Evangelicals are widely regarded as people who preach bigotry and hate. Defenders of the One True Faith® say that this is a stereotype; that Evangelicals are people of love — a love for God and love for their fellow man. I contend that this is not a stereotype at all, that evidence found on social media, blogs, Christian news sites, and anecdotal stories amply prove that generally, Evangelicals are hateful bigots; that they are so immersed in Republican politics and fighting the culture war that they are blind to or don’t care how their words and actions are perceived. This is especially true when it comes to homosexuality, LGBTQ people, and same-sex marriage.
A local non-Christian recently told me about a new employee at her place of employment. The new employee is in her late 20s, the wife of a pastor of a nearby mid-sized Evangelical church. This new employee has only been there for a short while, but she is already known for her rants about gays; about how evil homosexuality and same-sex marriage are; about how awful it is that TV programs show gay people in a positive light.
The business is owned by an Evangelical couple, so I am quite sure the new employee “assumes” everyone thinks as she does; that everyone agrees with her about gays and same-sex marriage. When you live in a religious monoculture, such thinking is not uncommon. As an atheist, humanist, and Democratic Socialist, I find it frustrating that family, friends, doctors, nurses, business owners, dog groomers, car salesmen, auto mechanics, and other sundry acquaintances assume that I agree with them on religious, political, and social matters. I don’t. If I responded every time a local Bible thumper spewed bigotry and hate, that’s all I would get done. There are days I feel like I am Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, or Elizabeth Warren at a Ted Nugent or Charlie Daniels concert. Not a comfortable place to be.
Some Evangelicals argue that people such as the new employee are just speaking the “truth” in “love”; that they love the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world so much that they just have to tell them the “truth.” Fine, but perception is everything. And constantly ranting about homo sex, gays on TV programs, LGBTQ people, and same-sex marriage makes you look bad. From my perspective, if it walks, talks, and acts like a hateful bigot, it is one. Don’t want people to think of you this way? Then shut your damn mouth and keep your homophobia to yourself. By all means, when you go to church on Sundays to worship the gay Jesus — he did travel with twelve MEN, you know — let your hate hang out, and let your brethren in the Lord know how oppressed you felt while mingling with the lost. But when you come to work on Monday or go to store or attend your class reunion, please, unless asked, keep your anti-gay preaching to yourself. Want people to think well of you? Then treat everyone with decency and respect, and don’t assume that everyone thinks and believes as you do.
My words, of course, will fall on deaf ears. We live in a day when Evangelicals are drunk with political power, and with this power they intend to undo the social progress of the past one hundred years and force unbelievers to live their lives according to the moral dictates of the Bible. One need only to watch the battle over abortion to see what Evangelicals, along with Mormons and conservative Catholics, have in store for the rest of us. In their minds, the United States was founded according to the principles and teachings of the Christian Bible; that the United States was divinely chosen by God to be a shining light in a dark world; that “others” should be tolerated as long as they understand that the United States is GOD’S country. USA! USA! USA! Don’t think for a moment that Evangelical zealots aren’t working behind the scenes and in courts and legislatures to rollback or eliminate civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. They are, and they won’t rest until Jesus sits on a throne at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, ruling with a rod of iron.
Knowing the unbeliever mentioned above, I suspect that the new employee is going to find out that everyone does not think as she does. Sometimes, bigots and haters just need to be put in their place.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.
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Spend enough time in the trenches fighting against Evangelical apologists and you will more than likely be told by one or more of your combatants, I love you. Over the past decade, I have had countless Christians say they loved me. Recently, a particularly obnoxious Evangelical told me this and I replied, sorry, I am not gay. The man in question missed my dripping sarcasm and thought I was making some sort of homophobic slur. What I wanted this zealot to see is that I didn’t buy the notion that he “loved” me. In fact, based on my understanding of love, none of the Christian Romeos who have professed their love to me, actually do.
Evangelicals are taught from an early age that God commands them to love everyone; that demonstrating this love is evidence that they are children of God; that the two great commands are love God and love your fellow-man. Why is it then, that some of the nastiest, most hateful people on earth are Evangelicals? Long-time readers of this blog have witnessed numerous Evangelicals spew venomous bile in their comments about something I have written. Yet, these preachers of hate can turn right around and say, Bruce, I love you (and sometimes add, and God does too).
