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Tag: Christian Ghetto

2006: It’s Time to Leave the Christian Ghetto and Become “Worldly” for Jesus

christian ghetto

What follows is a post I wrote fourteen years ago. I thought readers might appreciate reading something I wrote back before I became an atheist; back when I was slowly exiting Christianity stage left. 

Enjoy!

My comments concerning HisHolySpace have elicited some interesting comments (both public and private), In almost every case, the writer disagreed with me. In one case, I think the writer, intentionally or not I do not know, questioned my relationship with God:

I do not know much about you, but it is like you are searching for the truth. search sincerely and diligently, you will find Him.

I didn’t know God was lost, and certainly didn’t know that I was the one who lost him. Yes, I am a seeker, as all Christians are to be. I just happen to look in other places than many Evangelicals do. I refuse to divide my world into secular and Christian. I reject all such dualistic views of the world. There is one God, and Jehovah is His Name. That God created one world, and He called it Good. Adam and Eve corrupted that Good creation, and every human been since has walked in their footsteps.

We live a sin-corrupted, sin-darkened world. It has been this way since the beginning. Because of sin, we die. The newspaper lists the casualties of sin every day. All of us are doomed to become a casualty someday. All of us will face the ugly specter of death someday, probably sooner than later.

Since death is an ever-present reality, what are we to do with our lives? As Christians, we are called on to press the claims of the Kingdom of Christ in every facet of human life. No area of life is exempt. We will search the Scriptures in vain for any command to build a separate Christian society that operates as a sub-culture of the prevailing culture. The Scriptures must be read in their Jewish historical context. If we read them with American Evangelical eyes, the result will be a corrupt world view.

As Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, Christian Ghetto builders contend that Christians are to build a Christian world that exists alongside the secular world. They venture out into that secular world to work, shop, and eat, but the rest of the time they retire to the safe haven of their Christian ghetto. If only they could work for a Christian employer, buy their gas at a Christian owned gas station, eat at Christian owned restaurants, and shop at Christian owned grocery stores, then their world would be perfect.

Some object when I call this escapism, but that is exactly what it is. Christians like this have hunkered down in their spiritual bomb shelters, waiting for the Rapture. While they are waiting for Jesus to come again, they busy themselves playing Christian games, watching Christian TV, playing Christian music, and contacting the Christian underground at places like HisHolySpace.

A person’s eschatology does matter. For Rapturists, this all makes sense. The return of Jesus is imminent. I remember when the book “88 Reasons Jesus will Return in 1988″ came out. The church I was pastoring at the time was quite stirred up about it. People were getting copies of the book and handing it out. I took the opposite stance. I preached a message titled “Why Jesus WON’T come back in 1988″ As the calendar clearly proves, I was right.

Rapturism is pretty much a new-fangled theological position. Historically, the church has NOT believed in Rapturism. Instead, the church has primarily held to amillennial or postmillennial eschatological views. Both views reject escapism, and instead require Christians to actively engage the culture they live in. No imminent check-out for Christians. We are here for the duration. Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do.

Every Christian has the mandate to engage and change the culture they live in. We are to be counter-cultural, not absent-cultural. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called on to wade into the muck and the filth of the world and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.

Christian Ghetto builders do just the opposite. They build fences to keep the world out. They put Christian pit bulls in the yard to keep those dirty, filthy worldlings out. They elect Pseudo-Christian politicians to do their bidding. They clamor for laws against abortion, homosexuals, and same-sex marriage. God forbid they ever have to come in contact with someone who has had an abortion or who is a homosexual. The front doors of their houses are papered with magazines from Focus on the Family. They hope all peddlers of the secular world will be warded off by the magazines. If that doesn’t work, they will sic the Christian Ghetto Godhead of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, on them.

All the while, our culture is dying, sinners are going to hell, and most Christians don’t give a damn. As long as they can maintain their membership in the Christian Ghetto they will live under the delusion that they are serving Jesus. They will forget that Christians are to love the Lord their God with all their being and to love their neighbor (not fellow Church member) as they love themselves. Pretty simple. Love God. Love your Neighbor.

How many non-Christian friends or acquaintances do you have? When is the last time you shared a beer with your fellow workmates? When is the last time you talked to your non-Christian neighbors? When is the last time non-Christians were invited to your house for dinner? How do you treat that dyed-hair, many-times-pierced, cashier at the grocery? And the list goes on and on . . . And I don’t mean inviting them to church. Stop inviting people to church and instead BE THE CHURCH. Go to an AIDS hospice and volunteer to be a helper. Go to the nursing home and love some old people. Seek out a single mother and buy her some formula, diapers, or offer to babysit for her. And the list goes on and on . . .

