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Tag: Deconstruction

An Open Letter to Preachers Trying to “Explain” Why So Many People Are Deconstructing

deconstruction

Dear Pastor _________,

I have listened to your sermons, read your blog posts, or perused your articles in Christianity Today or The Gospel Coalition about why so many Evangelical church members are “deconstructing.” I have carefully noted your excuses and justifications for why people are fleeing Evangelical churches in droves. I have snickered and rolled my eyes as you blame anyone and everyone except yourself and your church for the decline in attendance and income. It’s the culture, or Hollywood, or postmodernism, or LGBTQ rights, or socialism, or atheism, or countless other things you blame for why Evangelicalism is rotting on the vine. And if all of these “blames” ring hollow, you label those who deconstruct as “cultural” Christians; trotting out the No True Scotsman Fallacy. Those who deconstruct and ultimately leave Evangelicalism aren’t True Christians®. Never mind the fact that many of the people exiting stage left from Evangelical churches were committed followers of Jesus; people who faithfully attended church, supported the church financially, and lived according to the teachings of the Bible. Lots of former Evangelicals frequent this blog. Few of them were cultural or nominal believers. Instead, they served the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and might. Yet, one day, or over many days, months, and years, they took a careful, painful look at Christianity and its attendant beliefs and practices. They decided they were no longer believers in the Evangelical sense of the word. Many of them became atheists, agnostics, pagans, or nones — people indifferent towards organized religion.

Instead of talking to these disaffected Evangelicals, Pastor __________, you marginalized them, ignoring their honest, open questions and concerns. You labeled them as worldly, carnal, backslidden, or some other pejorative label. And finally, you asserted, without evidence, that those who deconstructed lacked spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge. In other words, they just didn’t know any better. (Who taught them all those years, Pastor? Aren’t you to blame for their lack of knowledge?) Had they known better, they would have remained in the church. After all, doesn’t the Bible say, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (I John 2:19) End of discussion, right?

If you really want to know why people are deconstructing (and deconverting), Pastor _________, let me suggest a few reasons that come to mind:

  • The politicization of the pulpit and the church. Evangelical churches have become the propaganda wing of the Republican Party.
  • Donald Trump. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump — twice. Trump is morally repugnant, and an evil man, yet Evangelical pastors and churches promote him as God’s candidate — even going so far as to say that he is a Christian.
  • Evangelical churches largely ignore environmental concerns, especially global warming, and catastrophic species decline. Why worry about the environment — Jesus is coming soon!
  • Evangelical churches generally demonize LGBTQ people — especially transgender men and women.
  • Evangelical churches tend to promote complementarianism, encouraging treating women as “less than.” Misogyny is common.
  • Evangelical churches are anti-abortion (pro-life), while at the same time supporting capital punishment, killing immigrants, and war.
  • Evangelicals generally ignore what the Bible about caring for the least of these: the poor, marginalized, sick, hungry, widows, orphans, and people of color.
  • Pastors and churches over-emphasize certain “sins,” ignoring others. Sexual sins are given far more attention than other sins — especially icky homo sins.
  • Church scandals and sexual misconduct by pastors are legion, routinely ignored or swept under the rug.
  • Hypocrisy. People who deconstruct often say that they became weary of the “Do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy by church leaders.

While none of these reasons prove that Christianity is false, they do show that there is a huge disconnect between what pastors and True Christians® say they believe and how they actually live their lives. This often leads, as it did for me, to a reexamination of sincerely held beliefs. One need only read the emails, blog comments, and social media messages I receive from Evangelicals to see that Evangelicalism is a barrel of rotting apples. Sure, there are a few edible apples in the barrel, but not many.

Pastor __________, if you want to really know why people in your church are deconstructing, may I kindly suggest that you stop making excuses and justifications and look in the mirror. You are to blame for the sheep jumping over the fence, never to be seen again. You value political power and social control over meeting people where they are. You choose to point fingers instead of actually asking doubters and questioners why they are deconstructing. And after they left the church, you made sure to call them out and lambast them from the pulpit — even if you, wink, wink, didn’t mention them by name. You made sure that the sheep still in the pen knew these black sheep were sinful or deficient in some way, even going so far as to say that they were never, ever Christians.

