Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Songs of Sacrilege: Wages of Sin by The Rainmakers

This is the fifty-first 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 Wages of Sin by The Rainmakers, a Kansas City, Missouri-based original rock band.

Video Link

Video Link

Lyrics

I was praying last night when an angel broke the line
She said “I’m gonna have to put you on hold for a time”
I said “Hold like Hell, let me talk to the Boss”
She said “Sorry sucker (sinner), it’s the Boss’s day off”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was two bucks an hour and working weekends

I was ignoring the thief who was lashed to the cross
He cried “Help me get this son-of-a-bitch off”
I said “I would if I could, I can’t so I won’t
Well I wouldn’t want you messing your hair up, so don’t”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was all the lumber you can carry, all the nails you can bend

The wages of sin, the price that you pay
Is worrying and fretting every second of the day
If Heaven is guilt, no sex and no show
Then I’m not sure if I really want to go, Oh

The wages of sin, the reward of fear
Is worrying and fretting every second of the year
The Church and the State, your God and Countrykind
One gets your body, the other gets your mind

Mary, Mary Magdalene, how ’bout a date?
You’ve been wasting your time staying up so late
Your boyfriend’s dead, the word is you’re a whore
Just about then I heard a knock on the door
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was a bad reputation and too many friends

The wages of sin (repeats)

Are You a Christian?

what is a christian

JC Ryle, a 19th century Anglican Bishop, wrote a tract about the marks of a Christian:

But still after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general epistles (1 John) to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God, Does not commit sin, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Does righteousness, Loves the brethren, Overcomes the world, and Keeps himself. I ask the reader to observe all this.

The Bible basis for what Ryle says is found in I John:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

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.

If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Denominations, pastors, and individual Christians explain, or should I say explain away, these verses in a variety of ways. Some take the verses exactly as they are written, even though their lives are a direct contradiction to what the verses say. Others go to the Greek text and say that these verses say one thing in the English text but another thing in the Greek text. They do a lot of explaining to get away from what the English text clearly says. It seems to me that the writer of 1 John (and keep in mind some scholars think 1 John is a fraudulent text) is very clear. You SAY you are a Christian? Here is the standard to judge yourself by. Do you measure up? If not, you are NOT a Christian.

1 John contradicts other books of the Bible. 1 John and the book of James set a very different standard for what a Christian is than Paul does in his writings. Christians go to great lengths to harmonize, smooth over, and mediate the conflict, but since I am not a Christian I have no need to make everything “fit.”

I ask myself, if a person who had never had any contact with Christianity was stranded on an island and only had the book of 1 John to read, what conclusions would they come to? Would they say that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast? I doubt it.

So much of what is called true, orthodox “Christianity” is actually someone’s interpretation of what the Bible says.  As the centuries click by, the interpretations become more complex and varied. It is almost impossible to get a Christian to see that what they call true, orthodox Christianity is actually a man-made religion, shaped and molded over centuries.  For the most part, modern Christianity is Paul’s version of Christianity and not Jesus’ version. I suspect the essence of the Judaistic Christianity of Jesus has been irretrievably lost.

Some may ask, since I am an atheist, why do I bother with matters concerning the Bible and Christianity? First of all, I like talking about these things. Second, our culture is deeply influenced and sometimes controlled by Christianity, and how Christians interpret the Bible affects our culture. Third, Christians tend to evangelize and preach at non-believers, so it is fair to hold them to the same standard they hold others to. Based on the verses above, it is quite evident that no Christian measures up to the Bible standard of what it means to be a Christian. Thus, no Christian is a true Christian.

I also know there are a lot of readers who are somewhere between leaving Christianity and agnosticism/atheism. They are still struggling with what they believe or don’t believe. Do they still believe the Bible, and if they do what parts? Do they believe Jesus existed at all? If they do, do they believe what the Bible says about him? Post like this one are meant to help them settle some of the issues they are struggling with.

For those of you who are or were a Christian, how did you or your pastor explain the 1 John verses mentioned above?

Repost, revised and corrected

Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS He Once Was a Christian

false christianI have been blogging since 2007.  When I started blogging, I was an Emerging church, red-letter Christian who, along with his wife, was desperately seeking for a church that took the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously. (please read But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Our search took us to many churches. We found that Christian churches, regardless of the name on the sign, were vapid, empty places, filled with good people who were more concerned with church amenities and programs than following Jesus. We came to the conclusion that whatever Christianity might have been 2,000 years ago, it died long ago. In its place has grown up an institutionalized church more concerned with power, money, and right beliefs than following after the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.

The last church we attended was the Ney United Methodist Church, pastored by a fine young pastor I greatly admire. By this time, we were already at the back of the church with one foot out the door, and in November of 2008 we turned around, put the other foot out the door, and walked away from Christianity.

There was nothing wrong with the Ney United Methodist Church or its pastor Ron Adkins. Great people. Kind people. Good people. And, just like every other Christian church we visited.  We came to see that what churches really are is social clubs, especially here in rural NW Ohio where churches are often filled with people with similar last names. The churches are like a family reunion every Sunday.

I pastored for the last time in 2003. After being badgered by several colleagues in the ministry about using the gifts God had given me, in 2005 I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. While both church wanted me to consider being their pastor, it became clear to both Polly and I that we no longer wanted to be in the ministry.  Between 2003 and November 2008, various Christians who knew me labeled me as burnt out, depressed, under an attack by Satan, or a good man gone bad. I was still viewed as a Christian, but due to my changing theology, many of the Evangelicals that knew me now considered me a liberal. Those of you began reading this blog in 2007 will remember my word battles with Pastor John Chisham, aka PastorBoy,  over the gospel and salvation. (Chisham is now divorced, remarried, and no longer a pastor)

Like many Evangelicals who become an atheist, I took a long, bumpy, winding train ride to get to atheism. I started out as an Evangelical, then a Progressive Evangelical, then an Emerging Church Evangelical, then a Red-Letter Christian, then a Liberal Christian, then an Universalist, then an Agnostic, and I finally arrived at the Atheist station.  Polly arrived at the station not too long after I did.

All told, I was a Christian for almost fifty years. I spent three of those years in Bible college, preached for thirty-three years, and pastored churches for twenty-five years. During this time, no one ever said, I doubt Bruce is a Christian. No one ever doubted my commitment to Christ or my desire to follow Jesus.

But, now it is different. Because I am now an atheist, Christians are quick to say I never was a Christian or that I was a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How else to explain my story, right?

Some Christians take a different approach. They question my character, my truthfulness. They say things like, IF Bruce Gerencser’s story is true, or Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS he was a Christian. If you search the internet, you will find claims like this on blogs and forums. Several years ago, Lee Shelton, the Contemporary Calvinist wrote:

Bruce Gerencser, an atheist who claims to have once been a Christian…

This is a classic example of the passive-aggressive approach Christians take with me when they read my story. They seem to be unable to accept my story at face value, Of course, I know why. My story doesn’t fit their neatly defined theological grid.  Lee Shelton is a five-point Calvinist, and since I didn’t persevere in grace that means I never really was a Christian.  I was a temporary believer, not one of the elect to whom God has extended his special, discriminate grace. Of course, I could just be on a time-out and some day I will return to Christianity and persevere to the end.

Here’s what I think. Many Christians find my story threatening. They wonder, if a man like Bruce Gerencser, a lifelong Christian and a pastor, can fall from grace or live a long life of deception, perhaps this could happen to me too.  None of the people who called me pastor or considered me a ministerial colleague ever doubted that I was anything but a dedicated, sold-out for Jesus Christian. So, either I really was what I claim I was OR I am the best liar and deceiver who has ever lived.

Everywhere I look, I see agnostics and atheists who were once devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Pastors, youth directors, worship leaders, missionaries, deacons, evangelists, soulwinners, bus workers, and Sunday school teachers; on fire, filled with the Holy Spirit Christians. Thousands of former followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords read this blog. Were all of these washed in the blood Christians deceived, never having tasted the goodness of God?  Would a scientist doing a study on this group  conclude that they were false Christians? Of course not. In every way they were once numbered among those who followed the lamb wherever he went. When Jesus said follow me, they cast their nets aside, forsook all, and followed him. No matter what they now are, the past can not be erased by the wave of a magic theological wand.

The Anatomy of an Unaccredited Christian School

pace cartoon

clip from PACE used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers

Originally written in 2014

In this post, I want to take a look at State Line Christian School, an unaccredited fundamentalist Christian school that is operated under the auspices of the Lewis Ave Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. I know nothing about this school or church, and everything I write in this post has been gleaned from the church’s or school’s website.

Lewis Avenue Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church pastored by Steve Hobbins. Pastor Hobbins has been the pastor of the church since 2008. Prior to that, his father was the pastor for 37 years. Like many IFB churches, Lewis Avenue is a franchise operation, handed down from father to son.

In 2001, the church built a 1,300 seat auditorium. I found nothing on the church’s website that states their actual attendance.  Interestingly, I found nothing on their website that stated what they believed. There is one page (link no longer active) that details how a person can go to heaven when they die. Here is the prayer they suggest a sinner pray:

Dear Jesus,

I know I’m a sinner, I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. AMEN

Lewis Avenue operates a bus ministry, along with a seniors ministry, singles ministry, mentally handicapped ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, a teen ministry that focuses on soulwinning, and a Spanish ministry. The church also has a Reformers Unanimous chapter.

The centerpiece of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church’s plan to train future IFB leaders is the State Line Christian School. The school’s about page states (link no longer active):

When State Line Christian School opened in 1973, Pastor Hobbins’s vision was to open not just a private school, but a Christian school, one that held the beliefs of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church and the other churches in the Greater Toledo area. The school is Baptist-based with a strong emphasis on evangelism.

State Line started with just a K-4 and K-5, but added grades every year, until they graduated their first class in 1980. It is considered a preparatory school for college – a student’s core classes are chosen for him, and each student gets four years of English, math, and science. The school uses A Beka Book curriculum. State Line has been successful in preparing its students in that better than 90% of graduates go on to pursue college…

State Line is an unaccredited Christian school that uses A Beka Books, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, for their curriculum.  For one child in grade 1 through 12, the tuition cost is $4,000 plus an enrollment fee and an additional costs fee. Total cost for one child? Around $4,100.  For families with two children enrolled the tuition cost is $6,250. Four children? $8,250. The State Line website does not mention if there is an additional tuition cost for more than four children. If a family is delinquent (link no longer active) in making their tuition payments for more than 45 days, their children will not be permitted to attend the school. If payment arrangements are not made, the school will “pursue any and all action to
collect past due money.”
If this step is taken, a 20% fee is added to the amount owed.

Pastor Steve Hobbins is the superintendent and Joshua Newbold is the principal. Both Hobbins and Newbold attended an unnamed, and I assume unaccredited, Bible college. According to the hard to find listing of school staff (no link on school website), the school has 21 teachers:

Out of 21 teachers, only one is certified by the state of Michigan.

State Line Christian School operates under the laws of the Michigan for non-public schools:

  • They are not required to use any particular textbook
  • Their school/church  properties and buildings are exempt from personal and real estate tax
  • They are required to do criminal background checks on all employees
  • They are not required to keep school records
  • They are not required to be accredited by any recognized accrediting body
  • They are not required to use certified or college educated teachers

At one time, Michigan law stated:

  • Teacher certification is optional. A teacher may qualify to work in a nonpublic school in one of the following three ways: obtain a Michigan Teaching Certificate; obtain a substitute, full year, or emergency teaching permit; obtain a bachelor‘s degree.
  • Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code R 390.1142 (full-year permit); R 390.1143 (substitute permit); and R 390.1144 (emergency permit).
  • Teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e., a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first eight grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich.Comp. Laws §§388.552; 388.553.

In 1993, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the above provision was unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. In  People v. DeJonge, a lawsuit filed by the fundamentalist Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 for DeJonge and invalidated the requirements mentioned above. Thus, State Line is under no statutory requirement as far as their teachers are concerned, and this is why most them have degrees from unaccredited fundamentalist Christian colleges.

Like all fundamentalist Christian schools, State Line has a strict code of conduct. While I was unable to find a copy of their student manual online, which is not uncommon for fundamentalist schools that want to hide their rules from prying eyes, I did find a 7th-12th grade student conduct agreement form (link no longer active) which must be signed by the student, the school administrator, and the student’s parent. The student must answer in the affirmative or negative to the following questions/statements:

  • Do you attend church regularly? Where?
  • Do you have any objections to saluting the United States Flag, the Christian Flag, or the Bible?
  • Do you understand that the goals and standards of State Line Christian School are based on principles found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
  • Have you read our Student Handbook carefully?
  • Is there any standard you do not understand? If answered yes, Which one?
  • Will you dress according to the standards of State Line Christian School?
  • Will you establish and have a daily time for devotions?
  • Will you honestly agree to keep all the school’s rules and respect authority without being critical and find fault?
  • Do you want to attend State Line Christian School?

After answering these questions, the student must READ ALOUD:

“As a student of State Line Christian School, I WILL NOT cheat, swear, smoke, gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, use indecent language, use drugs, or behave in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. I WILL maintain Christian standards in courtesy, kindness, morality and honesty. I WILL strive to be of unquestionable character in dress, conduct and other areas of my life. I WILL attend all weekly services of my church unless providentially hindered. I am willing by the enabling of God to refrain from anything good or bad which might cause others to stumble, to bring reproach to the cause of Christ, to cause disrespect to the glory of God, or to be a negative influence in the character development of myself or others. I will at all times seek to maintain a careful discipline and diligence in the pursuit of my academic opportunities. I will cooperate with those in authority over me and will personally maintain respect for properly placed authority.

I realize that keeping the standards depends upon my attitude and spirit towards the goals of Christian Education. My spirit depends upon my heart commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the goals He wants for me during my stay at State Line Christian School.

There is much evidence from Pastors, Christian Educators, and Christian Counselors across our nation that bad music, Hollywood movies,television, and bad companionship affects the character, spirit and performance of students. Any evidence that a student is under the influence or control of such will result in disciplinary measures.

While these standards will be strictly enforced, it needs to be understood that we are far more interested in a student’s spirit and attitude than outward conformity to the standards with a rebellious spirit. The student should know that attitudes show just like actions and will be approved or disapproved.

There are tens of thousands of churches like Lewis Ave Baptist Church and thousands of these churches have schools that are just like State Line Christian School. Thousands of American children are being educated in unaccredited schools, taught by non-certified teachers. These schools use fundamentalist Christian textbooks that teach evolution is a myth and promote American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism. Some of these schools don’t even use textbooks, using instead a self-guided curriculum published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) or Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

Secularists and humanists think educating children is vitally important. Having an educated populace is for our common good, and it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure every child is adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated. We expect the goverment to regulate schools in such a way that they provide a quality education for every child.

Fundamentalist Christian churches and schools have lobbied legislators and have used lawsuits to demand exemption from state laws that regulate what they can and can not do. In many states, they have been quite successful and this is why there are schools like State Line Christian School. Here in Ohio, any church can start a non-charted, unaccredited religious school. There are no regulations for such schools, and for families who choose to home school, the regulations are few. In others words, many states and local jurisdictions have abdicated their responsibility to regulate and investigate many of the schools that educate their children. (see How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio)

Even worse, right-wing politicians are working hard to pass voucher laws that enable private Christian schools to receive state funding with little or no oversight.  Thousands of American children have their private, religious education paid for by taxpayers. These voucher programs have caused a huge census and financial drain for many public school systems.

I put this post together so readers could see how a typical fundamentalist Christian school operates. I do not know anyone at State Line Christian School or Lewis Ave Baptist Church. They came up in a web search I was doing and I decided that they would be a good example of a non-accredited, private, fundamentalist Christian school.

Should these schools (and home schools) be permitted to operate outside the purview of federal, state, and local authorities? Should they be exempt from the laws that public schools must follow? Should we “trust” these schools to properly educate children without making sure they do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

My opinion? ALL schools should be strictly regulated by federal, state, and local government. They should receive NO public funding unless they are. I have no objection to religiously motivated private schools or homeschooling as long as they are properly regulated. We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.

If the Bible is God’s Word

guest-post

Guest post by Exrelayman

If the Bible were God’s word:

  • It would be perfectly engrossing. You would love reading it.
  • It would be perfectly clear. There would not be any disagreement anywhere about the meaning of any verse or passage.
  • It would be perfectly persuasive. People of any other faith would convert immediately upon reading this clear and persuasive message.
  • It would perfectly distributed to all the cultures of the world simultaneously, in their own language.
  • It would be perfectly indestructible. Neither years nor flood nor flame could mar or destroy it.
  • It would be perfectly original and accurate in all that it says.

In brief, it would be a perfect revelation proceeding from a perfect God.

And what do we observe in the real world:

  • Very hard to force yourself to slog through it. Most who profess Christianity don’t struggle through all the begats and directions for making temple garments. Very inferior to myriads of mere human novelists.
  • Earnest disagreement about what it actually says has led to thousands of differing denominations. Not so clear then.
  • It needs a bit of help. Pastors must spend Sundays being persuasive. Persuasive hymns and apologetics are needed. Heaven and hell must be dangled as carrot and stick to evince coercion through hope and fear and not clear evidential persuasion.
  • Given at one part of the world, the gospels especially,  through unknown biased writers at unknown places and times.
  • As susceptible to decay and destruction as any other book.
  • Sadly imitative, many other dying and resurrecting savior gods from surrounding cultures preceded the Christ story. The Old Testament stories largely derive from antecedent cultures also. Flatly in conflict with what science has discovered about the age of the Earth and the evolution of life upon it. Flatly contradictory with its own self in numerous places.

At each expectation of what the revelation of a perfect and powerful God would be like, the Bible fails. Now these expectations are admittedly subjective, so that each one of them might be arguable. But cumulatively they become, at least as I see it, irresistible. Thus the verdict that it is not a divine document, but is shown by its own nature to be the product of ignorant and superstitious men writing in ignorant and superstitious times.

The Love of God

love of god 2

Dear Human,

Let me, the one true and living God, show you my love by

Starving you

Burning your house down

Killing your children

Sending a tornado to destroy your community

Giving you a terminal disease

Giving you a child with a severe birth defect

Taking your health away

Reducing you to poverty

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

At times, I might even send other humans to

Rape you

Burn your village down

Spray agent orange on your village

Nuke your city

Falsely imprison you

Rob you

Murder your wife

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

There is nothing I won’t do to get you to love me

I will test you, try you, and destroy you, all so you will see that I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life

If necessary, I will reduce you to sitting in an ash heap scraping the puss from the boils that cover your body

I want you to know that I am the one true and living God

I do all these things, not to you, but for you

Surely, you can see that I love you

With much love and affection

GOD

Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation?

saved or lost

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Van asked:

In one of your recent posts, you made reference to the four different plans of salvation in the NT: one each from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and James. In that post you said Paul’s was the prevalent teaching in 21st century evangelical churches, and you expounded on Jesus’. Can you summarize the Peter and James plans, and ‘compare and contrast’ the four plans?

This is a great question. In the Old Testament, it is quite clear that salvation depended on the Israelite keeping the law of God. Evangelicals will go to great lengths to find the gospel of grace in the Old Testament, but such attempts are wishful thinking. Salvation belonged only to the Jews and was contingent on them keeping the Law. This was the religious system Jesus was born into, as were all the Apostles. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests Jesus repudiated the religion of his ancestors and parents. For many years, Christianity was considered a subset of Judaism.

I am of the opinion that Jesus’ Christianity is defined in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Any cursory reading of this passage reveals that Jesus’ Christianity was rooted in how a person lived. Jesus was saying, you want to be my disciple? This is how a disciple of mine lives. The Christian church would be well-served if it returned to the Christianity of Jesus. Imagine how much better off the world would be if Christians practiced the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Peter’s salvation was rooted in the laws of Judaism. While he was certainly a follower of Jesus, he believed, at least for a time, that a person had to be circumcised to be saved. He and Paul got into an argument over this issue. In Galatians 2 we find:

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

This passage reveals a sharp contrast between the gospel of Paul and the gospel of Peter and Barnabas, another man Paul had a falling-out with.  In Acts 15, we find that there was great controversy over whether a Gentile had to be circumcised to be saved:

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

A council was held in Jerusalem to settle the matter and the church decided that circumcision was not required for salvation. They did, however, give Gentiles the following commands:

..That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

James, who I think was the brother of Jesus, sets forth the conditions of his gospel in the book of James, chapter 2. Here, James says that faith without works is dead:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James is clear, a faith without works is no faith at all.

We find this same faith plus works gospel in the book of 1 John. Evangelicals rarely understand I John. Often used as a source text for proof texts, I John actually advances a works based salvation that goes so far as to say that any Christian who sins is not a child of God. Evangelicals love to quote 1 John 5:13:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Evangelicals love the part that says, that ye may know that ye have eternal life. They proudly say that they have a know-so salvation, yet they ignore the first part of the text where John says, these things have I written unto you. What things? The things John wrote in the previous four chapters —  things that clearly show that NO Evangelical is a child of God.

Paul, the supposed writer of most of the books in the New Testament, taught a gospel of right belief. While he often mentions the grace of God, God’s grace was contingent on believing the right things. A Christian was one who believed A, B, and C. In the book of Romans, Paul taught a gospel that Evangelicals have turned into what is commonly called the Romans Road:

  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
  • As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. Romans 3:10,11
  • For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
  • But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13
  • Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Romans 5:1
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 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. Romans 8:1,38,39

This is the gospel that dominates American Christianity. Various sects will throw in requirements like water baptism or being baptized with the Holy Ghost, but the main ingredients of their gospel can be found in the verses mentioned above.

Two thousand years removed from the time when Jesus walked along the shores of Galilee, it is clear that Paul’s gospel won the gospel battle. While many progressive/liberal Christians preach a more works-oriented social gospel, Evangelicals are very much the children of Paul. It is clear that there were competing gospels within in the early church. Anyone who suggests that the early Christian church had one gospel and was some sort of pure Christianity hasn’t read much of the Bible. They wrongly assume that what we now see in Christendom is what has always existed. As Steven Pinker pointed out in one of his books, Christianity is constantly evolving, giving birth to new Christianities. I suspect Paul, Peter, James, John and Jesus would find  21st century Christianity to be quite strange, perhaps even heretical.

Most Christians rarely read each book of the Bible as a stand-alone text. Instead, they invest vast amounts of energy trying to reconcile the various books of the Bible and the competing gospels found within their pages. I am not inclined to do so. I have no need to make my theology fit a particular system. What I see are competing gospels, and history tells me that Paul, for the most part, has won the gospel battle. These other gospels make an appearance here and there throughout history, but Christianity continues to be dominated by Paul’s gospel of believe the right things and thou shalt live.

This is a short explanation of the various gospels found in the Bible. It would require thousands of words to do this subject justice. I hope this post is enough to challenge Evangelical assumptions about Jesus, the gospel, and salvation. The Bible says, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, but as this post shows, such a claim is false, or some sort of ideal that has never been realized.

071116

Nancy Campbell Says Christians Shouldn’t Call Their Children Kids

gerencser granddaughters

Eight of our grand kids, who recently spent the night at Nana and Grandpa’s house. What a wonderful herd of goats.

Snark ahead

Fundamentalist Christian Nancy Campbell says Christians shouldn’t call their children kids. Campbell, who operates the Above Rubies website, had this to say:

The most common word for “children” in our society today is the word “kids.” Is this a word that God has chosen to call our children? We do not see it anywhere in the Bible in relation to children. In fact, if you check the 1928 Webster’s Dictionary you will not find this word for children. “Kids” is a modern word, which has been added in later years.

I have to confess that for a long time, I also used this word. I did not like the word and never felt that it was right, but I succumbed to the trend around me. How easily we do things just because everyone else is doing them, without thinking whether it is actually the best thing to do!

However, there came a time when I was challenged. I read an article about a sheep farmer in New Zealand. This farmer had diversified into raising goats, as well as sheep, and he noticed an interesting comparison. The ewes remained close to their lambs, watching them while they fed. He noticed, however, how the goats herded their young together in one spot on a knoll of a hill and left them while they went off to forage for the day. They did not provide the same individual attention which the sheep gave to their offspring.

My mind ticked over as I read this, but before I accepted it, I thought I should check out if it was really true. I asked my father who is an authority on sheep. He was the World Champion Sheep Shearer in his younger days and has shorn over a million sheep in his lifetime.

“Yes,” he said, “Sheep will never go further than earshot from the little lambs.”

I was very challenged. Has “kids” become the accepted word for children today, because we have become a generation of “goat mothers”? Instead of staying close to their lambs, thousands of mothers drop them off at nurseries and daycare, leaving their little “lambs” to fulfill their own careers. This is “goat mothering.” No wonder we call our children “kids”!..

…After realizing all this I decided that I did not want to be part of the goat company. I did not want to impose the goat character upon my children. Our children should be different from the children of the world. I therefore made an effort to stop using the word “‘kids.” And now I hate to hear other people using it.

Let’s start a revolution and eliminate the word “kids” from our society!

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s start a revolution and eliminate crazy fundamentalists ideas from our society! I just checked an old Webster Dictionary and it didn’t have words like computer, internet, website, or blog. Using Campbell’s dictionary logic, shouldn’t Christians refrain from using a computer, accessing the internet, building a website, or having a blog?  Oh Bruce, that is stupid. Yep, it is, just like Campbell’s assertion that calling children kids is akin to saying they are goats.

In Part Two of her anti-kids-word article, Campbell lists a number of “Biblical” names parents could call their children:

  • Gifts
  • Blessings
  • Heritage of the Lord
  • Fruit of the Womb
  • Beloved Fruit of the Womb
  • Rewards
  • Arrows
  • Olive Plants
  • Sons who are Mature Plants
  • Daughters who are Polished Cornerstones
  • Signs and Wonders
  • Lambs
  • Work of God’s Hands
  • Godly Seed
  • Glory
  • Crown

Campbell forgot one…tax deduction.

Fundamentalist  Catholic Marian Horvat thinks calling children kids is vulgar:

It was in the 1960s and 1970s that a slang term began to be introduced in certain circles that were trying to be up-to-date and modern. I am talking about the introduction of the word ‘kids’ used to refer to children…

…The word is all-pervading – “Buy Big Kids or Little Kids shoes or boots.” The implication, of course, is that we are all kids – frolicking little goats that never grow up. Then there is the “Big Songs for Little Kids” – gospel music for little goats?

Even nice restaurants, museums and exhibitions have taken to using the term: “Kids’ meals available,” “Kids under 12 enter free.” Book titles justify the word for parents and offspring: we have Real Kids’ Readers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Everything Kids’ Cookbook, and so on.

I realize that there will be critics who think I am overstating the ills of saying kids and not children. “There she goes again, making a mountain out of a molehill, nitpicking about what to call your kids as the world falls apart around us.”

Children, not kids, please… No, I am not just being finicky and pernickety. There are certain principles at stake in the matter.

Today we hear much about the importance of the dignity of man. At the same time, we adopt language, customs and dress that persistently reduce the dignity of men and women.

Need I recall the daily clothing of men and women – the unisex sweat suit, the tiresome blue jean and t-shirt, the perpetual tennis shoes – that diminish the dignity of men and erase differences in professions and social levels? Not to mention the immoral women’s fashions that give even teenage girls the appearance of women of the street, not children of God.

Our customs have likewise been transformed: Gone are the formal greetings, the polite address of Mr. Jones or Miss Greene, gentlemen opening doors for ladies, and so on. The list is interminable and gloomy for those – like my good Readers – who oppose the hippy Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and do all they can to oppose and fight it in the ambiences of their own homes.

But the Cultural Revolution does not just influence customs and clothing. The same leveling, vulgarizing trend has found its way into daily language, habituating a generation to accept common and egalitarian forms of speech. Men and women are addressed ambiguously as guys. Persons are said to crack up instead of laugh. They are no longer described as blushing, but turning red. Instead of distinguishing an event with an appropriate adjective, everything is cool – to the point that the word has no meaning. And children are, of course, just kids.

Young goats… Unfortunately, the term applies in many cases. Many children prance around, careen and react spontaneously to every stimulus or feeling like mountain goats, instead of well-disciplined boys and girls. Perhaps there is a lesson in the tendencies to be learned here: If you anticipate your children acting like young goats, call them kids. If you want your offspring to behave with decorum and Catholic manners, please call them children…

The damnable 1960s and 1970s, they are to blame for everything.  We baby boomers sure have fucked up the world. Children are now routinely called kids. Surely this is a sure sign of the coming goat apocalypse, a time when children who were called kids turn into zombie-like goats and cause untold havoc and destruction.  I beg parents to stop calling their children kids before it is too late!!

 

Shemitah: Those Crazy Charismatics and their False Gloom and Doom Prophecies

shemitah

Michael Snyder recently wrote an article for CHARISMA titled 10 Things That Are Going to Happen Within 15 Days of the End of the Shemitah.  Snyder thinks that bad times are coming soon:

Is a great shaking coming to America? An amazing convergence of events is going to take place during the last several weeks of September 2015.

Many are suggesting that this could indicate that something really big is about to happen. In fact, some vendors of emergency food are reporting shortages because so many people are stocking up on food and supplies in anticipation of what is coming…

…It all starts with the end of the Shemitah year on Sept. 13. During the last two cycles, we witnessed historic stock market crashes on the very last day of the Shemitah year (Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar)…

…On Sept. 29, 2008 (which was also Elul 29 on the biblical calendar), the Dow plummeted 777 points, which still today remains the greatest one-day stock market crash of all time in the United States.

Now we are in another Shemitah year. It began in the fall 2014, and it ends on Sept. 13, 2015.

So will we see a stock market crash in the United States on Sept. 13, 2015?

No we will not, because that day is a Sunday. So I can guarantee there will not be a stock market crash in the U.S. on that day. But as author Jonathan Cahn has pointed out in his book on the Shemitah, we have witnessed major stock market crashes happen just before the end of the Shemitah year and we have also witnessed major stock market crashes happen within just a few weeks after the end of the Shemitah year. So we are not necessarily looking at one particular date.

And this time around, a whole bunch of critical events just happen to fall in the period of time immediately following the end of the Shemitah year.

The following are 10 things that are going to happen within 15 days of the end of the Shemitah:

Sept. 14: Rosh Hashanah

Sept. 15: The Jade Helm military exercises are scheduled to end.

Sept. 15: The 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly begins on this date. It has been widely reported that France plans to introduce a resolution that will give formal U.N. Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state shortly after the new session begins…

Sept. 20 to Sept. 26: The “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel” sponsored by the World Council of Churches.

Sept. 21: The U.N. International Day Of Peace. Could this be the day when the U.N. Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state is actually adopted?

Sept. 23: Yom Kippur

Sept. 23: Pope Francis arrives at the White House to meet with Barack Obama….Francis is the 266th pope, and he will be meeting with President Obama on the 266th day of the year, leading one Internet preacher to wonder if “something is being birthed” on that day, since 266 days is the typical human gestation period from conception to birth.

Sept. 24: The Pope addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Sept. 25 to Sept. 27: The United Nations is going to launch a brand-new sustainable development agenda called “The 2030 Agenda.” …

…”Unlike Agenda 21, which primarily focused on the environment, the 2030 Agenda is truly a template for governing the entire planet. In addition to addressing climate change, it also sets ambitious goals for areas such as economics, health, energy, education, agriculture, gender equality and a whole host of other issues. As you will see below, this global initiative is being billed as a ‘new universal Agenda’ for humanity. If you are anything like me, alarm bells are going off in your head right about now.”

Sept. 28: This is the date when the Feast of Tabernacles begins. It is also the date for the last of the four blood moons that fall on biblical festival dates during 2014 and 2015…

…Many have also suggested that the Large Hadron Collider “is scheduled to perform a controversial experiment in September,” but so far I have been unable to find any solid confirmation of this.

Just recently, author Jonathan Cahn released a new video in which he expressed his belief that a “great shaking is coming to America and the world.” He points to the biblical pattern of desecration preceding judgment, and he is convinced that we recently witnessed a historic act of desecration here in the United States…

Snyder makes sure he covers his prophetical ass by saying:

I am fully convinced that the months ahead are going to dramatically change life in America, but whether it happens right now or not, I am 100-percent convinced that a great shaking is coming to this nation at some point.

Snyder operates The Economic Collapse website, a site with dozens of affiliate and advertising links. While Snyder dispenses all sorts of financial advice, the real purpose of his site is to make money for Michael Snyder. While the world collapses into to chaos, Snyder wants to make sure that he has a pile of gold and silver so he can continue to live the good life. Wait a minute, I thought the rapture was imminent? No worries, Jesus is delaying his return so people like Snyder, John Hagee, Jim Bakker, and the numerous charismatic TV preachers can gather up enough wealth to make them quite comfortable in God’s new heaven and earth. Either that or these preachers of doom and gloom are the descendants of Elmer Gantry, out to fleece the flock. My money is on the latter.

Thewhoopass charismatic landscape is littered with false prophecies, yet spirit-inspired prophets continue to utter prophecies, hoping that the gullible will forget the past, fear the future and keep sending them money. Driven by fear of the unknown, well-meaning Christians buy into the what people like Snyder are selling. Sadly, for many Christians, they’ve spent their whole life fearing things that never happen.  Could the U.S. stock market collapse? Sure. Could the U.S. economy collapse resulting in massive unemployment, inflation, and poverty? Sure.  But, if these things happen, is it because of God?

Uncounted Evangelical prognosticators are certain that God is going to judge the United States because of abortion, homosexuality, the legalization of same-sex marriage, or any of a number of Sodom and Gomorrah like sins. But, here’s what I don’t understand. If God judges wicked, vile, sinful America, won’t his judgment fall on devout, sincere Christians, the very people who are watchman on the wall and standing in the gap, two of the popular descriptions for those who love what God loves and hate what God hates?  What kind of God punishes people for doing what he commanded them to do? Shouldn’t God open a can of whoopass on people like me and give the faith the keys to a Mercedes? Why punish Team Jesus?

The U.S. stock market could collapse and the global economy could slide into a worldwide recession or depression, but the reasons for this will be greed, consumption, and market manipulation. No God needed. Humanity is quite capable of plunging the world into financial chaos all on its own.

Why Doesn’t God Hear and Answer the Prayers of Pro-Life Christians?

pray to end abortion

Millions of Christians, Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons are praying for the end of the murderous practice of abortion, yet fetuses continue to be aborted. Surely, millions of prayers from millions of Christians would get God’s attention, yes? Why is God ignoring these prayers? If God is pro-life, why doesn’t he do anything to stop abortion? If he is all-knowing, he knows who is going to have an abortion. If he is all-powerful, he has the capability to stop abortion. Millions of prayers prayed by millions of Christians each day to an all-knowing, all-powerful God, yet abortion doctors continue to perform abortion procedures. Why?

It’s been forty years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion and despite non-stop attempts to force Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics out of business, women continue to have abortions. Billions upon billions of prayers have been uttered, yet abortion continues unabated. Pro-life yard signs. Pro-life billboards. Pro-life newspaper ads. Pro-life websites. Pro-life videos. Pro-life pickets. Pro-life marches. Pro-life sermons. Pro-life laws. Pro-life politicians. Yet, women continue to have abortions.

Based on the evidence at hand, God is either dead, not listening, or is pro-choice. Christians claim that the one true God is the Christian God and that they are God’s chosen people, yet he has turned a deaf ear to their prayers. If abortion is the abomination Christians say it is and God does nothing about it, doesn’t this mean that he is either dead, powerless, or indifferent?  Perhaps it is time for Christians to accept the fact that their God is like Baal in 1 Kings 18. Elijah, when challenging the prophets of Baal to a God-duel, had this to say about Baal:

 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Perhaps the reason the Christian God hasn’t answered the earnest pleadings of pro-life Christians is that he is on vacation, sleeping, or using the toilet. Or perhaps the Christian God is a fiction, and that the only way to put an end to abortion is to work to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. Instead of waiting for God to do something, perhaps pro-lifers should embrace policies that drastically reduce the need for abortion. Instead of demonizing those of us who are pro-choice, how about working with us to make sure that teenagers and young adults have a comprehensive sex education and access to free birth control?  How about making sure every woman in the United States has access to birth control, thus eliminating the need for abortion? Or, you could just keep uttering prayers that make absolutely no difference.

pray to end abortion-001

I Am a Committee of One

godless atheist

I am one man.

I do not represent any group or any other person but myself.

I alone am responsible for what I do, say, or write.

I don’t represent my wife, children, extended family, or the family dog.

In the Gerencser family we don’t practice group-think and everyone is free to be whoever and whatever they want to be.

Yes, I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean my wife or children are.

Yes, I am a liberal, but that doesn’t mean my wife or children are.

Freethought applies to everyone in the Gerencser family, not just me.

It offends me when local Christians judge my wife or children based on what I do, say, or write.

They ask, in whispered voices, isn’t Bruce Gerencser their father or isn’t she married to Bruce Gerencser?

Evidently, being related to an atheist is an awful, dreadful thing. What drives such thinking? What makes Christians so judgmental that they refuse to treat people different from them with respect?

My wife and children are not me.

I am a committee of one.

I own what I do, say, and write.

I am not ashamed of what I do, say, and write.

I never been one to hide in shadows or use a pseudonym.

If you want to attack someone, attack me.

If you want to gossip about someone, gossip about me.

If you want to judge someone as worthy of the wrath of God, the judgment of God, and hell, judge me.

I don’t hide what I am, and I am not ashamed to say that I am an atheist.

I am not afraid to say that I think Christianity is a man-made religion and the Bible is a man-made book.

If you want to go after someone, if you want to attack someone, here I am.

Come out of the shadows.

Quit being the kind of gossips the Bible condemns.

Man up, woman up, and stand up for your God and your Bible.

Quit hurling anonymous, veiled invectives towards my family.

I am not hiding from you.

I am right here.

No need to question people with the last name of Gerencser as to their affiliation with me.

No need to demand answers from them when you read a newspaper article or blog post you don’t like.

No need to corner them at their place of employment or college classroom and demand they defend their father or husband.

I am right here. Leave a comment, send me an email, or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.

Only a coward goes after a man’s wife and children.  What’s next, going after my grandchildren.

While they are all related to me, they are not responsible for what I do, say, or write.

I alone am responsible.

I am a committee of one.

As an Unbeliever, Is it Possible to Have Christian Family and Friends?

problem of evil

Many of the readers of this blog are former Evangelical Christians. Some readers find themselves somewhere between faith and faithless, while others label themselves as spiritual, pagan, agnostic, or atheist. One thing is for certain, many of us are far away from the Evangelical church we once called home.

As we move away from Evangelical Christianity, we leave behind family and friends who are still Christian. One of the most difficult things we face is how to deal with Christian family and friends now that we are no longer a part of the Christian faith. Is it possible to have Christian friends? Is it possible to maintain a good, mutually satisfying relationship with family members who are Christian?

Many of us remember the exuberance we had when we first trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. New converts often have a spiritual high that lasts for a long time. New converts are much more likely to witness to non-Christians than people who have been Christians for a long time. So it is when a person leaves the Christian faith.  Often they are angry, filled with regret. Many times they have been spiritually abused by a pastor or a church. Sometimes, after careful study of the Bible, they come to the conclusion that they have been lied to, that the Bible is, at best a work of fiction, and at worst a book that has been used to manipulate and destroy.  To some degree, the new non-Christian has had a born-again experience. I tell people that I have been born again into humanity.  Often, people are excited about their new found non-faith faith. And just like the new Christian they want to share their new-found beliefs with others.

Granted there are some differences between the new Christian and the new non-Christian. The new Christian believes in heaven and hell. The new Christian believes there is one God, one book, and one salvation and unless a person embraces the new convert’s faith hell awaits them. The new non-Christian has a broad worldview. It is a live and let live worldview. While the new non-Christian is excited about what they have come to believe, they don’t think someone is going to heaven or hell if they don’t embrace the new non-Christian’s beliefs.

The Christian, young or old is duty bound to share their faith with others. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to EVERYONE, and everyone includes those who used to be practicing Christians. The non-Christian is not under any compulsion to evangelize. The non-Christian is often quite content to live out their life without ever sharing what they believe.  The Christian often shares their faith whether asked or not,  but as long as Christians do not force their beliefs on the non-Christian they often are not likely to say a word.  Each to their own, the non-Christian says.

Unfortunately, Christians are often not content to live and let live. Believing they have a mandate from God, they push their religious beliefs into every sphere of life, public and private. Many Christians are theocrats. They believe America is a Christian nation and that the Bible should be the divine law-book for all.

Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, we have a strict  separation of church and state.  The non-Christian usually demands that Christian beliefs should play no part in government. This is why non-Christians find the refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on the government official’s religion so maddening. They are a public servant, the non-Christian says. Do your damn job!  While many Christians, in public, support the separation of church and state, in private they espouse a no king but Jesus worldview. While they dare not expose their theocrat intent, behind the scenes they work to dethrone the God of this world and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. As one who follows the Evangelical church scene closely, I find the abandonment of the separation of church and state by Evangelicals and the rise of dominion theology to be quite troubling and dangerous.

It is in the arena of church and state issues that non-Christians and Evangelicals butt heads. Non-Christians are determined to keep the Christian church out of  government, while many Christians think that there is not enough Christianity in government. The non-Christian desires a secular state where everyone is free to worship any god they wish, or worship no god at all. Many Christians believe a secular state is an abomination and an affront to God. So the battle lines are drawn. As much as the non-Christian just wants to live and let live, they are forced into a battle with some Christians. They cannot idly sit by while Christians attempt to turn the United States into a Christian Taliban oriented theocracy. And for this reason, it is very hard to maintain productive relationships with Christian family and friends once we leave the Christian faith.

I am pro-choice.  I support gay rights. I oppose the teaching of creationism in schools. I oppose prayer in school and I oppose the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. I oppose Presidents and government officials being sworn in with their hand on the Bible. I am a  democratic socialist and I oppose consumer driven capitalism.  I support stripping churches and pastors of their tax exemption. I oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools or government buildings and I oppose any and all attempts to make the Bible the law of the land.

I am a liberal and a progressive. I support the ACLU. I regularly read magazines like Mother Jones,Harpers, The Progressive and Rolling Stone. I am so far to the  left that I often meet the ghost of Jerry Falwell coming around the corner. Yet, I support religious freedom.  I want every person to be free to worship or not worship according to their conscience.

As you can see, my life is an affront to the Evangelical. No matter how they look at me, my life is in direct contradiction and opposition to what they believe and practice. This is why it is very hard for a non-Christian to have meaningful relationships with Evangelical family and friends.

Several years ago, a friend of mine from many years ago found my blog. I met this man in the 1990’s when he became a member of a Christian Discussion mailing list, CHARIS,  I sponsored and moderated. I  had not heard from him in a long time. He left a comment for me. He didn’t try and be nice. He didn’t try to find out how I was. There was no attempt to catch up. Nope, he just left me two questions:

  • Is Jesus Christ the Son of God?
  • Is there any other way to God?

And so it goes…

Personally, I have given up any hope of trying to maintain relationships with Evangelical Christian friends and family.  The constant stress and battling wears on me. You who read this blog see the comments that are left by Christian family and friends of mine. Their comments are but the tip of the iceberg. Add the private emails, letters, tracts, and books that sent to me and the oppression of God’s chosen ones can be quite overwhelming

It seems that many of my Christian family and friends can not or will not leave me alone.  They think they can win me back to Jesus. They think if they argue with me long enough I will see the light.  They seem to think that after 25 years in the ministry that I am still lacking some sort of knowledge about the Christian faith, and that if they share that with me I will come running back to Jesus.

Several years ago, I  had one friend try to bully and badger me back to Jesus. Those who read my blog at the time likely remember what I call the Iggy Meltdown. This  so-called friend  bullied and badgered me until I finally had an epic emotional meltdown. I proceeded to launch a f-word laced tirade that left the air quite blue. (some readers might remember that Iggy was the man who repeatedly told me that he knew me better than I knew myself) It never dawns on some Christians that their bullying and badgering is anything BUT Christ-like. They are trying to win me back to Jesus using methods that Jesus would not approve of. And even if Jesus did approve of these methods, most thoughtful, decent people don’t. Badgering and bullying someone is never appropriate and it often drives people away.

I am very pessimistic about being able to maintain relationships with Christian family and friends, especially those who are Evangelical or part of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Over the past eight years, I have lost every Christian friend and ministerial colleague. I didn’t leave them, but they sure left me. Some abandoned me right away, others have hung on for years. Recently, I lost the friendship of people I have known for over 40 years. The pressure from other Christians over still being friends with the evil atheist Bruce Gerencser became too much. While I understand, it is disheartening to lose friends that hail back to the days when you attended elementary school together.

From time to time, former parishioners will look me, wondering what Polly and I are up to. When they find out we are no longer Christians and I am an outspoken public atheist with a blog dedicated to exposing and critiquing Evangelicalism, they often are so traumatized by this that they unfriend us on Facebook or never talk to us again. One former church member told me that she couldn’t be friends with me because she found my story too disconcerting. Another former church member, spent days telling me how sad he was over me being an atheist. Eventually, I unfriend him because I thought his constant God posts were directed at me. Out of the thousands of people I pastored, I am Facebook friends with six. All of them are from one church and were part of the youth group. Two are now gay, several of them no longer believe in God, and the rest are marginal church attenders or attend liberal churches.

Earlier this year, I scanned a large number of old photographs from several of the churches I pastored. I put them up on Facebook and tried to let those who were in the photos know that I had posted them. Only once person bothered to respond to me.  The rest ignored my email and I suspect some of them didn’t even view the photos. These were people I often had a very close relationship with. With some of them, I had relationships that went beyond the professional pastor/parishioner relationship. Why didn’t they respond? While I can’t say for certain, it is well-known now that the one time Evangelical pastor named Bruce Gerencser is now an atheist, an enemy of God, and I suspect many of them have done a web search on my name and found this site or the other sites I have written guest posts for. I can only imagine their shock when they find out I am an atheist.

Having said all of this, it is p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e to have a meaningful relationship with Christian family and friends. The only way such relationships work is if there is mutual respect and there are no attempts to evangelize.  Honest, open discussion is one thing.  I am quite open about my non-faith faith. I enjoy talking about the Bible, God, Jesus, theology, atheism, agnosticism and politics.  But, when the discussion turns to an attempt to convert me or reclaim me for Jesus, I quickly lose any interest in talking to the person. Time to get the check and go home.

I am quite willing to accept the Christian where they are and as they are. Rarely can a Christian do the same for me. As I have said before, I want friends who are willing to let me go to hell in peace. I want relationships based on honesty, openness and mutual respect and if I can’t have that I really don’t want to someone’s friend. While family relationships are a bit more dicey, OK A LOT more dicey, I am at a place in life where I am quite willing to distance myself from family who can’t go five minutes without putting a good word on for Jesus.

Life is too short, and since this is the only life I will ever have, I want to spend it doing things that matter and doing things that I enjoy. Arguing with Christians is not on my list of things I enjoy. I realize, at times, my blog provokes and angers Christians, and I know my words can be sharp and to the point. That’s the how I write, It’s who I am. That said, I am not looking for an argument. This blog is my attempt at sharing with others my journey.  Those who find my blog most helpful are those who are on a similar journey.

To my Christian family and friends I say this:

If you want to be my friend, if you want me to be a part of the family, then you are going to have to take me as I am.  Just as I am, without one plea from you. And If you can’t do that? It’s been good knowing you.

%d bloggers like this: