you take the rest

there's power in the blood of jesus

I could add more words, but I thought I would let readers add their own words in the comment section. What Christian jargon and clichés should be added to this list?

I frequently use Christianese in my writing because I know it is an effective way to communicate with doubting Evangelicals. When terms such as the ones above are used, those of us who used to be Evangelicals know exactly what someone is trying to say. Unbelievers, on the other hand, don’t understand these words. Bought by the blood? Who is blood, and who or what did he buy? Washed in the blood? Eww, gross. Justified? Left, center, right, or full? Do you believe in TULIP? What color? the Holy Spirit is moving! Was he constipated? Name it, claim it! Cool, BMW, please with a smoking hot wife!

Your turn.

Bruce Gerencser