Trigger Warning for Evangelicals. This post contains sarcasm, sacrilegious humor, and 🙂 emojis. Do not proceed if these things will irritate your spiritual hemorrhoids. 🙂 You have been warned!
Earlier today, I received the following email from an Evangelical woman named Lori. She read all of two posts: Southern Gospel Singer Kenny Bishop is Now a Gay United Church of Christ Pastor and Why I Hate Jesus before emailing me. What follows is her email and my response. I have slightly edited her email to correct some glaring grammar errors.
Just looking some things up on my phone this morning and came across this page, after you wrote an article on Kenny Bishop.
The article Lori is talking about is Southern Gospel Singer Kenny Bishop is Now a Gay United Church of Christ Pastor. Bishop, a former member (and lead singer) of a famous family Southern Gospel group called The Bishops, left Evangelicalism, married a man, and is the pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in Kentucky. Kenny’s departure from Evangelicalism — the one truth faith — and his embracing of the “gay lifestyle” outrages many Christians. How can these things be? I get similar responses from former ministerial colleagues and church members. How is it possible that Pastor Gerencser is now an atheist and a liberal/progressive/socialist/pacifist? Such dramatic departures from the Evangelical norm do not compute for most Evangelicals.
Kenny has gone from this:
I suspect that this is a bridge too far for most Evangelicals. 🙂
Not wondering exactly why I feel compelled to reach out to you, but I am a Christian.
Lori contacted me because she “felt” she needed to; that it was her duty to put in a word for Jesus. Lori ignored that I ask Evangelicals to NOT send me emails such as hers, and wrote me anyway.
If you are an Evangelical Christian, please read Dear Evangelical before sending me an email. If you have a pathological need to evangelize, spread the love of Jesus, or put a good word in for the man, the myth, the legend named Jesus, please don’t. The same goes for telling me your church/pastor/Jesus is awesome. I am also not interested in reading sermonettes, testimonials, Bible verses, or your deconstruction/ psychological evaluation of my life. By all means, if you feel the need to set me straight, start your own blog.
Why is it so hard for Evangelicals to respect my wishes? After fifteen years and thousands of unwanted emails and comments from Evangelicals, I have concluded that what I want doesn’t matter to most followers of Jesus.
I’m not here to condemn you, but something you said caught my attention.
Lori says she’s not condemning me in her email, but that is actually what she does. She refuses to accept my story at face value, choosing to deconstruct my life based on her personal opinions and peculiar interpretations of the Protestant Christian Bible. I hope she will think about why this might be offensive to me, or how she might feel if I did the same to her.
You mentioned you don’t follow southern gospel music but you stated something inside you has always stirred you in your heart. My friend that’s Jesus still reaching out to you.
Lori wrongly assumes that the emotional feelings I have when listening to certain Southern Gospel songs are a “sign” that Jesus is trying to reach out to me. Come on Jesus, text me or shoot me an email! 🙂 Lost on Lori seems to be the psychological and sociological reasons such music might appeal to me. After all, I regularly listened to Southern Gospel, quartet-style music for almost fifty years. This music made a deep, lasting imprint on my life. The same can be said of songs by the Carpenters. Is it safe for me, then, to conclude that Karen Carpenter is calling out to me from beyond the grave? Silly, right?
I’m not sure what exactly turned you away from Jesus whether life or maybe some hypocrites along the way. All I know is until you take your last breath, Jesus is waiting.
And herein lies the problem, Lori made no attempt to find out who I am. She didn’t read any of my autobiographical material. (Please see Why? and the About page) Instead, she quickly read two posts and then emailed me. Had Lori bothered to do her homework, all of her questions about me would have been answered. And, I am quite accessible. If she genuinely had questions about my story, I would have gladly answered them, as I have done countless times before for other Evangelicals.
The Bible says in Proverbs 18: 13: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. Ouch. 🙂 I hope Lori will think about her email to me and ponder what her God says in the aforementioned Bible verse. I didn’t say it, “God did.” 🙂
I don’t believe your an atheist because of certain comments in your writings, but maybe just lost your way.
While Lori seems polite, I do wonder if she thinks it is genteel, sociable, well-mannered, thoughtful, considerate, and respectful (Carolyn, my editor, told me to choose one word for this sentence. I decided I liked all of her suggestions.) to email complete strangers and call them liars. And that’s exactly what Lori is doing when she says I am not an atheist. Lori says she is a Christian. I accept her self-identification at face value. Why can she not do the same for me? Why is it so hard for Evangelicals to accept that I once was a Christian and now I am not; that I once was a born-again follower of Jesus and now I am an atheist; that I once had foreskin on my johnson and now I don’t? 🙂
I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, spending thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible, and preaching 4,000+ sermons. I know the Bible inside and out. I haven’t lost my way, as if I am a puppy who got out of his pen, ran out the door, and wandered away. With full knowledge and eyes wide open, I reject out of hand the central claims of Christianity. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) God is a myth and Jesus is dead — end of discussion.
I realize that the biggest surprise at judgment day is the so-called Christian who judges others or does not have love for each other. They think they are going to step inside the gate with no problem as if better than Jesus himself. That will not be the case when he tells them depart from me I never knew you. Jesus is so misinterpreted by many who say they are Christians and are the farthest thing from it.
Lori seems to think that I’m no longer a Christian because of how Christians treated me; that I have been hurt by people. This simply is not true. Now, it is true that I have had countless vicious, hateful, nasty, vile Christians attack me since I left Christianity, but that was not the case while I was a Christian and a pastor. I was generally loved and respected. What should I make of all of this? I have concluded that Evangelicals have a hard time accepting people different from them. Their religion is built on a foundation of othering — us vs. them. Isn’t that exactly what Lori is doing in her email? She sees me as an “other,” someone who needs to be reclaimed for Jesus and restored to good standing with God and the Evangelical church.
I’m a Christian and yet I don’t agree with someone’s choices, my job is to pray for them and not judge them.
Lori says she doesn’t “judge” people, but that’s exactly what she did in her email. I am happy and at peace sans Jesus. Why not just accept that someone can be an atheist and live a fulfilled life? If I am happy with my life, isn’t that enough?
Just wanted to share with you this morning. I hope before your life is over you are able to find your way back to him.
I am sure readers noticed the subtle threats of Hell in Lori’s email She hopes and prays I repent and return to Jesus before I die. Why? Well, we know what will happen to me if I don’t: eternal torment and punishment in the Lake of Fire. No, Lori did not use the word Hell in her email, but it is implied in several statements she made about death.
I am, in fact, dying. Thanks to gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, degenerative spine disease, and a plethora of other serious health problems, I know my time on earth is short. Hopefully not soon, but I can feel the chilly hand of death on my neck. I intimately “feel” my mortality, yet I have no regrets over choosing to divorce Jesus. My life has been better in every way post-Jesus. I know that the Loris of the world cannot fathom a good life without God/Jesus/church/Bible, yet here I am, a shining advertisement for life’s possibilities after deconversion. Yes, I am in constant pain. Yes, life is hard and I literally and painfully struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. Yes, my life is littered with problems and trials. Yes, I am a weak, frail, contradictory man. Sometimes, I am a royal pain in the ass. Despite all these things, I wouldn’t trade my present life in the Promised Land for all the leeks and garlic in Egypt (Christianity). I am confident that when it comes time for me to die, I will be surrounded by the life of my life, six wonderful children and their spouses, and thirteen awesome grandchildren, and the last words from my lips will be, where’s the damn remote? 🙂
My advice is to go with your gut.
No, I plan to go with my mind. My “gut” can’t make up its mind. Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, excruciating pain — sometimes all in one day. Last weekend, I had violent diarrhea, and before I could even finish my business I found myself face first in the toilet vomiting. At least I was able to flush before throwing up. 🙂 Small blessings from Loki, yes? I am sure Lori sees Jesus in this too. 🙂 Praise God, Jesus kept you from getting shit on your face! Come back to him today!
The spirit you feel when you listen to southern gospel music is Jesus reaching out.
No, it’s not. Lori provides no evidence for her claim, she just knows it’s true. All Lori needs to do is provide empirical evidence for her claim. Not a gut feeling, but actual testable evidence. Surely Lori and God can get together and provide this evidence for me. I’ll be waiting . . .
I read that you were having some health problems. Again I pray you go back to your roots and no matter what we’ve done Jesus’ forgiveness is waiting.
Lori suggests that my health problems are the result of my deconversion; that if I returned to Evangelical Christianity, my health would improve. Here’s the problem with Lori’s ill-informed “logic.” My health problems started DECADES before I deconverted. I first saw a doctor for my back in 1977, thirty years before I left Christianity. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1997, a decade before I deconverted. Every one of my health problems except gastroparesis — an incurable stomach disease — predates my loss of faith. None of this, of course, will matter to Lori. She’s read two of my posts, sized me up, and rendered judgment.
His life is not just a story, but he lost his life to save ours. Again not here to judge you but felt compelled to reach out.
Lori keeps telling me that she’s not here to “judge” me, but her email suggests otherwise. Lori is likely convinced that telling me the “truth” is not judging. She’s just repeating what she thinks her version of God has said. Here’s the thing: I already know what God allegedly said. I am confident that I know the Bible far better than Lori. There’s nothing I need to know that I don’t know already. I realize this sounds arrogant, but I haven’t heard an original thought from an Evangelical in fifteen years. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting.
Unlike Lori, I didn’t feel “compelled” to respond to her email. I am writing this post because I want to; I hope my response will be helpful to readers lurking in the shadows; I hope doubting Christians or readers who have left Christianity will find my response encouraging.
Saved by Reason,
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.
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