If you really want to talk about deconstruction, I am game. Send me an email or have me on your podcast. There’s no reason for you to continue in ignorance one day longer. Or maybe you are not ignorant. You know why people are deconstructing, but you have an earthly kingdom to preserve, so you lie or misattribute motivations. The cure for your dishonesty is to actually talk to — not at — people who are deconverting or who have gone through the deconstruction process.

Seek and ye shall find, Pastor.

Saved by Reason,

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What Surprised Me the Most When I Left Christianity

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It’s been almost sixteen years since I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Not long after, I sent out my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, to several hundred family members, friends, former church members, and colleagues in the ministry. For a time, I self-identified as an agnostic, but after months of “explaining” what I meant by the term, I decided to call myself an atheist. Strictly speaking, I am an agnostic atheist.

I naively believed that letter recipients would “understand” my deconversion; that they would appreciate hearing my story straight from my mouth, and not third and fourth hand as the Evangelical/IFB rumor mill raged. Boy, was I wrong. To the person, every one of them abandoned me, and many of them personally attacked me in letters, emails, and sermons. One former church member asked me to “explain,” but after I kindly and gently did so, she told me she could no longer be friends with me or talk to me. Another dear friend told me that he found my deconversion too unsettling to continue to be my friend. I saw nothing in their treatment of me that suggested they understood Jesus’ teachings on how to treat your “enemies” or how they should treat people in general. Their responses gave me a bird’s-eye view of how Evangelicals treat people who dare to leave their club. No kindness. No love. No compassion. No respect. Just judgment and condemnation.

Sixteen years later, I have only had one person walk back their words — a lifelong friend who said I was demon-possessed. That’s it. As for the rest of them, their words and behavior were un-Christian, to say the least. You would think that the Holy Spirit might have convinced them of their sins and called on them to apologize for their awful words. No apologies have been forthcoming. I concluded, then, that my former friends, family members, and parishioners believed that the teachings of Christ didn’t apply to them when it came to dealing with an Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist.

As a result, I lost my entire social network. Fifty years of relationships went up in smoke, and it is doubtful I will ever regain an atheist/agnostic/humanist version of what I lost. I paid a heavy price for daring to deconvert. I was penalized for being honest. Sixteen years on, Evangelicals continue to shit on my doorstep. I can’t remember the last time I received a polite, thoughtful, kind comment or email from an Evangelical Christian. Why is that?

I will never understand why people responded to me the way they did. I learned that my relationships were conditioned of me believing the right things. Even though we had lots of other things in common, all that mattered was shared religious beliefs. Once I said I no longer believed, I became their enemy. Yet, they treated me differently than they treated unsaved family, friends, and neighbors. I suspect they believe that I have committed the unpardonable sin or crossed the line of no return. How they could possibly know this is unknown. Evidently, I am no longer worthy of saving. 🙂

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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Dr. David Tee Deconstructs Deconstruction and Ends Up With a Theological Mess

dr david tee's library
Dr. David Tee’s Massive Library

Most Evangelicals believe humans are born sinners; that from the moment of conception, humans sin in thought, word, and deed; that humans don’t become sinners, they are sinners. Further, the Bible tells us humans are the enemies of God; haters of holiness and truth. Labeled, “natural (unsaved) men,” the Bible says unregenerate people CAN NOT understand the things of God

Salvation (deliverance) from sin requires the active work of God on behalf of people who are dead in trespasses and sin. Humans have no power to save themselves. Salvation requires regeneration and faith, both of which must be given to unsaved people for them to be saved.

Most Evangelicals are cradle Christians, meaning they were born into and came of age in Evangelical churches. Typically, Evangelical congregants come to faith between the ages of four and fourteen. Ninety-eight percent of Evangelicals come to faith in Christ by age thirty. Simply put, most Evangelicals are saved before developing mature, rational thinking skills. It is much harder for someone to be saved once they develop the skills necessary to distinguish truth from bullshit.

Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, was raised in an Evangelical Christian home. The only religion he knows is Evangelicalism. Thiessen believes the words “Evangelical” and “Christian” are interchangeable. In his mind, Evangelicalism — his peculiar version of it, anyway — is True Christianity. Thiessen has a Christian Missionary and Alliance background. The CMA sect is a garden-variety Evangelical denomination. Within the sect, you will find believers who believe once a person is saved, he can never, ever fall from grace, and other congregants who believe a Christian can lose their salvation. What Thiessen actually believes on this issue is unclear. He has espoused both views, and has, at times, promoted works-based salvation. His viewpoint is determined by the particular theological point he is trying to justify.

Recently, Dr. David Tee, who is neither a doctor nor a Tee, wrote a post titled We Are Against Deconstruction. Here’s an excerpt from we’s post: 🙂

The issue here is the word ‘skepticism’. This is where many believers go wrong. Their skepticism should have been done long before they made a decision to follow Christ. All doubts should have been dealt with prior to that same decision.

There is no need to be skeptical about Christ or the Christian faith once one has been redeemed by Christ. That experience alone should tell them that God is real and that the Bible is true. Having second thoughts after you have been living the Christian life is wrong.

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If one has doubts about a doctrine or practice of the church, they should search scripture to get the truth, like the Bereans did in Acts, and then follow the truth. No one should be deconstructing their faith as they did that before they became a Christian.

No one is born a Christian either so they should not live under a false assumption. Do your deconstructing before accepting Christ as your savior for then you still have a chance to be saved.

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Doubts and skepticism after you have become a Christian is evil doing spiritual warfare against you and you need to do spiritual warfare against those attacks. Deconstruction is throwing up the white flag and surrendering. That is just the wrong thing to do after you believe.

According to Thiessen, children are supposed to deconstruct their Christian beliefs BEFORE they become Christians. All doubts and skepticism should be dealt with before a person is saved. This, of course, is impossible. The unsaved person, according to the Bible, cannot understand the things of God. They are dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, without hope in this present world. Yet, unbelievers are supposed to have a comprehensive understanding of Christianity BEFORE they are saved. How is this even possible, knowing that most Evangelicals are saved when they are children?

Most Evangelicals are saved BEFORE they have a full understanding of all that Christianity teaches. I heard scores of evangelism experts say that when winning sinners to Christ, soulwinners should tell them just enough to get saved; that they should avoid questions and stick to the plan of salvation. There will be plenty of time for their questions after they are saved! Most Evangelicals become Christians without thoroughly investigating the central claims of Christianity, and, sadly, many saved Evangelicals never take a hard look at what they believe.

How can a six-year-old child, raised in Evangelicalism by Evangelical parents, possibly determine whether Christianity is true? They do not have the rational thinking skills to do so — in a comprehensive way. Children “believe” because their parents, family, and tribe “believe.” Rarely, does skepticism play a part in their decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. One can’t be skeptical if they have no understanding of the world’s religions. How can one choose if he or she is only given one choice? Deconstruction requires choices. How can anyone possibly deconstruct Evangelicalism until they have first been exposed to non-Evangelical religions, beliefs, and practices? Choice requires knowledge, but most Evangelical children are deliberately sheltered from any other religion but Evangelicalism. And when these sheltered believers are exposed to the “world,” what often happens? They start asking questions, beginning their travel on the path of deconstruction.

Deconstruction is not the enemy — simplistic, untested faith is. Thiessen thinks his site exists to promote Biblical Christianity; a place where doubters and questioners can find answers. The problem is that Thiessen only has one answer for every question: believe and practice what the Bible says. The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-i-b-l-e. BIBLE!

Thiessen believes deconstruction leads to Hell:

Yes, deconstruction does lead to hell because Christians are following and listening to unbelievers over God and his word. Peter talks about leaving the faith and it is not pretty. There is only one truth, one true faith, and deconstruction does not lead you to either.

In other words, rationalism and skepticism lead to Hell, ignorance leads to Heaven. My, what an advertising slogan.

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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Evangelical Apologist Tim Barnett Says Deconstruction Leads to Hell

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Tim Barnett, an apologist and speaker with Stand to Reason — an Evangelical apologetics ministry, recently wrote a post giving three reasons why he is against deconstruction:

While writing The Deconstruction of Christianity with Alisa Childers, we discovered some fundamental beliefs that undergird the deconstruction process. Moreover, these ideas are antithetical to the Christian worldview. This helps explain why so many who deconstruct their faith end up leaving the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Here are three reasons why I changed my mind about deconstruction.

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First, deconstruction has no correct destination.

A defining feature of deconstruction is that there’s no right way to do it and no right destination.

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Why isn’t there a right place to land in deconstruction? The answer is that deconstruction is a postmodern process. What I mean is, deconstruction isn’t about objective truth. It’s about personal happiness.

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Notice how deconstruction assumes there is no objective truth when it comes to religious beliefs. That’s why it doesn’t matter how you do it or where you end up as long as you’re happy.

I want you to notice two things. First, Jesus mentions two ways. There is a narrow way and a broad way, a right way and a wrong way. Second, Jesus mentions two destinations. The right way leads to a good destination: life. The wrong way leads to a bad destination: destruction. According to Jesus, there is absolutely a right place to land, and he tells us how to get there.

Second, the deconstruction process never ends.

Imagine you deconstruct your beliefs. Now what? Well, you construct new ones. However, once you construct new beliefs, you have to deconstruct those too. See how this works? There’s no finality to this process. Deconstruction requires a never-ending skepticism about your beliefs and the beliefs of others.

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Third, deconstruction has no biblical authority.

In deconstruction, there is no external authority to tell you what your faith should look like. You are the ultimate authority.

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Deconstruction isn’t about submitting to biblical authority; it’s about choosing to be your own authority.

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I changed my mind about deconstruction. After researching this topic, I’ve come to see that deconstruction isn’t merely asking questions or a synonym for doubt. Rather, it’s a process with no correct destination, no ending, and no biblical authority.

As you can easily see, Barnett is against deconstruction because it can and does lead to what he believes is a bad outcome — deconversion. Left unsaid is that Barnett is likely against deconversion because it leads to people leaving Evangelicalism for kinder, friendlier, more hospitable churches and faiths. In other words, since deconversion results in Evangelical churches hemorrhaging members — many of whom were committed followers of Jesus — the answer is to ignore WHY that is, informing restless, thoughtful Evangelicals, “God says, thou shalt not deconstruct.” And with proof texts uttered, deconstruction has been put to bed. Or so Barnett thinks, anyway.

My correspondence with deconstructing people suggests far different reasons for their deconstruction than postmodernism, or, Loki-forbid, the desire to think for themselves and be happy. Their emails suggest that Evangelical churches and preachers need to look in the mirror if they want to see why people are deconstructing (and deconverting). Many of the people deconverting have gotten a whiff of Evangelicalism’s rotting corpse and want nothing to do with it. They see the hatred of LGBTQ people and immigrants. They see the racism, bigotry, and misogyny. They see the extreme politics and social views — especially support of Donald Trump. They see the news stories about sex crimes committed by Evangelical preachers, yet never hear their pastors say a word about the abuse scandal. They see the fancy suits, designer clothes, and Rolex watches as their pastors preach about the humble Jesus who had no place to put his head. They hear the rumors and know what goes on in secret in the homes of their pastors and other church leaders. Worse, many of them are preacher’s kids. They have seen the hypocrisy firsthand.

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Barnett is against skepticism when it comes to the claims of Christianity. I suspect he doesn’t take this same approach when it comes to non-Christian religions. In other words, be skeptical about all the other religions of the world, but when it comes to Christianity, just believe; read the Bible, pray, and trust that your pastor will tell you the truth. (Can you really trust anyone who hasn’t or won’t deconstruct their beliefs?)

Barnett is right in one regard; deconstruction can be driven by a desire for happiness –as if that is a bad thing. You bet. Once you leave Egypt and break the bonds of Evangelicalism you have a newfound freedom. That freedom can lead to increased happiness. Sounds like a pretty good selling point for skepticism and rationalism. 🙂

As Evangelical apologists are wont to do, Barnett reminds those considering deconstruction that HELL awaits those who follow this path. Only those who “question” their faith within the safe confines of the Evangelical box shall be saved! Deconstruction leads to Hell, just look at that Bruce Gerencser guy.

Checkmate. 🙂

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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According to Enlightened Evangelical Gurus, Deconstruction Should Never Lead to Deconversion

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Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

I am Facebook friends with several notable players in the Evangelical deconstruction market. They present themselves as enlightened folks, people who have found a way — supposedly — hang on to Evangelicalism (or Christianity in general) without all its social, cultural, and political baggage. In their minds, one can believe the central claims of Christianity about God, Jesus, and salvation without accepting and believing the stuff in the Bible that makes one feel uncomfortable. As every Christian does, they pick and choose what they want to believe, rejecting or ignoring anything that offends their sensibilities.

Deconstruction means tearing down your beliefs and rebuilding them. According to these gurus, deconstruction always leads the deconstructee back to some sort of recognizable Christian faith. This means that former Evangelicals-turned-atheists did deconstruction wrong. Their journey should have led them to a restored, vibrant faith. In their minds, deconstruction can never to deconversion — the loss of faith. Their pronouncements about following the path wherever it leads have conditions. Faith in Jesus is the end game, and not facts, truth, and evidence.

You can’t expect people to reexamine their beliefs without risking that they might, for good reason, conclude that their beliefs were false; that Christianity is a false bill of goods. When confronted with the reality that scores of people are not only deconstructing, but deconverting, these gurus often resort to the same tactics as Fundamentalist Christians, questioning whether these former believers did deconversion right or truly understand the essentials of faith in Jesus. Or they resort to suggesting that hurt feelings or trauma are the real reasons people deconvert rather than deconstructing and rebuilding.

I am an agnostic atheist because I concluded that the central claims of Christianity are false; that they cannot be rationally sustained. What I am supposed to do? Fake it until I make it? That’s not how I live my life. Deconstruction leads in many directions, including right out the door of Christianity. Are we somehow less than if we reject Christianity altogether? What else would you have us do? Believe what we know to be not true?

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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Jacob Crouch “Thinks” He Knows Why Former Evangelicals Use the Terms Deconversion and Deconstruction

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How Evangelical Preachers View Deconstruction

Recently, Jacob Crouch, a nursing professor at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, and a music coordinator at Grace Community Church in Jackson, Mississippi, wrote a post titled Deconversion is Apostasy. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The word “deconversion”, defined simply as the loss of faith in one’s religion, seems to have become popular recently. People have become weirdly comfortable, almost boasting, in the fact that they have deconverted from Christianity. I think part of the comfort with deconversion is that the word is new enough to lack the sober connotations its meaning should convey. We often do this: we soften language to appease our consciences. So I want to say it out loud for those who might be dodging the seriousness of what deconverting from Christianity really means: Deconversion is apostasy.

When someone says, “I’ve deconverted” or “I’m an exvangelical” or “I’ve deconstructed”, I’m convinced that they choose this heady, pseudo-intellectual language because it allows the conscience to miss what they’ve actually done. Those who deconvert are leaving Christ. They are those whom the Spirit says, “will depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1). They are the ones who have, “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading [them] to fall away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). This is a serious and dangerous decision.

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May we be faithful to expose the serious nature of deconversion, and let us be encouraged to pray and love our deconverting neighbors and family members.

Rarely does a week go by that I don’t read a blog post or article written by an Evangelical about those who are leaving Christianity. The numbers speak for themselves. Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging believers left and right. Led by the Holy Ghost to opine on deconversion/deconstruction, Crouch concludes that ex-Evangelicals are, by using terms such as deconversion, deconstruction, and exevangelical to describe themselves, “dodging the seriousness of what deconverting from Christianity really means: Deconversion is apostasy.”

Ex-Evangelicals are some of the most honest people I know; people who are willing to be brutally honest about their past and present lives. Hiding shit is not in the DNA. So, to suggest former Christians hide behind terms such as deconversion, deconstruction, and exevangelical to avoid accountability for their apostasy (and heresy) is absurd. In fact, most ex-Evangelicals I know — and I know lots of them — have no problem with the apostate label.

Of course we are apostates — proudly so. The difference between ex-Evangelicals’ use of the word apostasy and Crouch’s is that the word has no power for unbelievers. For Crouch and others like him, apostasy leads to God’s judgment and eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Such a fearful thing, right? Not for ex-Evangelicals. To them, Crouch’s beliefs are myths. We are not worried in the least that “God is gonna get us.” While deconversion has many components, fundamentally, those who deconvert from a system of belief no longer “believe” the central tenets of that system. Many ex-Evangelicals still “believe” in some sense or the other. Many ex-Evangelicals still believe in Jesus or have some sense that a deity of some sort exists. Their objections are to Evangelical beliefs and practices. Sure, some ex-Evangelicals are agnostics or atheists, but that cannot be said of all of them.

I wonder if Crouch has talked to many ex-Evangelicals? I doubt it. If he had, I seriously doubt he would say that their choice of self-identifiers is due to trying to “appease our consciences.” Does he even know what ex-Evangelicals think about the human conscience, to start with? Crouch assumes facts that are not in evidence. How does he know that ex-Evangelicals use these labels to appease their consciences; that we use “pseudo-intellectual” terms because it allows our “consciences” to miss what we have really done: leaving Christ?

Is Crouch serious? Does he really think ex-Evangelicals are not self-aware of what they have done? Child, please. We blew up our lives when we deconverted. We lost almost everything we held dear. We lost family, friends, and colleagues. I lost ALL of my Evangelical friends and colleagues in the ministry. A-l-l of them. Fifty years of my life went up in smoke the moment I said I was no longer a Christian. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) I am quite self-aware of the price I have paid for divorcing Jesus, as are most deconverts.

Crouch calls on his fellow Evangelicals (true Christians) to pray for “deconverting neighbors and family members.” Pray if you must — it won’t make a difference — but I suggest a better approach might be to actually get to know people who have deconverted, who are no longer Evangelical Christians. If Crouch had done so, he never would have written his post.

Do better, Jacob, do better.

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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Quote of the Day: How Many Americans Have Left Christianity in the Last Twenty-Five Years?

quote of the day

More people have left the church in the last twenty-five years than all the new people who became Christians from the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and Billy Graham crusades combined.

— Jim Davis and Michael Graham with Ryan Burge, The Great Dechurching, 2023 (Word & Way)

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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“Deconstruction” According to Evangelical Preachers

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How Evangelical Preachers View Deconstruction

Evangelicalism has a deconstruction crisis. I know they do based on the sheer number of articles, blog posts, podcasts, and sermons churned out by Evangelical taking heads, warning that deconstruction is okay as long as it keeps your ass in the pew and your tithe in the offering place.

Evangelical rapper Lecrae described deconstruction like this:

Deconstruction is not a bad thing if it leads to reconstruction. Sometimes you have to demolish a building that has mold and then build something else on that foundation. We’re not getting rid of the foundation. The foundation is Christ. But we’re building on that foundation and tearing down some things that were unnecessary.

Of course, Evangelical preachers wish deconstruction would go away altogether. They see it as a product of postmodernism, with its questions and doubts. They wish for a return to the good old days of the 1950s, but an increasing number of Evangelicals refuse to buy what preachers are selling. Deconstruction begins with seeking answers to unanswered questions. Evangelicals often turn to their pastors, parents, and fellow church members first, hoping to find answers to their questions. Instead, they are served up warmed-over rote answers, complete with appeals to the Bible. When these “answers” fail to assuage inquiring minds filled with questions, preachers often turn to fear, warning deconstructionists of the danger of wandering outside of the Evangelical bubble. Hell and judgment, being powerful motivations to conform, will sometimes put an end to deconstruction. PRAISE JESUS, another loss averted. Please make that check out to “First Baptist Church.”

An increasing number of Evangelicals ignore the paternalistic warnings of their pastors and continue seeking answers to their doubts and questions. These folks typically leave the fold, never to return. Tired of cheap, easy answers, they seek out people who will tell them the truth with no strings attached. I have helped countless people along their deconstruction journey. I don’t have an agenda. I am not interested in turning them into atheists. I don’t want their money. I just want to share my story and, if possible, answer whatever questions they might have. And if I can’t, I recommend books that might help him. My goal is to help facilitate their journey, knowing that the journey is far more important than the destination. Can any Evangelical preacher say the same thing?

Many Evangelical preachers can’t imagine a world where God, Jesus, or the Bible are called into question. Questions and doubts are from the Devil or signs of worldliness. Sure, it is okay to question whether Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, but, by God, we must not question the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. There are certain foundational “truths” in Evangelicalism that must never, never be challenged or questioned. Deconstruction demands that no subject be off-limits. Post-modernity is coming for Evangelicalism, and unless they rethink their defense, deconstruction will only increase, both among the laity and the clergy.

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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Deconstruction Advice for Evangelical Christians

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What would prompt you [someone who has questions about Christianity] to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind?…Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself…Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.

Evangelical Apologist William Lane Craig

I get a lot of emails from Evangelical Christians who are struggling with their faith. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, and devout church members will contact me about their existential struggles. Some of them have questions, others just want someone to listen to them. Consider how bad it is for many Evangelicals that they can’t talk to their pastors or other church leaders, so they contact a stranger on the Internet. They read my story and it resonates with them. They see me as someone who will understand, and they hope I will listen to them or answer their questions.

My goal as a writer has always been the same: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity and to help people who have left Christianity altogether. My objective has never been evangelization. While scores of people have deconverted after interacting with me, that’s never been my goal. I genuinely want to help people. I suspect that I am not much different today from the way I was as a pastor. Of course, I no longer see salvation or restoration as the end-all. I am content to help people wherever they are on this journey called life. I don’t try to “save” people. I’m content to let people come to their own conclusions. I might challenge their worldview and beliefs, but I know that their journey is theirs, and I’m content to let them follow the path wherever it leads. Any movement away from Fundamentalism (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) is a good one.

When interacting with deconstructing Evangelicals, the first thing I do is listen. I am fascinated by their stories, so similar, yet so different. Sadly, they find themselves in a lonely place. No one wants to listen to them. Their pastors see them as a “problem” that needs to be fixed. Evangelicalism demands conformity and obedience. While differences of belief are permitted, typically they are discouraged or expected to fit closely defined parameters. Evangelicalism is like a box. Church members are free to wander within the box, asking hard questions such as premillennial or postmillennial, KJV or NIV, speaking in tongues or not, Calvinism or Arminianism, and a host of other game interpretations. Asking hard questions about God, the Bible, and the central claims of Christianity are unwelcome, and will quickly bring a visit from the pastor or a list of approved books from Evangelical apologists to read. Dare to climb out of the box to see what’s on the outside and you will be judged, condemned, and marginalized. And in some cases, you will be asked to shut the hell up or you will be threatened with excommunication. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are In It and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When interacting with Evangelicals, the first thing I do is encourage them to read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos. I suggest they stay away from Evangelical apologists and preachers. Such people have an agenda: to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. Their goal is to maintain the status quo and protect at all costs that which they and their fellow gatekeepers have built. They know that providing honest answers to questions about God, the Bible, and church history will cause more doubts and questions, and even unbelief.

When dealing with Evangelicals, I always recommend they read authors such as Bart Ehrman and John Shelby Spong. If I sense they can handle stronger doses of medicine, I recommend authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the anthologies published by John Loftus. These men speak truth, but their books can be difficult for sensitive Christians to swallow.

If, as Evangelicals allege, God, the Bible, and life after death are the most important things facing the human race, then it behooves us to know whether their claims are true. Reading books written by Evangelical authors will only reinforce, not challenge, beliefs. Such writers are certain they are right, and they want you to be just as certain as they are. Non-Evangelical authors are usually more interested in facts and evidence. Their goal is education, not evangelization and conversion.

The second thing I do is encourage them to talk to people who have different beliefs from theirs. Visit non-Evangelical churches. Interact with writers who are willing to listen and try to answer what questions you might have. My inbox is always open. I will interact with some people for a time and then I won’t hear from them again. I am quite happy to be “used” if I can help people in some way. Sometimes, people will reconnect with me years later. Often, they email me to let me know where they are in life or that they are now an atheist.

Third, I ask people to be brutally honest with themselves. Meet truth in the middle of the road and do business. Don’t try to back up or go around. If people are willing to do so, they will always end up exactly where they need to be. While many of them will remain Christians, I am confident that they will come to understand that Evangelicalism cannot be rationally sustained; that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible; that many of their beliefs are irrational and harmful. Evangelicalism sells itself as THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, but many people learn that there is a Christianity that exists that is not Fundamentalist; one built on a foundation of love, peace, mercy, and kindness. While I am always happy when people embrace atheism, I know that most people won’t. Thus, I gently encourage people to expand their religious horizons. The goal, from my seat in the atheist pew, is to smother the life out of Evangelicalism.

Hopefully, this short post will be helpful for those who are on the path away from Evangelicalism. I have no interest in arguing with zealots or debating apologists. I don’t intend to cast my pearls before swine. But I do want to befriend deconstructing Evangelicals and help them in any way I can.

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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I’m Starting to Think That “Deconstruction” Means Buying New Clothes to Wear

connect jesus dots

I follow a few “deconstruction” Facebook groups. I rarely comment, but I try to take a few minutes each day to read the new posts and comments. In doing so, I have noticed a disturbing trend: when someone says they are deconstructing and having doubts about the existence of the Christian God, members are often quick to tell such people that they can still hang on to God; that deconstruction doesn’t need to lead to a loss of belief in God. Often, deconstruction that leads to atheism or agnosticism is viewed as failure; the desired outcome always leads to some form of God belief.

I have concluded that many people see deconstruction as changing one’s clothes, taking off Evangelicalism, and putting on cooler, snazzier, more colorful God clothing. This leads, then, to group members asking questions such as “I am looking for a new IFB church to attend. Suggestion?” Or asking about finding a “better,” more “accepting” Evangelical church in this or that community. What we have here are people who, deep down, desperately want to hang on to their past beliefs, discarding anything they don’t like or offends them. Such people often look for LGBTQ-friendly Evangelical churches, genuinely believing such congregations exist. Surely there are Evangelical churches that unconditionally love gay people as they are, right?

Recently, a Christian lesbian posted a question asking for recommendations for local churches that are “accepting” of LGBTQ people. Evangelicals quickly jumped into action, smelling blood in the water, and suggested that their churches “love” gay folks to death. It was left to me to rain on the parade. I told the lesbian woman that there was only one “open and affirming” church in Defiance County: St. John United Church of Christ, pastored by my friend Jim Brehler. There are a couple of mainline churches that are friendly and accepting of LGBTQ people, but are not open and affirming. Only St. John’s publicly loves and accepts LGBTQ people as they are; embracing them as family. Local Evangelicals talk a good game, but their goal is conversion, turning LGBTQ people into heterosexuals, or, at the very least, demanding they live celibate lives.

Let me be clear, there’s no such thing as a “good” Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Why? Such churches believe all of us are broken (sinners) and need fixing (salvation); that people who reject the Evangelical gospel will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire being tortured for their unbelief and sin (or be annihilated or tortured for a while before being granted entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God). Such beliefs cause untold psychological harm. Perhaps, it is holding on to these beliefs that lead people to tell others going through the deconstruction process not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water — never considering that there might not be a baby at all. Fear of judgment and Hell keeps people from following the deconstruction path to its logical conclusion: atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. Many well-meaning people simply cannot envision life without the Christian God.

I encourage people to follow the path wherever it leads. Any move away from Evangelicalism is a good one. If someone pulls up short on their journey and finds a comfortable resting place still believing in God, who am I to object? All I am suggesting is that people follow the deconstruction process to its logical conclusion: that the central claim of Christianity cannot be rationally sustained. If you can still hang on to God after that, so be it.

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.

Bruce Gerencser