Buy some secular CDs and try and hear the voice of the culture you live in. Stop listening to escapist Christian music that has you so hopped up about Heaven that you neglect the world you live in. Stop leaving tracts at restaurants. Instead leave a gracious tip and be a nice customer. Call up the local bar and offer to drive any person home that is too drunk to drive. Be a friend to a prisoner. Adopt their family. Love them. And the list goes on and on . . .

Live the Gospel.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Don’t tell people the Gospel, SHOW people the Gospel; then, and only then, will you find a receptive audience. Get out there in the dirty, old world and show them that Jesus is worth loving and that Christianity is worth living.

Stop trying to get them to come to your Christian Ghetto. Go to Them. Jesus Did.

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.

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The Replacement Doctrine: How Evangelicals Attempt to Co-opt the “World”

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The Wall around Vatican City, similar to the wall around the Christian Ghetto

Many Evangelicals see a clear dichotomy between the spiritual and the non-spiritual world. The spiritual world is where the Christian God rules and reigns. This world is dominated by Christianity and its God, Bible, and standard of morality and ethics. The non-spiritual world is one where Satan is king. The Bible says that Satan is the God of this world, the prince and power of the air. According to the book of 1 Peter, Satan walks about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. While Satan certainly is not equal in power or authority to God — after all he’s a created being — he can display near God-like powers such as causing death, sickness, and all sorts of catastrophes. Just as God the Holy Spirit does with Christians, Satan can invade non-Christian minds and bodies, taking up residence and controlling them.

Evangelicals believe that God and Satan, both on earth and in an unseen spiritual dimension, are locked in a battle for the souls of humanity. Satan wants to take as many souls to hell as he can, so Christians feel they are duty-bound to do all they can to make sure that as few people as possible end up in the Lake of Fire. They also believe that Satan, despite Christians being indwelt by the Spirit of God, can influence and, at times, control followers of Jesus. While Satan cannot take away their salvation, he can, through trial and temptation, keep them from being the kind of Christians they should be — people who follow the Lamb (Jesus) whithersoever he goeth. Such Satan-influenced Christians are often called carnal or worldly believers. Often these weaklings in the faith are called baby Christians. This terminology came up recently in public discussions about “Christian” Donald Trump’s abhorrent, vile behavior towards women. Desperately wanting to believe that the Republican candidate is God’s chosen leader for America, some Evangelical talking heads have suggested that Trump is a “baby” Christian. By labeling Trump this way, they dismiss virtually all of his narcissistic, psychopathic behavior.

Evangelical churches, pastors, and parachurch leaders, realizing that the overwhelming majority of American Christians are behaviorally no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, have decided that the best way to counteract and repel Satan and his atheistic, secularist followers is to build some sort of alternate reality, one that I often call the Christian ghetto. The goal is to wall off Christians, as much as possible, from the world. They do this by replacing the “things” of the world with Christianized versions. The Bible says in 1 John 2:15-17:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Knowing God’s view of the world while at the same time understanding that Christians are, after all, h-u-m-a-n, Evangelical leaders have developed programs and activities that allow Christians to feel that they are part of the human race without being tainted by worldliness. Every day, millions of Evangelicals, forced to work secular jobs, go out into the world and endure rubbing shoulders with the followers of Satan. They do all they can to put in a good word for Jesus through witnessing, handing out tracts, writing Jesus loves you on bathroom stalls, and decorating their cubicles with religious kitsch. When lunchtime comes, these light-in-darkness followers of Jesus will quietly bow their heads and offer up a prayer of thanks for the lunch. They will also likely ask God for strength to help them get through the day as they come in contact with “sinners.” Come 5 o’clock, these world-weary Christians file out to their cars, turn on the local Christian radio station or stream their favorite contemporary Christian artists to their car’s entertainment system, and head for home. Once home, they immerse themselves in the Evangelical replacement culture. Whether in their car, at home, or at church, Evangelicals do all they can to cleanse their minds and hearts from what they perceive to be the filth of the world. Many of them will offer up prayers of not only thankfulness, but of repentance, telling God they are sorry that they allowed the “world” to influence their behavior.

Evangelical churches and parachurch groups have spent the past seven decades building a Trump-worthy wall around the Christian ghetto. On Sundays, the front gate is opened so unsaved people — often viewed as Wildlings (Free Folk) in the Game of Thrones — can attend their services, hoping that the sinners will get saved. The rest of the time, the gate is shut, opened only when its inhabitants go out into the world to scavenge for food and earn money to pay their ties and offerings.

Inside the Christian ghetto is found a plethora of worldly things that have been Christianized. Today is Halloween, and many Evangelicals, not wanting to support Satanism and witchcraft, instead turn to Halloween-like parties and events that have been sanitized for Christian use. Children wear Bible character costumes instead of dressing up as witches, fairies, or Walking Dead characters. Some churches use Halloween as an opportunity to evangelize those who live outside the ghetto. These churches sponsor what are commonly called Hell houses. One such event was scheduled to be held at the Chicago public school, that is until school officials found out that the event included a re-creation of the Pulse nightclub shootings. The goal is to scare the hell out of people, and lead them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. As is often the case, Evangelicals are quite willing to use the world to further their agenda. The Catholic church wrote the playbook for this when it, centuries ago, co-opted pagan and secular holidays and turned them into religious holidays.

Most of the time, however, Evangelicals are content to live safely behind the walls of the Christian ghetto, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, surfing Christian websites and blogs, and attending a plethora of services and activities meant to make fat sheep fatter. Evangelical pastors, churches, and parachurch leaders, know that most Christians want what the world has to offer. We humans want what we want, right? Despite everything the Bible says about the world and avoiding its soul-damaging influence, most Evangelicals want to enjoy all that life has to offer. While some Evangelical sects choose to develop rigid lists of rules that dictate what behaviors are permissible, other sects choose to allow congregants “freedom” to enjoy life, but only within the context of the Christian ghetto. Evangelical preachers will preach against rock music and secular musicians, encouraging church members to listen to contemporary Christian music or Christian rock. They also encourage members to listen to local Christian radio stations instead of tuning into classic rock or top 40 stations. The recent explosion of praise and worship bands onto the church scene allows pastors and church leaders to use rock ‘n’ roll music during worship services. Churches now have full-blown bands that almost rival Satan’s bands. I say almost, because, as anyone who has ever lived in the Christian ghetto knows, rarely are Christianized replacements as good as those which are found in the world. Sadly, much of the entertainment-driven worship found in many evangelical churches is a cheap imitation.

When presented with a choice between the real thing and a cheap imitation, many Evangelicals choose both, negating the purpose and reason for the Christian alternative. Fact is, despite an endless stream of Christianized entertainments, Evangelicals still love the world. DirecTV provides all sorts of Christian and “family” oriented channels and programming, and I am sure that cable TV does the same. Despite having a treasure trove of Christian programming at their disposal, Evangelicals still watch “worldly” programming, and are quite capable of having intelligent conversations about shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. The same Evangelicals listen to Christian music, but when pastors or fellow Christians are not around, they flip the channel to local classic radio stations and sing along to songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to give up on the replacement doctrine. It simply does not work. Evangelical parents can homeschool their children or send them to Christian schools for 13 years, hoping to shelter their offspring from Satan and his humanistic, secularist, immoral ways, but sooner or later these same children will have to go out into the world without mommy and daddy protecting them. And once out in the world these lambs become easy prey for those who really do want to hurt them. Or, as many of us can testify, once free from the constraints of Evangelical parents and churches, young adults will throw themselves headlong into “worldly” wants, pleasures, and desires, often making a big mess in the process. The solution is not to build higher walls around the ghetto, but instead to teach children how to navigate a world filled with things that could harm them. Instead of giving them long lists of things to avoid, children would be better served if they were taught to think for themselves. Instead of telling Evangelical teenagers that drinking alcohol and engaging in premarital sex are sins, perhaps it is better to teach them how to make responsible decisions when confronted with opportunities to engage in these behaviors. Of course, part of this training would mean teaching them a situational or relativistic view of human conduct, and therein lies the problem. Evangelicals are wed to the notion that the Bible is some sort of divine road map for life, and its directions must be followed at all times. Because of this, Evangelical girls end up pregnant and boys end up infected with sexually-transmitted diseases. No need to teach them to handle their sexuality responsibly, because God says it’s a sin and that is all they need to know. Well, God says lots of things are sins, yet from my seat in the pew it seems that most Evangelicals are not paying attention. Try as they might to play by the rules, Evangelicals need, want, and desire that which a bunch of Bronze-Age and First-Century men say they can’t have. Freedom awaits those who dare to consider leaving the Christian ghetto. The first step towards freedom is relegating the Bible to the dustbin of human history. Once free of the Bible, people can then embrace their humanity without fearing God or Satan is going to get them.

Did your parents practice the replacement doctrine? Did you as a Christian parent do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser