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Tag: Friendship

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.

Bruce Gerencser