Tag Archive: Friendship

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

If you have not done so, please read the previous post on this subject here.

After posting Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend Part One, I read a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in this post.

Writing for A Clear Lens — an Evangelical apologetics blog — Nate Sala wrote:

A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.

….

We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and donts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

Read carefully what Sala says: friendship is a tool to be used in evangelizing non-Christians. In other words, it’s friendship based on deception, not honesty. Imagine if Evangelical zealots were honest and said, look I want to be your friend, but I only want to do so because I see you as a hell-bound, sin-laden, enemy of the Evangelical God who is headed for hell unless you buy what I am selling. Why, I suspect most people would say fuck off. Few of us want friends who can’t love and accept us as we are, where we are. And don’t tell me Evangelicals love everyone, loving them so much that they just have to tell them the truth — JESUS SAVES! Who wants friends who see them as defective in some way; friends who view them as broken; friends who see them as purposeless and empty; friends who cannot and will not love them as is, without conditions?

Evangelicals feign friendship so they can evangelize. True friends, on the other hand, enjoy your company and accept that differences are what make each of us special. Evangelicals look to convert, adding more minds to the Borg collective. Conformity, not diversity is the goal. Doubt that this is so? Ask your new Evangelical “friend” if, after you get saved, you can continue having gay sex and continue working for Planned Parenthood. Ask him or her if you and your significant other can have your same-sex wedding at their church.  Ask if you, as a gay man, can teach Sunday school or work in the nursery. Absurd, right?

I have no doubt Sala and other Evangelicals will object to my characterizations of their intent. However, I spent a lifetime in Evangelicalism. I know how Evangelicals operate. I know what lurks behind their “friendliness.”  I know that they use friendship as a means to an end, much like foreplay before sexual intercourse. Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations. No thanks.

For all I know, Nate Sala is a nice guy, as are many Evangelicals. I just wish they would all be honest about their intent when they lurk in the shadows hoping to befriend unwary “sinners.” While this might not generate as many club members, there will be no regrets come morning.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

Several times a month I receive emails from Evangelicals wanting to be “friends” with me. These emails invariably say that the writer is Evangelical, but not like the Evangelicals I focus on in my writing. Often, these writers attempt to “hook” me by saying that they totally understand why, based on reading about my past experiences, I would walk away from the ministry and Christianity. They too, I am told, would have done the same. Usually, these emails are filled with compliments about my transparency, openness, and honesty. These Evangelicals promise me that their motives are pure, that they have no desire to try to win me back to Jesus. All they want is an opportunity to show me “true” Christian love and friendship.

I also get frequent Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who, again, promise that they have no ulterior motive for friending me. Years ago, one such person friended me on Facebook. He knew everything about me, having read my blog and talked to his sister who was, at one time, a member of one of the churches I pastored. So, I friended him, thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was different from other Evangelicals. And for a while he was, but one day he became inflamed with righteous indignation over something I had written about Christianity. Our discussion quickly spun out of control, and the man unfriended me. He warned his sister about me, saying that I was satanic and Christians should avoid me lest I influence them with my demonic words.

These days, I simply do not respond to Evangelical friendship requests, be they via email or on social media. Last year, the president of a Christian college attempted to goad me into having lunch him by appealing to my desire for openness and understanding. This man told me that he just wanted to share a meal and hear my story. I told him, as I do anyone else who takes this approach, Look, I have written over two thousand blog posts. I have written extensively about my past and present life. If you really want to know about my life, READ!  If, after reading my writing, you have questions, email them to me and I will either answer them in an email or a blog post. Of course, this is not what these “friendly” Evangelicals want. They want a face-to-face meeting with me so they can probe my life, hoping to find that wrong beliefs led to my deconversion. Never mind that I have written numerous posts about my past beliefs. Everything someone could ever want to know about my life and beliefs can be found on this blog.

