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Tag: Evangelicalism

Fifteen Years of Marriage and Not One ‘Just the Two of Us’ Date

bruce and polly gerencser 1985
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

A few months after our first wedding anniversary, Polly and I packed up all of our worldly goods and moved to Newark, Ohio. We later moved to Buckeye Lake and then to the Southeast Ohio communities of New Lexington, Glenford, New Lexington — again, Somerset, Junction City, and Mount Perry. All told, we lived in Central and Southeast Ohio for fifteen years. During this time, I pastored churches in Somerset/Mount Perry and Buckeye Lake, Ohio. A consummate Type A workaholic, I neglected my wife and children. Thinking that all that mattered was serving Jesus, winning souls, and building churches, I worked day and night, rarely taking a day off. Work for the night is coming when no man can work, the Bible says. Jesus could return at any moment, I thought at the time. I want to be found busily laboring in God’s vineyard when Jesus splits the Eastern sky! Jesus said in Luke 18:8, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? When Jesus returned to earth, I wanted him to find me working hard at keeping the faith.

My children can testify to what I have written above. They watched their father walk out of the house in the morning, returning home later in the day, only to shower, change clothes, and head out the door once again, often not returning until they were in bed. For years, I worked a full-time secular job while also pastoring a church full-time. Even when I stopped working secular jobs and devoted all of my time to the work of the ministry, I still worked 60 plus hours a week.

Fifteen years of busting-my-ass for Jesus. Fifteen years of sacrificing family and body. Fifteen years, one vacation — a preaching engagement in Braintree, Massachusetts. Fifteen years, and not ONE, just the two of us date with my wife. Let that sink in for a moment. Not ONE date. Polly and I spent a good bit of time last night combing through our shared memories. We couldn’t come up with ONE instance of the two of us — sans children — going out on a date. Oh, we went to scores of special church events, Valentine’s banquets, and the like, but we never, not ONE time, got in the car, just the two of us, and went somewhere to spend an evening enjoying each other’s company.

I told Polly that it is a wonder that our marriage survived. While I was busy winning souls, studying for sermons, and building churches, Polly invested her time in raising our children. Now, I don’t want to paint a misleading picture. When I had time, I spent it with my family. We spent many a summer Saturday evening watching races at local dirt tracks. We also— in the early 1990s — took numerous day trips to West Virginia and Kentucky. Our older children have fond memories of crazy family road trips along the forgotten back — often unpaved — roads of Southeast Ohio and neighboring West Virginia. That said, what time I had for doing these kind of things was limited. Jesus ALWAYS came first.

While these memories remind me of the fact that I did spend time with my beautiful wife and children, I find myself saddened by the fact that I should have spent a lot more time with them, but didn’t. Southeast Ohio is a place of beauty, yet I rarely took the time to enjoy the scenery. Enjoying life was for those who didn’t take seriously the commands of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul centuries before, I wanted my life to be a testimony of single-minded devotion to Jesus. Better to burn out than rust out, I thought at the time. Some day, I will enjoy the scenery of God’s eternal kingdom! Did not the Bible say, prepare to meet the Lord thy God? There will be plenty time later to relax and fish along the banks of the River of Life.

My children and Polly have long since forgiven me for not giving them the time they deserved. They understand why I worked like I did, but I have a hard time forgiving myself for putting God, Jesus, the church, preaching, and winning souls before my family. No matter how often I talk about this with my counselor, the guilt and sense of loss remain. I suspect other super-Christians-turned-atheists have similar stories to tell. We sacrificed the temporal for the eternal. Now that we understand the temporal is all we have, it is hard not to look at the past with bitter regret. Particularly for those of us with chronic illnesses and pain, it is hard not to lament offering the best years of our lives on the altar of a non-existent God.

There is nothing I can do about the past. It is what it is, as I am fond of saying. All I can do is make the most of what life I have left. Fortunately, my six children and eleven grandchildren live less than 20 minutes away. Given an opportunity to do things differently, I do my best to spend time with them. Some days, it is difficult. To quote a well-worn cliché, my spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I know there will come a day when I will be in a wheelchair. It has been 18 months since I have driven a car. Forced to rely on others to haul my ass (and the rest of my body) around, I am unable to do all that I want to do. I do what I can, forcing myself — at times — to do things that I probably shouldn’t be doing. I know that this life is all that I have. As a Christian, I said, Only one life t’will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. As an atheist, I see things differently. Only one life t’will soon be past. End of story. All that will remain are the memories I made with my family while I was alive.

And as far as the no date thing? I think Polly can attest to the fact that I have acquitted myself quite nicely. We now take short vacations, road trips, and go on frequent just the two of us dates. Are we making up for lost time? I think so. Polly has become my best friend. I genuinely enjoy her company, even when her driving puts me in fear of my life. We have a bucket list of places we would like to visit. Will we successfully check off everything on the list? Probably not. As we wander together through life, we continue to find places we want to check out. So much to see, do, and experience. Funny what you find when you take your eyes off the heavens and look at what is right in front of you.

Christian or Atheist?: I Wish my Critics Would Make Up Their Minds

not an atheist

Bruce, you never were a Christian! Bruce, you are still a Christian! Bruce, I doubt that you are a “real” atheist! That’s right, now I have people questioning whether I am an atheist. Quoting Shakespeare, a Christian recently told me, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Evidently, because I write passionately about religion — particularly Evangelical Christianity — this proves that I still have some sort of latent religious belief. I wonder what I have to do to “prove” that I am an atheist? Sodomize Jesus on the communion table while pissing in the chalice and eating a ham sandwich? Use the Bible for toilet paper? Or how about seven years of writing about Christianity, Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, atheism, and humanism. I can’t think of one thing I have written that would lead anyone to conclude that I am a Christian or that I have some sort of religious hangover.

This has been a common problem for me since I deconverted. Instead of accepting at face value what I say about my life — past and present — critics comb through my life looking for inconsistencies or contradictions. Several years ago, one Christian wrote on a discussion forum that my story “didn’t ring true.” He went on to say that he had contacted several people who lived in an area that I “said” I once pastored in and none of them had heard of me. Conclusion? I was lying.

I have given up trying to “prove” my life to people. I am the one who lived my life. I know what I know. When my autobiography is published later this year, I am sure that I will face a new round of scrutiny and criticism. I suppose I should be used to this by now. If I am going to write first person articles and books — naming names, dates, and places — I should expect to have my writing scrutinized. This is the price I pay for playing in the middle of the freeway during rush hour traffic.

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis

Genesis

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis.

Video Link

Lyrics

You see the face on the TV screen
coming at you every Sunday
see that face on the billboard
that man is me

On the cover of the magazine
there’s no question why I’m smiling
you buy a piece of paradise
you buy a piece of me

I’ll get you everything you wanted
I’ll get you everything you need
don’t need to believe in hereafter
just believe in me

Cos Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
and he’s been telling me
everything is alright

I believe in the family
with my ever loving wife beside me
but she don’t know about my girlfriend
or the man I met last night

Do you believe in God
cos that’s what I’m selling
and if you wanna get to heaven
I’ll see you right

You won’t even have to leave your house
or get outta your chair
you don’t even have to touch that dial
cos I’m everywhere

And Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
well he’s been telling me
everything’s gonna be alright

Won’t find me practicing what I’m preaching
won’t find me making no sacrifice
but I can get you a pocketful of miracles
if you promise to be good, try to be nice
God will take good care of you
just do as I say, don’t do as I do

I’m counting my blessings,
I’ve found true happiness
cos I’m getting richer, day by day
you can find me in the phone book,
just call my toll free number
you can do it anyway you want
just do it right away

There’ll be no doubt in your mind
you’ll believe everything I’m saying
if you wanna get closer to him
get on your knees and start paying

Cos Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
well he’s been telling me
everything’s gonna be alright, alright

Jesus he knows me
Jesus he knows me, you know…

Songs of Sacrilege: Roll the Bones by Rush

This is the eighty-eighth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Roll the Bones by Rush.

Video Link

Lyrics

Well, you can stake that claim
Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
If they don’t take that game
And sometimes the winner takes nothing
We draw our own designs
But fortune has to make that frame

We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Why are we here?
Because we’re here
Roll the bones
Why does it happen?
Because it happens
Roll the bones

Faith is cold as ice
Why are little ones born only to suffer
For the want of immunity
Or a bowl of rice?
Well, who would hold a price
On the heads of the innocent children
If there’s some immortal power
To control the dice?

We come into the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Jack…relax
Get busy with the facts
No zodiacs or almanacs
No maniacs in polyester slacks
Just the facts
Gonna kick some gluteus max
It’s a parallax…you dig?
You move around
The small gets big
It’s a rig
It’s action…reaction
Random interaction
So who’s afraid
Of a little abstraction?
Can’t get no satisfaction
From the facts?
You better run, homeboy
A fact’s a fact
From Nome to Rome, boy

What’s the deal?
Spin the wheel
If the dice are hot…take a shot
Play your cards. Show us what you got
What you’re holding
If the cards are cold
Don’t go folding
Lady Luck is golden
She favors the bold
That’s cold
Stop throwing stones
The night has a thousand saxophones
So get out there and rock
And roll the bones
Get busy!

Roll the bones

Why are we here?
Because we’re here
Roll the bones
Why does it happen?
Because it happens
Roll the bones

Annihilationism: Feel-Good Doctrine for Nice Christians 

john lennon imagine

Many Christians — especially those of a liberal/progressive bent — now believe that non-Christians will be annihilated after death. Queasy over the notion of their “Loving” God eternally torturing unbelievers in hell, these Christians say that God will instead obliterate non-Christians, wiping them from the pages of human existence. Some Protestant Christians think unbelievers will be tortured for a certain amount of time, and then, having satisfied God’s torture-lust, will be burned up and remembered no more.

While it is certainly possible to selectively read and interpret the Bible and conclude that God will annihilate non-Christians, the historic Christian position remains God torturing conscious people for eternity. In recent years, thanks to authors such as Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Stott, Evangelicals have become more sympathetic towards annihilationism. The question I want to raise in this post is WHY they have become more sympathetic to this view.

What causes staunch, Bible-believing Evangelicals to abandon the doctrine of endless punishment? Have they changed their view as a result of diligently studying the Bible? While I am sure that some Evangelicals have abandoned this doctrine for intellectual reasons, the real reason is more emotional in nature. By carefully examining increasing Evangelical support for same-sex marriage, I think we can understand why many Evangelicals no longer think non-believers will be eternally tortured in hell (actually the Lake of Fire). Younger Evangelicals — having watched their parents and grandparents turn Evangelicalism into one of the most hated American religions — want to put a kinder, gentler face on Christianity. Many of them — deeply affected by postmodern thinking — have moved leftward, away from the culture war and the endless battles over doctrine. No longer wanting to be viewed in a negative light, younger Evangelicals strive to be accepted by the world. More accepting of evolution and science, tolerant, temperate Evangelicals genuinely want to be liked by others — bristling when lumped in with culture warriors and Fundamentalists.

john piper annihilationism

These worldly Evangelicals know and associate with people older Evangelicals have, in times past, consigned to the flames of hell. It is hard for them to look at Lesbian Angela, Gay Harper, and Atheist Laura and think these friends of theirs will be endlessly tortured by God. As in the case of gays and same-sex marriage, once people actually meet and know people who are happy unbelievers, their viewpoint often changes as well. Their parents and grandparents — fearing contamination by the “world” — walled themselves off from the influences of non-Christians. Younger Evangelicals — often educated at secular colleges — are more comfortable among non-Christians. Once exposed to the “world,” it is unlikely they will return to the Fundamentalism of their Evangelical forefathers.

As atheists, should we be appreciative that some Evangelicals think God will annihilate us some day, and not endlessly torture us? Ponder for a moment the fact that many annhilationists think God will — for a time — torture unbelievers before turning them into ash heaps. How is this really any better than eternal hellfire and damnation? The fact remains that the Christian God will reward or punish people based on beliefs. Believe the right things and a home in heaven awaits. Believe the wrong things and God will erase your name from the book of the living. I get it…many Evangelicals are tired of being viewed as mean and hateful, and Liberal and Progressive Christians are weary of being lumped together with Fundamentalists. However, the fact remains that annihilation is a form of punishment reserved for those who are members of the wrong religious club. This means that good people will be burnt to a crisp for no other reason than that their God was some other deity but Jesus. Forgive me if I don’t find such beliefs “comforting.”

Here’s the good news. Many Christians, having tried on annihilationism for a time, eventually realize that it is just endless punishment-lite. Once annihilationism is abandoned, universalism awaits. All paths now lead to eternal bliss, so there is no need to evangelize or argue doctrine. Imagine a world without theocratic demands of fealty, arguments over theology, or threats of God’s judgment. Why, such a world would be heaven on earth — a heaven where even atheists are welcome.

A Devil Worshiper Might Live Near You or Sit Next to You at Work, warns Jennifer LeClaire

barack obama satan worshiper

Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor for CHARISMA Magazine, is a Charismatic Christian version of Joseph McCarthy — the noted Communist hunter of the 1950s. Everywhere LeClaire looks, she sees Satan and his demon worker bees. In a March 18, 2016 article published on Charisma’s “news” site, demonphobic LeClaire warns that Satanism is on the rise. LeClaire writes:

Satanism is rising—and rising rapidly. Beyond shows like Lucifer that paint the devil as simply misunderstood and the distribution of Satanic Temple materials in some schools and the Satanic black mass at an Oklahoma City civic center and the monument to Baphomet in Detroit—these are just a few recent examples—there are the senseless deaths of young men like Edwin Juarez Palma.

Police in Mexico arrested a trio of Satanists who allegedly killed a friend in the process of trying to morph him into a vampire. Palma, the victim, was reportedly strangled, beaten and slashed in the neck before he died. The Satanists wrapped his body in a plastic bag and ditched him.

“Police say Edwin, known as Piwa, was killed after being fooled into taking part in an initiation ceremony to become part of a satanic cult called the Sons of Baphomet 1,” the Daily Mail reports. “Instead, he was tortured after having his hands tied behind his back after one of the alleged killers persuaded the others their victim should be sacrificed so he could return to life as a vampire.”

Clearly, these kids are deceived at best and deluded at worst. Two of the suspected killers are 18 and the other one is 25. According to Encyclopedia Satanica, the average age of a Satanist is 25 and most are single male Caucasians. Satanists are politically diverse, work a range of occupations and come from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or agnostic backgrounds. Most were involved in other religions before they converted to the literal dark side.

Who knows? A devil worshipper might live near you or sit next to you at work.

By the best statistics I can find, there were 50,000 Satanists in the world in 1990, according to the Ontario Consultants of Religious Tolerance, and that number rose to as many as 100,000 in 2006. Of course, that was a decade ago—and a lot has changed in a decade. More recently, the Catholic Church warned of the rise of Satanism and the occult. And God’s Ghostbusters reports there are more than 200,000 registered witches and up to 8 million who have not officially unveiled themselves.

Dark forces are also invading Christianity. Three out of every 10 teenagers have played the Ouija board, had their palms read, and eight out of 10 have read horoscopes, according to a Barna Study called “Teens and the Supernatural.” The survey reports 29 percent of Christian teens did not see anything wrong with it. Eighteen percent said they read horoscopes, but do not think it really predicts the future. And another 8 percent said they read it, but feel guilty about it.

Clearly, the prince of the power of the air is working overtime and seeing the fruits of his labors. Books and movies about boy wizards captured the attention of a generation and a fascination with vampires is ultimately what some believe led to Edwin Juarez Palma’s demise. (Palma had interest in vampires as a hobby, according to news reports, allowing an open door for the Satanists to deceive him.) We know that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), but he’s really the father of lies (John 8:44) and he wants to take a [sic] many people to hell with him as he can. Palma was a victim of the devil’s empty words.

….

Got all that?

LeClaire warns readers that many Christian teenagers have “played the Ouija board, had their palms read” and have “read horoscopes.” Sadly, where most thinking people see entertainment, LeClaire sees dark forces out to steal the souls of unwitting people. Many readers of this blog can remember when they too thought that inanimate objects were demon-possessed and had the power to lead people into darkness. Who can forget the 1980s and all the hysteria over certain toys. Here is a video of Phil Phillips, author of Turmoil in the Toy Box, warning Christians about the demonic forces that lurk in toy boxes:

Video Link

The 1970s gave Evangelicalism the dangers of Satan-inspired rock music and backmasking. The 1980s and 1990s found Christians all worked up over the occult, Satanic human sacrifices, and ritual child abuse. Sadly, Evangelicals have a propensity for believing any explanation that helps them to understand what they perceive as the collapse of Christian America. Who and what gets the blame changes with time, but the perceived power behind it — Satan and his demons — remains the same. It is hard to believe — in the twenty-first century — that there are still people who think that the Devil and his minions lurk in the shadows, working to overthrow the Christian God.

church of satan

LeClaire thinks the increase of news stories about the Satanic Church is proof that Satanism is increasing. LeClaire seems ignorant of the fact that members of the Church of Satan do NOT worship Beelzebub. I wonder if demon hunter LeClaire has ever bothered to read the FAQ on the Church of Satan’s website? I doubt it. Had LeClaire read it, she would have found out:

Why do Satanists worship The Devil?

We don’t. Satanists are atheists. We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions.

Our position is to be self-centered, with ourselves being the most important person (the “God”) of our subjective universe, so we are sometimes said to worship ourselves. Our current High Priest Gilmore calls this the step moving from being an atheist to being an “I-Theist.”

Satan to us is a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism, and it serves as an external metaphorical projection of our highest personal potential. We do not believe in Satan as a being or person.

Do Satanists perform sacrifices?

No. We are atheists. The only people who perform sacrifices are those who believe in supernatural beings who would consider a sacrifice to be some form of payment for a request or form of worship. Since we do not believe in supernatural beings there is no reason for a Satanist to make a sacrifice of any sort.

Where would Christianity be without Satan? Created by God, Satan is Jehovah’s protagonist. Without Satan, how would Christians explain the existence of evil? Without the prince and power of the air, sin would lose much of its power. Without Lucifer, Evangelicals would lose the greatest excuse ever cooked up by religious fanatics — the devil made me do it!

Video Link

LeClaire thinks that much of the evil in the world can be attributed to Satan, demons, and their influence over people. As Joseph McCarthy did sixty years ago rooting out people he thought were Communists, LeClaire warns that Evangelicals could have neighbors or fellow employees who are devil worshipers. How will Christians know if Morningstar’s followers are nearby? LeClaire doesn’t say. Perhaps enlightened Evangelicals have some sort of spidey-like tingling that comes over them when Satanists are nearby. Or maybe the Holy Spirit warns Christians with some sort of radar-like beep that demons are near. I wish LeClaire would be clear. How can Christians KNOW when Satan and the Demonettes are playing nearby? From everything that I have read — reports of religious leaders committing horrible crimes — people have much more to fear if pastors, priests, and church leaders live nearby. Of course, LeClaire would respond by saying that predator preachers are under the influence of Satan and are being used by him to give Christianity a bad name. Funny how Le Claire and her fellow Evangelicals never become aware of Satan’s influence until AFTER a crime has been committed. I would think God would have some sort of advance warning signal set to alert Christians that certain pastors are under the influence of the Evil One. Surely God doesn’t want Christian children and teenagers raped, molested, or abused, right?

People need not fear Satan or God. Both are fictions of the human imagination. It is when we allow God, Satan, and their imaginary powers stand in for goodness and evil that we become deceived. As a humanist, I believe that the power to do good and evil rests solely with people. God and Satan become middlemen who rob humans of rewards for doing good and responsibility for doing bad. Once people break free of the Christian God and his sidekick Satan, they are then free to see and experience life as it is. Ouija boards? Horoscopes? Palm readings? Harry Potter? Wizards? Witches? Occult-themed movies? Harmless fun. I have yet to meet or know of person who was led over to the mythical dark side by Potter and his Hogwarts friends. To LeClaire and her fearful compatriots I say, SATAN IS NOT REAL! Repeat after me, SATAN IS NOT REAL! Yes, Satan has his own program on FOX, but the star of the show — Lucifer Morningstar — is actor Tom Ellis, not the mythical Bible character with the same name.

Of course, Fundamentalists such LeClaire will view this post as PROOF that Satan is real. Here’s Bruce Gerencser — once an Evangelical pastor — now saying that God and Satan are a myth. There is nothing I can do about such accusations. People prone to think inanimate objects have power and evil hides under every rock have lost the ability to think and reason. They will remain this way until they come to the place where they realize that they have built their entire lives on what Jon Stewart affectionately called: Bullshit Mountain.

Do Evangelicals Love and Accept People as They Are?

god use me to reach oneEvangelicals sincerely believe that they love and accept people as they are. Some will even say that they love everyone unconditionally. (Please see Does God Love Us Unconditionally?) With pious smiles on their faces, Evangelicals say, We love everyone, just like Jesus did. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, praise his holy name! Of course, Calvinists and Arminians have been fighting for hundreds of years over whether Jesus loves everyone. While I love poking holes in both warring parties’ arguments, I will leave the Calvinism vs. Arminianism atonement debate for another day. I am far more interested in dealing with the idea that Evangelicals, in general, love and accept people just as they are.

Evangelicals believe that everyone is marred and broken by sin. The solution to this brokenness is Jesus. When Evangelicals say they love and accept people as they are, what they mean is that they, for a time, will do so, but only if sinners eventually come around to their way of thinking. The goal is to bring marred, broken people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Called by Christ to evangelize the world, Evangelicals desire to convert every boy, girl, man, and woman. Evangelicals accepting people as they are is but a means to an end — the salvation of sinners. So, when Evangelicals say they love drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, adulterers, Catholics, Muslims, and atheists, their love is based on an ulterior motive — winning the lost to Jesus.

What happens if people do not want what Evangelicals are peddling — deliverance from sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ? Will Evangelicals still unconditionally love and accept these intransigent people as they are? Most Evangelicals will turn to prayer, hoping that God will give sinners eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious gospel of amazing grace. Their love and acceptance is ALWAYS based on changing people from who and what they are. Since Evangelicals believe they are the purveyors of the true Christian gospel, the end goal is to turn lost sinners into saved Evangelicals.

This is why I have long believed that Evangelicals do not love or accept people as they are. They can’t. As long as they are part of an exclusionary sect that divides the entire human race into two categories — saved and lost, Evangelicals will never accept, as they are, people who are different from them.

Evangelicals are taught to not associate with the world. This is why there is a sprawling Evangelical subculture that now offers separate Evangelicals Jesusfied versions of the goods and entertainments found in the world — the domain of the prince and power of the air, Satan. Things such as Christian rock music, Christian radio, Christian TV, Christian clothing, Christian dating services, Christian schools,Christian auto repair, Christian, home improvements, and Christian (fill in the blank) _________ are all meant to provide Evangelicals with things similar to what the world has to offer.

Evangelicals are commanded by God to come out from the world and be separate. Not wanting to be like the Amish or other separatist groups, Evangelicals diligently work to transform the world into the Kingdom of God. Once everyone — well almost everyone except those vile, heathen atheists — has bowed a knee to Jesus and joined Club Evangelical™ all will be well and Evangelicals can then truly love and accept people as they are — born again Christians. Woo Hoo! Everyone is playing for the same team now! Praise Jesus!

Evangelicals forget that people such as myself — Evangelicals-turned-atheists — know the truth. Evangelicals not only don’t love and accept non-Evangelicals as they are, they also don’t accept fellow Evangelicals as they are. I monitor and read over 200 Evangelical blogs. Every day, this or that Evangelical is upset over what some other Evangelical preacher, church, or sect said or did. In particular, Evangelical discernment blogs — also known as keepers of the Book of Life — rail against other Evangelicals who have different beliefs, use the wrong Bible version, sing the wrong style of music, support the wrong ministries, or do anything else contrary to their narrowly defined version of the one true faith. Everywhere I look, I see Evangelicals fussing with each other. Acting like toddlers fighting over toys, Evangelicals seem oblivious to Jesus’ commands concerning love and unity.

I left the Christian church in 2008. Since my departure, countless Evangelicals have attempted to “love and accept me as I am.” When I point out to them that they do not really accept me as I am, these loving Evangelicals often get upset over me insinuating that their motives are not pure. It is not an insinuation, it is a fact. When Evangelicals want to befriend me, I immediately know that they have an ulterior motive. How could it be otherwise? What do I have in common with Evangelicals? This blog is a repudiation of everything Evangelicals hold dear. If Jesus is their friend, lover, and Savior, how could Evangelicals possibly be friends with someone who challenges their beliefs about Jesus? I am the ex-wife, the woman formerly married to the Evangelical bride’s new husband. I highly doubt the new wife is going to friend the ex-wife on Facebook or follow her on Pinterest.

The Bible is clear, I am an enemy of God. I am an apostate who tramples under the blood of Jesus. I spit in the face of God, wanting nothing to do with him. According to Hebrews 6:4-6 (edited for emphasis):

For it is impossible for Bruce who was once enlightened, and has tasted of the heavenly gift, and was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, And has tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If Bruce shall fall away, to renew him again unto repentance; seeing that he crucifies to himself the Son of God afresh, and puts him to an open shame.

Hebrews 10:26,29 states:

For if Bruce sins wilfully after he has received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for his sins…Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall Bruce be thought worthy, he who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

To my fellow atheists and non-Evangelicals, I suggest that the next time Evangelicals come bearing gifts of love and acceptance you ask them, what do you REALLY want? Lurking behind every friendship request is the desire to see you saved and made a part of Club Evangelical™. But, Bruce, says an Evangelical, I really, really, really want to be friends with you. Why? Be honest. Why do you want to be my friend? Please tell me what we have in common? Are you willing to meet me at the Pub and fellowship over a few beers or shots of whiskey? Are you willing to skip church so you can attend a baseball game with me? Are you willing to never mention the name of Jesus or Christianity in my presence? Are your ears tough enough to weather my cursing and risqué jokes? Be honest. Isn’t the real objective to win me to Jesus; to recover me from the pit of sin?

I have two Evangelical friends (husband and wife) — members of the Church of the Nazarene. Our friendship dates back to the 1960s when the husband and I lived near each other and walked to elementary school together. Our friendship has gone through many phases over the years. I was, for a time, their pastor. When I deconverted in 2008, I wondered if our friendship would survive. It has, and here is how. We don’t talk about religion or atheism unless one of us asks a question. We focus on the things we have in common: family, children, marriage, chronic illness, chronic pain, love of off-road travel, and eating food at out-of-the-way places. My friends are willing to let me go to hell and I am willing to let them go to heaven. Each of us knows that the other has made an informed decision about God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible.

I have invested 50 years in this friendship and I don’t want to argue or debate it away. I deeply love my friends and would do anything for them. Well ALMOST anything — accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior excepted. I am sure my writing, at times, causes them pain. I am sure they wish I were still a Christian. But I am not, so there is no need to dwell on that which will never happen. Will our friendship last until the end — when death proves the reality of that which we believe to be true? I don’t know. I hope so. Members of their family have told them not to be my friend. I am a tool of Satan, one family member said, and Christians should never be friends with people such as myself.

I hope Evangelicals will ponder what I have written in this post. Enough of the warm, fuzzy, syrupy pronouncements of love and acceptance. Atheists and non-Christians see through Evangelical offers of unconditional love. Surely there are enough people to befriend at church. Why troll for friends who will never share your beliefs? Why seek friendships with people whose lives are diametrically opposed to all you hold dear. I can hear the wheels turning in Evangelical minds. Come on, spit it out. Be honest. You really don’t love and accept people as they are. Your motive — no matter how hard you try to hide it — is to save broken sinners such as Bruce. And it is for this reason, we can never be friends.

Songs of Sacrilege: Heresy by Nine Inch Nails

nine inch nails

This is the eighty-seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Heresy by Nine Inch Nails.

Video Link

Lyrics

He sewed his eyes shut because he is afraid to see
He tries to tell me what I put inside of me
He’s got the answers to ease my curiosity
He dreamed a god up and called it Christianity

Your god is dead and no one cares
If there is a hell I’ll see you there

He flexed his muscles to keep his flock of sheep in line
He made a virus that would kill off all the swine
His perfect kingdom of killing, suffering and pain
Demands devotion atrocities done in his name

Your god is dead and no one cares
If there is a hell I’ll see you there
Your god is dead and no one cares
If there is a hell I’ll see you there

Drowning in his own hypocrisy
And if there is a hell I’ll see you there
Burning with your god in humility
Will you die for this?

Door-to Door Soulwinning

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches are known for being the Baptist version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. IFB soulwinners fan out across their communities knocking on doors, hoping the people resting from a long, hard day at work will answer their knock and want to spend 10 minutes hearing their sales presentation. While the sales pitches vary from church to church, the goal is always the same — to induce sinners to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Church members are given specific instructions about how best to evangelize those who answer their doors. Members are told to never deviate from the script. Keep on message, says Pastor Gerencser. Don’t let the prospect for heaven ask questions. All they need to know is gospel. Here is the soulwinning method I taught countless church members:

Soulwinner: Hello. My name is Pastor Bruce Gerencser and this is (pointing to soulwinning partner) John Baptist. We are from Somerset Baptist Church and we are out today inviting people to church. Do you attend church anywhere?

Prospect: Well, yes I do. I attend the Methodist church in Somerset.

(Sometimes, at this point, the soulwinner might ask where the church is located or who the pastor is. If the prospect can’t answer these questions, it is evident that they don’t attend church regularly.)

Soulwinner: Why that’s great. We don’t want to take anyone away from their church home. (This, by the way, is a boldfaced lie. The goal is to take as many people as possible away from what is perceived as liberal, apostate churches.)

Soulwinner: Before we go, I would like to ask you a question. If you died today, would you go to heaven?

Prospect: I am a good person. I think I will go to heaven when I die. (The answer is meaningless. The soulwinner plans to share the gospel with the prospect regardless of how the question is answered.)

Soulwinner: Let me quickly show you how you can know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die. I promise this will only take a few minutes. (The soulwinner, before the prospect can answer, opens his King James Bible to Romans 3, preparing to read.)

(At this point, the soulwinner should ask if they can come into the home. If the prospect says no, then the soulwinner should continue sharing the gospel on the porch.)

Soulwinner: The Word of God says in Romans 3:23, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. This means that all of us, you, me, everyone is a sinner. Do you understand what it means to be a sinner?

Prospect: Sin is doing bad things.

Soulwinner: That’s right. (The soulwinner might list a few small and big sins to emphasize the fact that we are all sinners)

Soulwinner: The Bible also says in Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The just payment for our sins is death.

Soulwinner: The last part of Romans 6:23 says, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The bad news is that the wages (payment) of sin is death. We all will someday physically die. And if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior, we will also spiritually die. This spiritual death means that those who haven’t accepted Jesus as their personal savior will spend eternity in hell. The good news is…you don’t have to go to hell when you die. God gives us eternal life in heaven if we put our faith and trust in Jesus. Wouldn’t you like escape hell and go to heaven when you die?

Prospect: Uh, sure.

Soulwinner: That’s great. The Bible says in Romans 10:9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. This verse says that if we will confess with our mouths and believe that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead three days later, God will save us.

Soulwinner: What is your first name, sir.

Prospect: Horace.

Soulwinner: Horace, the Bible says that if Horace shalt confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and if Horace will believe in his heart that God hath raised Jesus from the dead, Horace will be saved.

Soulwinner: Horace, would you like to be saved? Would you like to know for certain that your sins are forgiven and that you will go to heaven when you die?

Prospect: Yes. (If the prospect is the least bit hesitant, the soulwinner should stress the fact that none of us knows when we die. It could be today!)

Soulwinner: The Bible says in Romans 10:13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. That whosoever includes you, me, and everyone. All you have to do, Horace, is pray and ask Jesus to save you. Are you willing to ask Jesus to save you?

Prospect: Yes, but I am not very good at praying.

Soulwinner: Don’t worry, Horace. I am going to say a prayer, What I want you to do is repeat this prayer.

Prospect: Okay.

Soulwinner: Dear Lord Jesus.

Prospect: Dear Lord Jesus.

Soulwinner: I know that I have sinned and I deserve to go to hell when I die.

Prospect: I know that I am a sinner and I deserve to go to hell when I die.

Soulwinner: But I also know Jesus died on the cross for my sins so I don’t have to go to hell when I die.

Prospect: But I also know Jesus died on the cross for my sins so I don’t have to go to hell when I die.

Soulwinner: Right now, I put my faith and trust in Jesus and ask him to forgive me and save me from my sins.

Prospect: Right now, I put my faith and trust in Jesus and ask him to forgive me and save me from my sins.

Soulwinner: Thank you, Jesus for saving me and giving me eternal life.

Prospect: Thank you, Jesus for saving me and giving me eternal life.

Soulwinner: In Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.

Prospect: In Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.

(Once the now-saved prospect says Amen, both soulwinners, with raised voices, say AMEN!)

Soulwinner: Horace, based on the authority of the Word of God, you are now a Christian. The Bible says in Romans 8:38,39: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God says, Horace, that no one can take away your salvation. Isn’t that wonderful?

(At this point, the new Christian is given literature that tells him he needs to find a good church to attend — that good church being Somerset Baptist Church, read the Bible every day, pray every day, and tell others about what Jesus has done for them.)

Scores of Americans have, at one time or the other, been accosted by Jesus-peddling IFB soulwinners hoping to sell them the truncated, bankrupt Fundamentalist Baptist gospel. There are numerous versions of this approach. I used what is called the Romans Road. Some churches use John’s Road — from the gospel of John — or church surveys. Southern Baptists popularized the use of surveys. The goal is to identify people who can easily be persuaded to buy siding/windows/driveway sealing/vacuum cleaners/magazines/steak knives/insurance/Jesus.

The goal is to win as many souls as possible. It doesn’t matter that most of the souls won to Jesus will NEVER darken the doors of an IFB church, never be baptized, or do any of the things “good” Christians are supposed to do. All that matters is that sinners prayed the prayer and asked Jesus to save them. This approach is focused on quantity not quality. IFB soulwinners only concern themselves with preaching their version of the gospel to as many people as possible. It is up to God to make the new Christians into the people he wants them to be.

[signoff]

Why Do Communities Continue To Ask Pastors for Support When Tragedy Strikes?

why

Let a tornado or flood devastate a community, and local pastors are often the first ones called to help the community understand the devastation and destruction. Let a student shoot up the local high school, and local pastors are called upon to help students cope with the senseless violence. Let a school bus carrying high school athletes veer off the road, resulting in the death of several notable students, and local pastors are asked to come to the school and console and support grieving students. No one bothers to ask: WHY should pastors be called for support when tragedy strikes? What possibly could pastors offer people other than a shoulder to cry upon?

In rural Northwest Ohio, the place of my birth and current residence, Evangelical pastors are routinely called upon to give help when tragedy strikes. I have to ask, what could Evangelical pastors possibly say that would help anyone make sense of tragedy? These men of God literally have nothing to offer but meaningless clichés:

  • God knows…
  • God has a perfect plan.
  • God never gives us more than we can bear.
  • God will take this tragedy and turn it into something good.
  • God loves us and only wants what is best for us.
  • Just trust God and you will get through this.
  • All things work together for good for those who love God.

Overcome by grief. people rarely challenge these false claims:

  • If God knows, why did he let it happen?
  • How could God’s perfect plan include wiping out our town?
  • How could God possibly take the death of __________ and turn into good? Wouldn’t “good” have been letting ________ live?
  • How could God really love us and let this happen?

When confronted with such questions, Evangelicals pastors respond with more clichés such as just trust God or just believe. Why don’t these pastors tell grieving people the truth: shit happens and often we don’t know why things happen like they do? Instead of sheltering people from the harsh realities of life, perhaps it is better if they hear the truth: life is hard and cruel and sometimes good people die. Instead of portraying tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods as acts of God, how about telling people the real reason such things happen? It is science, not Christianity that provides the answer to WHY these things happen. When a student murders his fellow classmates, perhaps it is better to focus on the senselessness of gun violence. Anything but giving students empty non-answers. Perhaps what pastors really need to do is put an arm around those feeling loss and love them. Forget the sermonizing and just love those who are hurting. Imagine how people might respond if pastors said, I don’t know. But Evangelical pastors will NEVER do this. They are expected to have answers — and they arrogantly think they do — and to provide help to those who are grieving. Speaking the truth is NOT in their repertoire. For them, every answer begins and ends with God and the Bible.

I would like to see communities STOP calling on pastors for help when tragedy strikes. First, many pastors have very little professional counselor training. Just because a person is a pastor doesn’t mean that he is qualified to counsel people. In fact, it is safe to say that MOST Evangelical pastors have no business counseling people (outside of giving spiritual advice). Taking several “Biblical” counseling courses does not a counselor make. Communities and schools would be better served if they turned to secular counselors or religious leaders with extensive counseling training for help. People are best helped when they are gently brought face to face with the realities of life, senseless death, and natural disasters.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent months.

zion lutheran church defiance ohio

Zion’s Lutheran Church, Defiance, Ohio, Timothy Reynolds, pastor. Zion’s Lutheran is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Tim is a friend of mine, so I won’t be too snarky about his church’s sign. While the message certainly reflects orthodox Christian belief concerning sin, my first impression was to say, no the heart of sin is RELIGION. Remove religion — specifically Christianity — from the human experience and the notion of original sin and the need for redemption go away. Mankind is no longer viewed as broken and in need of fixing. While the concepts of evil and bad behavior would remain, I suspect our “sin” lists would become much smaller.

the gathering place defiance ohio the gathering place defiance ohio the gathering place defiance ohio the gathering place defiance ohio the gathering place defiance ohio

The Gathering Place, Defiance, Ohio, Richard Buttermore, pastor. The Gathering Place is a nondenominational church. According to its website, The Gathering place is:

a place for Christian believers to who want to experience the presence of God and mature in their faith and relationship with the creator. What is taught here are promises God has given to us and the walk of life required to reap these promises. We are not here to pass judgement on others about what they have done in the past but to help one another progress towards a better life through Jesus. Everyone is on a different page in their walk with Christ and here we gather to have fellowship amongst other believers where we can come for healing in the physical and the mental aspects of our lives. It is through the power of Jesus who spoke it from the beginning in which we are capable of doing these things so come check out what God is doing here in Defiance.

It is is only March, but I was tempted to give The Gathering Place the Stupidest Church Sign of the Year Award®. I decided to wait. We plan to go a lot of traveling this year, so we could yet stumble upon church signs that would knock The Gathering Place off the Stupid Church Sign Leaderboard.

One side of The Gathering Place’s marquee says, Be an Organ Donor, Give Your Heart to God. So, according to the sign, when people become Christians they give their the blood pumping organ in the upper left side of their chests to God. If we take this literally, how is the Christian God any different from the God of South American tribes centuries ago? Tribal priests would cut the hearts out of people and offer them to their God.  If people literally give their hearts to the Christian God, doesn’t that mean they will  be d-e-a-d after doing so? Perhaps The Gathering Place means for the sign message to be taken in a Biblical or metaphorical sense. But even here, the sign distorts what the Bible actually says about the heart. The Biblical heart is not the blood pumping organ that is central to our existence. A careful study of the word heart reveals that the word means mind or the seat of human will. Proverbs 23:7 says, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

There are Christians who will dig their literalist heels in on this matter and refuse to accept that the word heart does not mean the organ. I have one question for them. If a Christian has a heart transplant, does that mean he loses his salvation and has to get saved all over again?

The other side of The Gathering Place marquee says, One Nation Under Me, God. Meant to be a statement affirming Christian nationalism, my dirty, carnal, atheistic mind thought, so…God likes to be in top?

Bruce, You Are Doing an Awesome Job, Says One Fundamentalist Christian

curiosity

Readers might be surprised to learn that I am frequently contacted by Evangelicals who think I am still a Christian. They send me their prayer requests, ask for donations, ask for church recommendations, or have some pressing theological question they would like me to answer. Several Evangelicals have even wanted me to help them get the victory over sexual sin! Showing an utter lack of curiosity (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.) they assume I am a member of the Jesus Club™. Imagine their surprise when they find out I am a God-hating, baby-eating, Satan-worshiping, sin-loving atheist. One woman sent me a long email about how wonderful she thought I was — a true brother in Christ. And then, less than a day later, she sent me another email expressing her dismay over me being an atheist. The cognitive dissonance this caused her was so overwhelming that she didn’t know what to do. Surely an atheist couldn’t say or write anything that would “speak to her soul,” yet that is exactly what my writing did for her.

I am always amused when Evangelicals suggest that now that I am an atheist I no longer understand the Bible or Evangelical Christianity. They assume that the moment I said I no longer believe, God sent a supernatural vacuüm cleaner to earth and sucked five decades of knowledge out of my brain. After all the BIBLE says, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Now that I am a “natural” man, I no longer understand the Bible. This argument is so absurd that I don’t even try to respond. I know what I know, regardless of my “spiritual” condition.

Just this week I received an email from an Evangelical praising me for showing the vileness of the song My Church. The letter writer wrote, with a subject of Great Job!:

You probably don’t need to hear this, but I just this week heard the “My Church” song and was disgusted. I wanted to look up the lyrics to talk about in a lesson at church and found your sight[sic]. What you are doing is awesome.

A short while later, the letter writer, after checking out my awesome Christian blog, sent me this:

I just emailed you and I’m sorry for wasting your time. At a glance I thought you were someone who loved God and saw things the same way I do. I am not going to say things you already know, nor come to a level that some on your pages have as far as trying to belittle your opinion. Those actions are not very Christian, but at the same time i felt I needed to let you know that after reviewing your blog I see I was hasty in my earlier email and hope the furthest away from you continuing in this work. Though your desire is for this to not happen; I do pray that God will help you in health but more importantly find your way to him.

And…just like that I went from AWESOME to a bad man in need of salvation.

Note:

I am an expert at post tagging. Each day, upwards of twenty-five percent of my blog traffic comes from search engines. Most of these searches are performed by Christians. Each day hundreds of people come to this site thinking they are reading the writing of a brother in the Lord. Thanks to every post being appropriately and religiously tagged, my writing is usually well-ranked by Google and Bing. Of course, subject matter helps. When Evangelicals want to know if it is a sin for a man to have long hair, they usually end up at this site. And that is good, right? Knowledge is the only cure for Fundamentalism.