Perhaps the question these Evangelicals should ask is this: why would I want to be friends with you? What would a friendship with you bring to my life that I don’t already have? It’s not like I don’t have any friends. I do, and I am quite happy with the number of friends I have, both in the flesh and through the digital world. Not only that, but my wife of almost forty years is my best friend, and I am close with my six children and their families. I have all I need when it comes to human interaction. Why, then, would I want to be friends with Evangelicals who, as sure as I am sitting here, wants to evangelize me? Friendship Evangelism remains a tool churches and parachurch ministries use in their evangelistic efforts. Friendship becomes a pretext. The real goal is to see sinners saved. Promoters of Friendship Evangelism know that befriending people disarms them, making them more sensitive and receptive to whatever version of the Christian gospel they are promoting.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am pretty good at stalking people on the internet and social media. I have learned that you can tell a lot about people just by looking at their Facebook wall, along with the groups they are a part of and the pages they like. Recently, a local man contacted me, offering to buy me dinner with no strings attached. What, no expectations of sex after the date? Consider me a doubter. I decided to check out the man’s Facebook profile. I found out that he voted for Donald Trump and supports most of the Evangelical hot-button issues. He opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. We have nothing in common socially or politically, Why, then, would I want to be friends with him?

Friendships are generally built around shared beliefs. I don’t have any interest in being friends with people who voted for Donald Trump or support political views I consider anti-human, racist, bigoted, and misogynistic. And I sure as hell don’t befriend people who root for Michigan. I have standards, you know? Seriously, most of us have friends who hold to beliefs similar to our own. We might have a handful of friends who differ with us, but we find ways to forge meaningful relationships with such people. I am friends with several Evangelicals, but the main reason I am is that our friendships date back to the days when we were walking the halls of Lincoln Elementary. We’ve agreed not to talk about religion or politics. We share many common connections that make such discussions unnecessary. I am sure they fear for my “soul” and pray that I would return to the fold, but these things are never voiced to me. If they did attempt to evangelize me, it would most certainly put an end to our friendship.

To the man, these friendly Evangelicals believe that my life is missing something — Jesus — and is empty, lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. In their minds, only Jesus can meet my needs. Without him, what is the point of living another day, right? In their minds, Jesus is the end-all. Why would I want to trade the life I now have for Jesus? What can Jesus — a dead man — possibly offer me? Well, Bruce, these Evangelicals say, Jesus offers you forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and eternal bliss in Heaven. Surely, you want to go to Heaven when you die? Actually, I am content with life in the present. Threats of hell or promises of Heaven have no effect on me. Both are empty promises.

Why would I ever want to be friends with someone who believes that, unless I believe as they do, their God is going to torture me in a lake filled with fire and brimstone for eternity? This same God – knowing that my present body would, in hell, sizzle like a hog on a spit – lovingly plans to fit me with a special fireproof body that will be able to feel the pain of being roasted alive without being turned into a puddle of grease. What an awesome God! No thanks. I have no interest in being friends with anyone who thinks that this what lies in the future for me. I can’t stop (nor do I want to) such people from reading my writing, but I sure as hell don’t want to “fellowship” with them over dinner at the local Applebee’s.

I would like to make one offer to Evangelicals who want to be friends with Atheist Bruce. Fine, let’s go to the strip club and have drinks, and let’s do it on All Male Revue Night. I’m not all that interested in seeing males strip, but I thought taking these Evangelicals to such a place would help them to see how I feel when they view my life as lacking (naked) and in need of clothing (Jesus).

My life is what it is. True friends accept me as I am, no strings attached. Evangelicals, of course, have a tough time doing that. In their minds, Jesus is the end-all, the answer to all that ails the human race. Life is empty without the awesome threesome — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I spent fifty years in the Christian church. For half of those years, I was preaching the Evangelical gospel. I was, according to all who knew me, a devoted, zealous follower of Jesus. Whatever my faults may have been (and they were many), I loved Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. Deciding to walk away from the ministry and Christianity were the two hardest decisions I have ever made. Yet, my life in virtually every way is better today than it was when I was a Christian. Quite frankly, Christianity has nothing to offer me. I am content (well, as content as a perfectionist with OCPD can be, anyway) with life as it now is. Sure, life isn’t perfect, but all in all, I can say I am blessed. Yes, blessed. I am grateful for my wife, six children, and eleven (soon to be twelve) grandchildren. I am grateful that I can, with all the health problems I have, still stand, walk, and enjoy my life as a photographer. The advice I offer up to people on my ABOUT page sums up my view of life:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

For me, the game of life is late in the fourth quarter. I must focus my attention and energy on relationships that are mutually beneficial, relationships that offer love, kindness, and acceptance. No Evangelical worth his or her salt can offer me such a relationship. Lurking below the surface will be thoughts about how much better my life could be with Jesus and thoughts of what will happen to me if I die without repenting of my sins. Evangelicals who really believe what the Bible says can’t leave me alone. They dare not stand before God to give an account of their lives, only to be reminded that, when given the opportunity to evangelize the atheist ex-preacher Bruce Gerencser, they said and did nothing. And it is for these reasons that I cannot and will not befriend Evangelicals.

Read Part Two here.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Our Christians Friends Leave Us When We Deconvert

church is a family

One thing being a part of a church does for us is give us a community through which we find meaning, purpose, and identity. I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. For many years, I attended church twice on Sunday and on Wednesdays for prayer meeting. These church families I was a part of were central to my life. Most of my friendships were developed in connection with the church and my work as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I developed scores of friendships, not only with congregants but also with colleagues in the ministry. As a pastor, I would attend pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was at these meetings that I had opportunities to talk with my preacher friends, sharing with them my “burdens.”  We would laugh, cry and pray together, knowing that the bond we had as fellow followers of Jesus and God-called preachers of the gospel was rooted in loving each other as Christ Jesus loved us.  A handful of preachers became close, intimate friends with my wife and me. Our families would get together for food, fun, and fellowship — hallmarks of Baptist intimacy. We saw vulnerabilities in each other that our congregants never would. We could confide in each other, seeking advice on how to handle this or that problem or church member. When news of church difficulties came our way, we would call each other, or take each other out for lunch. These fellow men of God were dear to my heart, people that I expected to have as friends until I died.

As a teenager, I had lots of friends, male and female. Most of my friends were fellow church members, though I did have a few friends in the “world.” I always found it easy to meet new people and make friendships. I had no qualms about talking to complete strangers, a gift that suited me well as a pastor. As a nineteen-year-old boy, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I quickly made a lot of new friends, including one who sleeps beside me to this day. I lived in a dorm room with three other men. Virtually every waking hour of my life was spent with fellow students — at church, school, and social events. As anyone who has ever lived in a college dormitory will tell you, dorm life is busy and full of activity. Practical jokes were an everyday occurrence, and, as an expert joker, I found great satisfaction in pulling one over on my fellow students. I lived on a dormitory wing that was labeled the “party” wing. The other dormitory wing was called the “spiritual” wing. My fellow party-wing residents loved Jesus, but they loved having a good time too. The spiritual wing? They loved Jesus too, but frowned on doing anything that might be perceived as bawdy or mischievous.

One day, a pastor by the name of A.V. Henderson preached at chapel (students were required to attend chapel five days a week). I have preached and heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. I remember very few of them. I do, however, vividly remember Henderson’s sermon, even forty years later. Henderson was the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Temple was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch founded by Baptist luminary J. Frank Norris and later pastored by G.B. Vick. The 1970s were the zenith of the IFB church movement. Most of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Churches such as Temple Baptist were pastored by men who were great orators and pulpiteers. Henderson was no exception. Henderson’s chapel sermon was from the book of Job. It was, by all counts, a thrilling, rousing sermon. However, Henderson said something during his sermon that I didn’t, at the time, understand. He said, with that distinct Texas drawl of his, that people will go through life with very few true friendships; that most people were fortunate to have two or three lifelong friends. I thought at the time, what’s he talking about? I have lots of friends! Forty years later, I now know that A.V. Henderson was right; that true friends are rare indeed; that if you have two or three such friends, you should consider yourself fortunate.

Next Sunday, it will be nine years since I last attended church; nine years since I have listened to preaching; nine years since I have sung the hymns of the faith; nine years since I have dropped money in an offering plate; nine years since I broke bread with people I considered my family. In early 2009, I sent a letter to my family and friends detailing my loss of faith. You can read the letter here — Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. I grossly underestimated how people would respond to my letter. In a matter of days, I received angry, venomous emails, letters, and phone calls. One ministerial colleague drove four hours to my home, hoping to turn me back towards the faith. You can read the letter I sent to him here — Dear Friend. I was shocked by how hateful and vitriolic my friends were to me. And here I am nine years later, and I still, on occasion, hear from someone who knew me and is shocked over my betrayal of all that I once held dear.

The friendships of a lifetime are now gone — all of them, save my friendship with an Evangelical man I have known for fifty-two years (we walked to elementary school together). A.V. Henderson’s words ring true. I have one friend who has walked with me through every phase of my life. The rest of my “true” friends have written me off (2 Corinthians 6:14), kicked the dirt off their shoes (Mark 6:10, 11), or turned me over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (I Corinthians 5). I was naive to think that it could be any other way.

Many people believe in unconditional love. I know, at one time, I did. I have learned, however, that unconditional love is largely a myth. (Please read Does God Love Us Unconditionally?) Unconditional love suggests that nothing we do to those we love can break the bond we have with them. Many people carry the notion of unconditional love into their friendships. We think, these people love me, no matter what. They will always be my friends. And then something happens. In my case, I spit in the face of God, pissed on the blood of Jesus, and used the pages of the Bible to wipe my ass, so to speak. I repudiated everything I once believed, and in doing so called into question the beliefs of my friends. The bond that held our friendships together was our fealty to a set of theological beliefs. Once these beliefs were questioned and discarded by me, that bond was irreparably broken. If the connection Christians have with their churches is akin to family, then when people walk away from the beliefs and practices of these families, they are, in effect, divorcing themselves from their family.

Marital divorce tears the bond between husband and wife. When Christians divorce themselves from Jesus, the bonds they have with their friends are ripped asunder. While this divorce can be amicable, most often it is not. My divorce from Jesus and the church was very much like a high-profile tabloid divorce. And even though the judge signed the divorce decree nine years ago, repercussions remain to this day.

I have learned that few friendships last a lifetime. Most friendships are dependent on time and location. Remember all your friends who signed your high school yearbook? Are you still friends with them today? Remember the best-buds-for-life from your college days? What happened to those friendships? Were these relationships true friendships? Sure, but they weren’t meant to last a lifetime. And that’s okay.

I don’t blame my former friends for the failure of our friendships. I am the one who moved. I am the one who changed his beliefs. I am the one who ripped apart the bond of our friendship. I do, however, hold them accountable for their horrendous treatment of me once I deconverted. They could have hugged me and said, I don’t understand WHY you are doing this, but I appreciate the good times we had together. I wish you, Polly, and the kids well. Instead, I was treated like dog-shit on a shoe bottom; a person worthy of scorn, ridicule, and denunciation.  By treating me this way, they destroyed any chance of restoration. Why would I ever want to be friends again with people who treated me like the scum of the earth?

I have spent the past decade developing new friendships. These days, most of my friendships are digital — people that I will likely never meet face to face. This has resulted in Polly and me becoming closer, not only loving each other, but also enjoying each other’s company. For most of my marriage, Jesus, the church, and the ministry were my first loves. It’s not that I didn’t love my children and wife, I did. But they were never number one in my life, and Polly and the kids knew it. I was a God-called man who devoted his life to Jesus and the church. Polly knew that marrying a preacher meant that she and the kids would have to share me with the church. Little did she know that she would spend way too many years getting leftovers from a man who loved her but was worn out from burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Now that religion no longer gets between us, Polly and I are free to forge an unencumbered relationship. We have always loved each other, but what has now changed is that we really like each other too and are best friends. And in Polly I have found one of the true friends A.V. Henderson preached about forty years ago. I am indeed, blessed.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends

lets be friendsIt is not uncommon for me to receive emails and Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who really, really, really want to be my friend. These What a Friend We Have in Jesus Christians think that the reason I am no longer a follower of Jesus is because I never had good Christian friends. In fact, during my years as an Evangelical church member and pastor, I had countless friends, including several men I would have considered my BFFs — best friends forever. (These best friends of mine had a different definition of forever, abandoning me once I started having doubts about Christianity and my faith.)

In November 2008, my divorce from Jesus was final, and those who once called me friend turned to praying for me, preaching sermons about me, gossiping about me, and sending me caustic, judgmental emails. Into this friendless void jump Evangelicals eager to be “real” friends with Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. Why do these friendship seekers want to be friends with me?

Some of them naïvely think that if I am just willing to be exposed to their kind, compassionate, loving version of Christianity that I will somehow, some way, be drawn back into the Evangelical fold. Their goal is the restoration of Bruce Gerencser. In other words, their offer of friendship has an ulterior motive — to win me back to Jesus.

Such attempts to be friends with me irritate the hell out me. I hate it when people, regardless of the reason, have ulterior motives when contacting me. Generally, I can spot ulterior motives a mile away. Depending of my mood, I might respond to these secret agents for Jesus by asking, what is it that you REALLY want?  Cut the bullshit and tell me what it is you really want from me.

I have zero interest in having meaningful friendships with Evangelicals. I am fine with being acquainted with or doing business with Evangelicals, but I have no desire to have them over for dinner or to get our families together on the Fourth of July. And the reasons for this are not what Evangelicals might think. No, I don’t hate God, Christianity, or the Bible. None of the reasons Evangelicals think atheists are “unfriendly” apply here. Not that I am unfriendly. People who know me — saved or lost — know that I am a kind, compassionate, loving man with, when provoked, a bit of a quick-to-rise-and-recede redheaded temper. I am kind to animals, don’t step on ants, and don’t kill spiders. I lovingly endure my grandchildren jumping on me as if they are fighting in a MMA match, even though my body screams in pain.  I love my friends, neighbors, and family. I get along well with others, even when put in circumstances made difficult by the airing political and religious viewpoints I oppose. Simply put, on most days, I am a good man, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. Like everyone, I fall short in my relationships with others. When I hurt those who matter to me, I do my best to make things right. So whatever stereotype these friendship seekers might have of atheists, I don’t fit the bill.

The one and only reason I don’t befriend Evangelicals is their belief about hell.  Evangelicals believe that all humans are sinners, and without putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they will go to hell — a place where all non-Christians spend eternity suffering eternal damnation in utter darkness and searing flames. Knowing that the high temperatures in hell (and later, the Lake of Fire) would turn unsaved humans into sizzling grease spots, the Evangelical God of love gives them bodies capable of enduring never-ending pain and suffering. What a wonderful God, right?

I will soon be sixty years old. Sometime beyond this moment, I will draw my last breath. According to Evangelicals, the very next moment after I close my eyes in death, I will awake in hell, ready to begin my eternal sentence of unimaginable pain and suffering. (A theological point in passing. Most Evangelicals believe what I just wrote; however, according to orthodox Christian theology, God doesn’t give the saved and lost new bodies until Resurrection Day. So, I am not sure what it is that suffers when I land in hell, but it won’t be my body. Maybe my suffering will come from my mind be subjected to a never-ending loop of Evangelical sermons and praise and worship ditties.)

Why, you ask, will I be tortured by God in hell for eternity? One reason, and one reason alone — I do not believe Jesus is anything Christians say he is. And since Jesus is not God, not a Savior, and not divine in any way, and I see no evidence of his eternal existence in the present world, I have no reason to worship him. No matter how good a man I might be, all that matters when it comes to an eternity spent in heaven or hell is if I have checked the box on the Evangelical decision card that says: Yes, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me from my sins.

So, I ask you, WHY in the names of all humanity’s gods would I want to be friends with anyone who thinks I deserve to be put on the Evangelical God’s rack and stretched for years without end? You see, dear friendship seeker, it is your belief about hell and my eternal destiny that makes it impossible for me to be your friend. No, hell isn’t real, and I don’t fear what may come of me after death, but you believe these things to be true and they stand in the way of us having a meaningful friendship. I am thoroughly convinced that in this life and this life alone do I have immortality. Once death claims me for its own, I will cease to be. Those who were friends with me, will hopefully toast my life, telling their favorite Bruce stories. In time, as is the case for all of us, I will be but a fading memory, a mere blip on the screen of human life.

Bruce, surely you can ignore their beliefs about hell and accept their offer of friendship. Sure, I could, but why should I? Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I deserve eternal punishment, who thinks I have done anything to deserve being endlessly tortured by God. Life is too short for me to give my friendship to people who believe their God plans to eternally roast me in the Lake of Fire if I don’t believe as they do.

These days, I have two Evangelical friends, whom I have known for fifty years and thirty years, respectfully. Our friendship works because we do not discuss religion or politics (unless asked). We have many things in common — children, grandchildren, love of good food, Cincinnati Reds — so we have no need to talk about the things not spoken of in polite company. I remain their friends, first, because I love them, and second, because I have a lot of years invested in our friendship. If these dear friends of mine were new acquaintances today, I highly doubt we would be friends.

Well, fine, Bruce, I WON’T be friends with you!!!  Okey dokey, smoky, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I am too old to care whether someone is my friend or likes me. These days, my friend list is short, but those who are on it love and support me, and I am grateful for them being in my life. To Evangelicals who are butt-hurt because I won’t play in the sandbox with them, I say this: pick a new God who is not a violent, murderous psychopath and worship her. Then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. As long as you hold the company line concerning sin, death, judgment, and hell, I will not be your friend.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Make Jesus Your Best Friend

jesus best friend

This is the one hundred and third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video featuring puppets singing about making Jesus your best friend.

Video Link

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.

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.

We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town

 

we love people

Have you ever read an Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church advertisement or sign that said  First Baptist Church, The Friendliest Church in Town or We LOVE People? No one ever bothers to ask, so are all the other congregations in town churches that hate people and are unfriendly?

Churches that talk about their love for people and how friendly they are sincerely think these advertising slogans true. To them, shaking hands with visitors, making them feel at home, and letting them know where the nursery and bathrooms are, shows that they are a people loving, friendly church. The question I ask is this, WHY does this or that church love people and befriend newcomers? What is their motive for being so loving and friendly?  Most often, their motive is to win lost souls to Jesus, resulting in increased attendance. And more people=more money in the offering plate. Like any business, their goal is to gain customers, increase revenues, and expand the business.

Ask any Evangelical pastor or church member if their church loves people and they will say, Of course we do! We love people like Jesus loved people. We love our neighbors like we love ourselves. But, this is no disinterested love. This is a love that has an ulterior motive. It is a love that has conversion and assimilation as its goal. Just ask them if a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage can join the church or teach Sunday school and you will find out quickly how little they actually love other people.

Their Jesus is a Jesus that loves people so much that he does not leave them where they are or as they are. Their Jesus changes and transforms people, so their objective is to love and befriend people so that might be saved (changed and transformed) and become a part of their church. That’s what their Jesus is all about, making more church members. (Matthew 28:19,20)  Sounds crass, but any Evangelicals pastor who tells you church attendance numbers don’t matter is lying.

Compare the Evangelical love for people to a love that accepts people as they are and where they are. There is a big difference between the Evangelical love for people and loving and befriending people with no expectation of return. In some liberal/mainline churches I think such an approach to love and friendship exists, but I’ve never seen it in the Evangelical or IFB church. And I just know a commenter is going to scream that THEIR church is different. Sure it is.

Once a unaware newcomer is friended and loved to Jesus and made a part of the church, it is on to new people to pretend friend. For those taken in by the friendliest church in town advertising campaign, they quickly learn that the church is no more or less friendly than any other church or social group. In every church there are kind, decent, friendly people. There are also people, sometimes the pastor, who are mean, nasty, and unfriendly. Sadly, in churches that are more fundamentalist, the church’s initial friendliness quickly dissipates and is replaced with demands to conform, legalism, and a quick unfriending if you do not fall in line.

Ask anyone who has deconverted. What happened to all those friends they had while attending the friendliest church in town? Once a person leaves the church they often find out how unfriendly the church really is. They find out that friendship was a lure, a scam. The true nature of a church is revealed by how it treats those who leave the church, regardless of their reason for leaving.

Why Ex-Christians Don’t Trust Evangelicals

lets be friends

Evangelicals get upset when ex-Christians such as I question, deflect, or reject their “love” and “friendship.” Several years ago, on a post that is no longer available, the following discussion took place:

TW: @John & Erin, Hi. I also have a Pentecostal background (A/G to be exact), and was a youth pastor & worship pastor (not at the same time, youth for 13 years, worship for 10 years). I would very much love to talk to both of you and share experiences. I left the A/G at the end of 2011 (out 2 years now), and while I am still a believer, I completely denounced all of the BS nonsense that the A/G promotes, like speaking in tongues, faith healing, etc.

If you are both amenable to chatting further, Bruce (if he doesn’t mind doing this), can forward my email address to you both and you can contact me, just let him know. And Erin, I know exactly what you mean when you say you can still “speak in tongues on demand”, haha!

Erin: TW: I appreciate the offer, and respect that you’ve left the AG, but because you are still a believer, I would want to know a little more what you’d like to “chat” about.  As a former-christian-now-atheist, I’ve run into these “chats” a few times before that really only have one ulterior motive. I’m not assuming this is true of you, but I’d like to know more what you’re thinking first. Thanks!

John: I am glad that you have managed to escape the Pentecostal movement.

You say that you are still ‘a believer’. Does this mean that you are a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical or have you moved to some form of non-Evangelical Christianity? If the latter, I am open to the idea of chatting with you further about the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements.

I have informed Bruce that he can pass me email address onto you and you can contact me. Even if you are some kind of open evangelical, I am willing to discuss the ‘tongues movement’ with you further.

What I am not open to is any subtle or direct attempt to try and reconvert me to Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism. If you do try to attempt this, I will close off further discussion. I consider both Fundamentalism and most of Evangelicalism to be religions of psychological, emotional and intellectual oppression and don’t wish to be sucked back into those camps, ever again.

So, if you are willing to stick to topics related to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements and their problems, i am open to further discussion with you.

Why are Erin and John so hesitant to correspond with TW? The answer is this: they have had many of these kind of conversations already, and rarely, if ever, do they turn out well. Now let me explain why they don’t turn out well.

Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. They believe people must have a personal relationship with Jesus to go to heaven when they die. Everyone who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus will go to hell when they die. Evangelicals believe the Bible/God/Jesus has commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person whether the latter want to hear it or not. They believe all other Gods are false Gods and all other religions are false religions. In their minds, Jesus is THE WAY, not a way, THE TRUTH, not a truth, and THE LIFE, not a life. Simply put, it is Jesus or hell, choose!

People like Erin, John, and i know that Evangelicals have a pathological need to evangelize. While they may say they just want to be friends or get to know us better, what they really want to do is win us back to Jesus. How could it be otherwise? If Evangelicals really believe the Bible is what they say it is, that Jesus really is the only way, truth, and life, and hell awaits those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, how can they not attempt to evangelize everyone they come in contact with? In fact, I would say if they DON’T evangelize they are being disobedient to the clear teachings of the Bible (as read through the eyes of an Evangelical).

When Evangelicals want to be my friend, get to know me, correspond with me, etc. I immediately wonder what their real motive is. When I ask them about their motive, they almost always assure me their motive is pure, that they really just want to be my friend. However, after eight years of having Evangelicals sincerely tell me they just want to be my friend, the truth is, in EVERY instance, over time, their true motive became known. While I am sure there are Evangelicals who can be friends with an ex-Christian without trying to evangelize them or win them back to Jesus, I just haven’t met any.

One man, a preacher and the brother-in-law of a dear friend of mine, friended me on Facebook a few years ago. While he was quite disturbed by my deconversion, he told me he just wanted to be my friend. When his sister-in-law found out about it, she warned him to NOT try to evangelize me or be preachy. Our friendship didn’t last two weeks. I wrote something that infuriated him, he double-barrel blasted me with the Bible gun, told me I was a bad influence on people, and unfriended me (picture a toddler picking up his toys and stomping off to his room). He later told his sister-in-law and brother-in-law that they should avoid me and not be friends with me because I was a tool of Satan and a bad influence. Fortunately, they ignored his advice and they remain my friends. (They are my only Evangelical friends)

Another man, a local Evangelical preacher, tried a few years ago to befriend me. He and I corresponded a bit and he would comment from time to time on this blog (in one of its previous iterations). He friended me on Facebook and we began having more serious discussions in private. But, as with all such friendships, it quickly came to an end when he began having doubts about his call to the ministry and even his faith. My discussions with him were quite unsettling, so instead of honestly dealing with the questions and doubts, he determined I was the problem and unfriended me, stopped answering my emails, and stopped commenting on my blog.

Who can forget Evangelical Baptist preacher Marty? Marty was a regular reader of this blog and commented frequently. He had me questioning whether I was wrong about Evangelicals being able to be friends with someone like me. I thought maybe Marty was “the one!”  Marty’s friendliness went on for several months until I began to notice an increased level of hostility in his comments. And sure enough, one day the shit hit the fan and Marty went full-bore fundamentalist on me. He told me, well told everyone since it was in a blog comment, that he knew the REAL reason I was not a Christian. When pressed to disclose this reason, he refused to do so. The discussions became more shrill, Marty became defensive and preachy, and eventually I had to ban Marty from commenting. In one of his last comments, Marty whined and complained about being persecuted by me and other atheists who responded to his comments.

I could share dozens of similar stories that illustrate why many ex-Christians rebuff attempts by Evangelicals to befriend them.  Here are a few things I have learned from all of these failed pseudo-friendships:

  • Evangelicals are certain they are right and I am wrong
  • Evangelicals are certain there is some “secret” reason I am no longer a Christian
  • Evangelicals are certain I have been hurt or abused and that is why I am no longer a pastor or a Christian
  • Evangelicals are certain that they are the one who can bring me back into the fold, thus gaining a notch on their gospel gun for doing so
  • Evangelicals are certain my intellectual reasons for deconverting are a façade hiding the real reason(s) I am no longer a Christian.

In other words, they can never be my friend because they are unable to love me and accept me as I am. They love Jesus too much to leave me in my present state. I am like a beautiful woman who is constantly chased by suitors. As soon as a potential suitor comes sniffing around she asks them, do really want to woo me, love me and marry me or, pardon the bluntness, do you just want to fuck me? Quite honestly, a lot of Evangelical zealots just want to spiritually fuck me. When I wake up in the morning, they will be gone, off to fuck other sinners for Jesus.

Perhaps today will be the day that an Evangelical befriends me, accepts me as I am, and loves me so much that he will let me go to hell. I doubt it, but like my lack of belief in God, it is “possible” there really is an Evangelical somewhere who values personal relationships more than right beliefs. I just haven’t met one yet.

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A Moment of Kindness Remembered for a Lifetime

kindness

It’s early spring in NW Ohio, the year is 1972.

A fourteen-year-old boy is playing with his Lionel trains in the basement of a rented house on Cherry St. in Findlay, Ohio.  He loves playing with the trains, a love picked up from working at his Dad’s hobby store.

The boy hears footsteps coming down the basement stairs. It’s his Dad.

His Dad says, I need to talk to you.

This is strange, the boy thought. Dad never talks to me about anything.

Your Mom and I don’t love each other anymore, says the boy’s Dad, and we are getting a divorce.

And just like that, whatever shred of family the boy had was destroyed.

It wasn’t long before the divorce was final.

The boy is in ninth grade and it is graduation time. His parents both want to come to his graduation but the boy says, I am not going to graduation, and that was that.

Tenth grade. High School. All the ninth graders from Central, Donnell, and Glenwood would join the older students at Findlay High School, making the school one of the largest in Ohio.

The boy’s friends would all be there, His school friends, his church friends, and the boys he played baseball and basketball with.

The boy’s Dad remarried, a girl 18 years younger than his Dad. She has a baby. In a few short years the boy would be dating women the age of his Dad’s new wife. She was never more than Dad’s new wife. The boy had a mother, and he only needed one of those.

Fall turned to Winter and then one early Spring day the boy’s Dad says, we are moving to Arizona.

What? the boy thought. You can’t do this to me. All my friends are here. You promised, no more moving. Two and one-half years, the longest the boy ever lived in one place, and now he had to move.

Upset, angry, bitter, and no one seemed to care.

On a Saturday in March, 1973 the auctioneer’s voice rang out and everything but essentials are sold to strangers who came to gawk at household goods.  And with auction proceeds in hand the Gerencsers pile into two cars and move to Tucson, Arizona. Later and the finance company would track down the boy’s Dad and repossess the cars. When the boy became a man he then understood why he had to move so suddenly and quickly 1,900 miles from his home.

The boy, despite hating his Dad for taking him away from his friends, is excited about the prospect of traveling across the country. So many things to see, so many new experiences to be had.

The first thing the boy does is find a new church to attend. Isn’t amazing, the boy thought, right in our backyard is the Tucson Baptist Temple, a Baptist Bible Fellowship church! Just like the church in Findlay, this must be God working things out, the boy quietly hopes.

The Tucson Baptist Temple was a large church pastored by Louis Johnson, a preacher from Kentucky. The boy joined the church and started attending youth group. But, try as he might he couldn’t make friends. It wasn’t like his church home in Findlay where the boy had all kinds of friends, and even a few girl church friends.  He feels very much alone.

With the move, the boy has to ride a city bus to his new school, Rincon High School. Right away he notices that some of the kids from the youth group attended Rincon, but they pretend they don’t know him. He feels quite alone.

Rincon had what was called open lunch. Every day the boy would go outside and sit on the grass and eat his lunch. One day, a beautiful Asian girl comes near the boy and sits down to eat her lunch. She is warm and friendly, and treats the boy like she has known him for years. And for the next ten weeks, on most days, she ate lunch with the boy from Ohio. Outside of the fat boy everyone made fun of who rode the bus, this would be the only friend the boy would make.

And then came summer, and the boy hopped a Greyhound bus and moved back to Ohio. With the help of his church and friends, the boy was able to go back to his old school, his old church, with his old friends. Life for the next year was grand, just as if he had never left.

The boy would have to move to his Mom’s home at the end of the school year. This move brought great unrest and turmoil to the boy’s life, but that is a story for another day.

The boy is an old man now, and as he watches The Sing-Off, he sees a girl that brings to his mind a time long ago, when a beautiful girl took the time to befriend a friendless boy from Ohio. It reminds him that moments of kindness are often remembered for a lifetime.

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