Many Evangelical apologists believe that telling people the “truth” — truth being their interpretation of a Bronze Age religious text — is an act of “love.” When confronted with their hateful, bombastic words, Evangelicals will often respond, I am just telling you what God says! In other words, God is to blame for their words, not they themselves. What a cop-out, right? This allows Evangelicals to rail against LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, abortionists, liberals, Catholics, and atheists without being held accountable for their words. All these zealots are saying is, THUS SAITH THE LORD!
People raised in Evangelical churches likely remember being told by their pastors that Christians are to speak the truth in love. This idea is found in Ephesians 4:15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. However, when taken in context, this verse teaches that Christian pastors and evangelists are to speak the truth in love to the CHURCH, not the world at large. Context is a bitch, eh?
Evangelical apologists who use hate and bigotry to preach their warped gospel of “love” do great damage to their cause when behaving in ways that cause non-Christians to feel hurt and shame. Of course, these zealots think that feeling “guilty” after being preached at is a sure sign of Holy Ghost conviction. I sat in countless church services growing up where a “man of God” stomped, spit, and thundered as he savaged the congregation for whatever behavior(s) he deemed an affront to the thrice holy God. A preacher skilled at manipulating human emotions can cause congregants to suffer emotional stress; that, come invitation time, will result in much weeping and wailing at the church altar. And then at the next preacher’s meeting, pastors will share stories about how God used their sermons to bring conviction and repentance. No, what brought conviction and repentance was skillful manipulation of human emotions.
True love is not found in words. Countless men have told women they “loved” them just so they could have sex with them. Women suffer and endure physical abuse because their abusers apologize and say, I love you. The Bible says that the Christian God is a God of love. However, his behavior suggests otherwise; that God is, in fact, a mean, violent, sadistic son-of-a-bitch. There’s nothing in the Bible that remotely suggests that God is a loving deity. What about God demonstrating his love to us in the atoning death of Jesus? Sorry, but even here, God comes off as a bad person. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father violently and viciously punished Jesus, his Son, on a Roman cross. The father’s torture of his son led to his death. Why did the Father do this to his Son? Not because of anything he did. Oh no, God rained physical terror down upon Jesus because of what other people did — namely the human race. What kind of father acts this way toward his innocent progeny? Love? Not a chance. The death of Jesus and his father’s culpability in his death is better suited for an American Horror Story series or an episode of Criminal Minds.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Charity never faileth….And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
When is the last time you have seen this kind of love coming from Evangelicals — especially those who roam the internet and social media seeking opportunities to attack and condemn unbelievers? Not often, if ever.
Many Evangelicals believe that they have a duty to tell sinners (anyone who doesn’t believe as they do) the “truth.” It matters not whether they were given permission to do so. Sinners need to hear the gospel even if they don’t want to. These soulwinners likely have been told by their pastors that if they don’t witness to sinners when given the opportunity and these sinners die and go to hell, God will hold them accountable for the sinners doing to hell. Ezekiel 33:8,9 says:
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
The majority of Evangelicals never share their faith, never witness, never preach the gospel to sinners. They might invite those sinners to church so their preacher can evangelize them, but outside of that, most Evangelicals keep the world’s greatest story to themselves (and we should be very glad that they do). The remaining few believe God has commanded them to preach the truth in love. Unbelievers, like it or not, will have to endure being harassed, cajoled, and shit upon by people who “love” them.
I spent fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent “loving” people as detailed in this post. This warped idea of love caused me to view unsaved family members, friends, and neighbors as prospects for heaven. I wasn’t interested in them as individuals. All that mattered were their souls. If I determined they were unsaved, I attempted to evangelize them — either verbally or by giving them literature/tracts. Holidays with unsaved family were opportunities to witness to my heathen relatives. Several times a year, I would have evangelists come and preach to the churches I pastored. The evangelists and I, along with zealous congregants, would make a concerted effort to knock on doors and witness to the lost. I would ask church members to submit the names and addresses of people they believed needed salvation. We would then go visit these sinners and attempt to evangelize them. Having their names ahead of time gave us an in, much like vacuüm salesman who knock on your door and say, Hello Mrs. Jones. My name is Clarence. Betty Jones, your sister-in-law, gave me your name and asked me to stop by and share with you the dirt-cleaning power of the Rainbow vacuüm cleaner. May I come in and share the good news of clean carpets? Most people aren’t interested in getting “saved” (or buying a vacuüm cleaner), but once their friend or family member’s name is mentioned, they feel obligated to listen to the sales pitch. (There is a close connection between door-to-door sales methods and the techniques used by many Evangelicals to evangelize unbelievers.)
During the deconversion process, I realized that I had a warped understanding of love. I had to learn to love people without condition or expectation. Evangelicals can often be busybodies, sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Believing that the Bible is some sort of divine blueprint or owner’s manual will do that to a person. Having marital problems? Let Evangelical Sally “share” with you what the Bible says about marriage. Having financial problems? Let Evangelical George “share” with you God’s plan for economic prosperity. Whatever problem people are facing, Evangelicals have a Bible proof text meant to address their “need.” Behaving this way is seen as “love,” but it is anything but.
Polly and I decided ten or so years ago that when our children became adults and later married that we would not “lovingly” meddle in their lives. We love our children enough to let them live their lives on their own terms. Do they make stupid decisions? Absolutely. Do we have opinions about the choices they make? Sure. But, as long as they are not doing something that causes physical harm, we intend to leave them alone. And we expect the same from them. I am sure our children have opinions about decisions Polly and I have made. Because of the love we have for one another, we recognize personal boundaries and don’t cross them. Now, if one of my children asks for our opinion or advice, then we will give it. If not, mouths are zipped.
In the same manner as we treat our children, Polly and I treat our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. We love these people as they are, expecting nothing in return. We love them because they matter to us and we want them to have happy, prosperous lives. Again, this doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say or do.
One other thing I have learned post-Jesus is that I don’t have to love everyone. That’s right, not everyone is worthy of my love. In fact, there are a few people I despise and hate — here’s looking at you, President Trump. Generally, I try to treat people with respect and I expect the same in return. Those who don’t respect me for who I am are quickly erased from my iPad contact app. I couldn’t do that as a pastor. Frankly, I had to “love” more than a few asshole church members. I find it refreshing to shower my love on those deserving of it. Life is too short to spend much time trying to love those who hate and despise who and what I am. Does this make me a bad person, an unloving man? I don’t think so. I have a great capacity to love others — even people I disagree with. The people closest to me know that I am polite and respectful to everyone I come in contact with. It’s not in my nature to be mean or hateful. That said, I won’t go out of my way to love people who have misused and abused me or my family.
I have met numerous good people over the years through this blog. For those I have known for years, I have come to love them. Two years ago, a woman sent me an email that said, I love your writing, but your grammar needs some help! At first, I was offended, but then I realized she was right. From that point to today, virtually everything I have written for this site has been edited by her. We have become friends. We likely will never meet one another face to face, but yet we are friends and have a love for one another as good friends do. All of us, I suppose, have people we have met on the internet/social media who have become friends we dearly love. Isn’t that awesome? I can love people all across the globe without ever meeting them in the flesh.
Have you experienced the Evangelical “love” mentioned in this post? Did you have to relearn what it means to love after you deconverted? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
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 would be curious to hear how your old church handled this issue. It really seems to be a bedrock sticky wicket that says more about the pastor of the church than anything else. I am going to a Methodist church now where they will pay your electric bill or give you a grocery store gift card but will not hand over cash. Seems sort of mean even if it’s likely a better idea.
I grew up in a home where money was hard to come by. Dad always had a job, but never seemed to have enough money to pay the bills. This is why, as a youth, Dad moved us from town to town and school to school. When people learn about my well-traveled upbringing, they often ask, did you move a lot because of your father’s work?No, we moved a lot because Dad didn’t pay the rent (my parents never owned a home). Clothing, lunch money, and spending money were hard to come by, and when Dad did buy me clothes, they were often cheap Rink’s Bargain City (Bargain Shitty) knock-offs. My first pair of Levi’s came not from my Dad, but courtesy of a five-fingered discount at a local clothing store. This would not be the last time I shoplifted.
Medical and dental care were almost nonexistent. I can count on one hand the times I went to the doctor growing up. It was only after my parents divorced and Mom signed up for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Medicaid that I received regular medical and dental care. To this day, I remember going to the dentist as a sixteen-year-old boy, only to be told, yes, your teeth need work. And once your Dad pays his bill, I will be glad to fix them. Talk about embarrassing.
Early on, I realized that if I wanted money of my own that I was going to have to work for it. My first jobs were raking leaves, shoveling snow, and mowing yards. My first “official” job — at age fourteen — was daily emptying the trash at a local nursing home. As a teenager, I worked all sorts of minimum wage jobs. Once I had my own money, I was then able to buy my own clothes, pay for school lunches, and fund my social activities.
I have said all this to emphasize that growing up poor deeply affected how I dealt with people as a pastor. Having suffered the embarrassment of using food stamps and the indignity of being forced to wear welfare glasses (see photograph above), I knew firsthand the struggles of the poor. These experiences made me compassionate to those whom the Bible calls “the least of these.”
In what follows, I will detail how I interacted with the poor in the churches I pastored; what ministries I started that specifically ministered to the disadvantaged and marginalized. During the twenty-five years I spent in the pastorate, I had the privilege of ministering to countless people who were down on their luck. Yes, I met more than a few con-artists, grifters, and lazier-than-a-coon-dog-on-a-cold-winter’s-night users and abusers. I am sure that my kindness was taken advantage of. I took the approach that my job was to help; it was God’s job to sort out motives. Now, this doesn’t mean that I was an easy mark. I wasn’t. I rarely gave money to people, knowing that doing so often fed drug or alcohol addictions. If someone needed gas I took them to the gas station and paid for the gas. When homeless people asked for money, I offered them a meal at a nearby diner. When people needed help with their utilities, I directly contacted the utility and paid the bill. Of course, I couldn’t have done any of these things without the gracious financial support of church members.
Over the years, the churches I pastored had food pantries and clothing rooms that were open to the public. Having suffered the indignity of being singled out for being poor, I made sure that we never embarrassed the poor. If someone said they needed help, we helped them (within the limits of our finances). While I certainly wanted to see people saved, I never made helping poor people contingent on them attending church. I took the approach, freely received, freely given. Unlike many holier-than-thou, self-righteous Baptist preachers, I never had a problem encouraging people to avail themselves of services and benefits offered by the state welfare department and federal food banks.
For eleven years, I pastored a Baptist church in Perry County, Ohio — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was there I saw abject and generational poverty. Good jobs were hard to come by, and once the coal mines closed, those who had well-paying mining jobs were forced to work jobs that often paid minimum wage. The unemployment rate was double-digit, ranging from ten to nineteen percent. As is now the case, the number of unemployed was much higher than the official numbers suggested. Once unemployed workers stopped receiving unemployment benefits, they were no longer counted. These unemployed workers turned to the welfare department for help, trying to eke out an existence on meager government checks and food stamps. Some worked jobs that paid cash or turned to growing marijuana.
The majority of church members were on some sort of government assistance — usually food stamps and Medicaid. Most church families had at least one member gainfully employed. The highest paid man in the church made $21,000 a year (except for a year or so when a nearby church had a split and a number of their middle-class members attended the church — they later left, taking their money with them). Annual church offerings peaked at $40,000 a year, when attendance averages neared 200. Most years, the total offerings were in the $20,000 range. My largest annual salary during this time was $12,000. Five of our six children’s births were paid for by Medicaid, and for several years we received food stamps. Now, this doesn’t mean we didn’t try to improve our lot — we did. I pumped gas and worked as a mechanic at a local gas station, sold insurance, worked in restaurants, and delivered newspapers. I believed then, and still do, that there is no shame in being poor. Work hard, do what you can, and live on the results. (In retrospect, I certainly would have done many things differently, but I, to this day, believe all work is honorable and has value, regardless of its pay.)
During my eleven-year stint as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I spent a significant amount of time helping the poor, both in the community at large and in the church. When a man said he would come to church if only he had shoes, I gave him a pair of mine. When members needed money, I loaned it to them or paid their bills. I sold cars to several church members, no money down, pay me when you can. One church member took advantage of my generosity, buying a car from me and never paying for it. This person sat on the front row on Sundays. I often found it hard to look at him without thinking, hey deadbeat, pay me for the car. But then I would think of Jesus and the Sermon of the Mount or remember my own poverty-filled upbringing. I knew this person’s family history — how he grew up in abject poverty, dropping out of high school and becoming a drug addict. I knew he had spent time in jail and hadn’t had a driver’s license in years. (I helped him get his license reinstated.) As Jesus did for the poor of his day, I had compassion for him, even if he, at times, irritated the heaven out of me. (He was, despite these failings, one of the kindest, most helpful men I have ever known. If I needed help with something, I knew I could call on him.)
For several years, Polly and I took in foster children, mostly court-referred teenagers. The county paid us a stipend for giving these teens a home. I have plenty of stories I could share about our foster children, but I will just share one for now. We had two teen boys living with us who decided that they wanted a bit of freedom. They stole our car (a dealer loaner, as our car was in the shop having a new motor installed), checkbook, and credit card, and took a joy ride to New Jersey. They ran a red light in Jersey and were pulled over by the police. After finding out there was a warrant out for their arrest, they were arrested and returned to Ohio for prosecution. Prior to their court appearance for felony theft, the judge called me and asked me to come to his office for a visit. He asked me what punishment I thought he should mete out to these boys. I told him that I felt that they should be punished, but that I didn’t want to see them go to prison. He (we) decided that he would give them the maximum sentence at a youth detention center, but release them after thirty days. Needless to say, they learned their lesson. One of the boys lived with us again. We forgave him, believing that this is what Jesus would have us do. More than a few people thought we were crazy (and maybe we were).
From giving homeless people a place to stay at the church to feeding the homeless men who frequented the streets of Zanesville, Polly and I, along with the church, tried our best to minister to those in need. As a pastor, I had many shortcomings and faults. I deeply regret my Fundamentalist Baptist preaching and its emphasis on sin instead of grace. I wish I could have seen the disconnect between my hellfire and brimstone preaching on Sundays and my compassionate, patient help of the poor the rest of the week. If I had been the bleeding-heart liberal that I am today back in my Perry County days, I suspect the church would have been known above all else as a place of love and safety for the disenfranchised. I could easily have been a Steven Anderson (please see Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lazy Bums Want Us to Act Like Compassionate Christians by Steven Anderson), propping up hate of the poor with Bible verses, but fortunately my life experiences softened my heart, and as Jesus did, when he looked at the poor I had compassion on them.
Several years ago, after finding out that I had helped someone with a particular need, my mother-in-law told me, Bruce, why you’d give the last shirt off your back if someone needed it. (Polly grew up in a middle-class home — new cars, vacations, home ownership.) She then said — perhaps thinking of what the Bible said about helping others — well, I guess that is not a bad problem to have. In retrospect, I can see how some of my liberal giving caused her to be concerned. Here we were barely keeping our heads above water and I was giving money, food, clothing, and other things to the poor. If I had to do it all over again, I would have certainly provided a better life for Polly and our children, but I would never have wanted to lose my compassion for others, especially those at the bottom of the economic scale. While my children did without while Dad was sacrificially helping others (and if they hated me for doing so I would understand), all of them — especially the oldest three — have told me that these experiences helped to make them into the hardworking people they are today (Our family has what we call the Gerencser Work Ethic®: work hard, do your job, don’t miss work; be the best employee you can be.)
As I re-read this post, I am uncomfortable with its personal focus. I am not the type of person who, after helping someone, publicizes my largess. Works of charity ought to be done in secret — without fanfare or applause. No need to let everyone on social media know that I did this or that for someone. The good feeling I receive from helping others is enough. Paying it forward is a good way to live, and even if there is no karmic justice, I want to be known as a man who loved and cared for others.
Last year, attention whore J.D. Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana (the church’s website proudly reports that men such as Fundamentalists Paul Washer, James White, Voddie Baucham, Chris Rosebrough, Douglas Wilson, Ray Comfort, Phil Johnson, Justin Peters, and Sye Ten Bruggencate have preached there) , wrote an “apology” letter to the LGBT community. He reposted his letter today on the Pulpit & Pen website — a trash repository for all things Fundamentalist, Baptist, and Calvinistic. When I first saw the headline of Hall’s post I thought, has J.D. Hall had a come-to-Jesus moment? Dare I hope that Hall is repudiating his hatred for LGBT people? These thoughts were quickly extinguished by the fact that unless Hall is admitting he is a transvestite Baptist, there’s zero chance that he will turn from his gay-hating ways.
As a Christian who has been forced to evaluate where I stand in recent days in light of Scripture, in both tone and message, I would like to apologize for myself and other Christians…
1. I’m sorry that any of us ever referred to you as a “gay community.” Really, that’s not helpful. A “community” is a group of individuals that either live in the same place or share the same values. Sodomy (defined as unnatural and immoral sexual behavior) is not a value. Sodomy is a deviancy. Now, if you defined “community” as sharing interests and not values, then there could theoretically be a gay community because you hold unnatural and immoral sexual behavior as a common interest. However, to call you a “community” would legitimize this sin in a way that we don’t legitimize any other sin. For example, we don’t recognize “the thieving community” or the “the lying community” or “the bank-robbing community” or “the rapist community” or the “white collar criminal community.” If communities could be founded upon self-destructive behavior, those communities would be self-defeating, and a self-defeating community is no community at all. In fact, a truly “gay community” would be extinct within one generation. Your unnatural sexual deviancy leads to death; legitimate communities are self-populating and regenerative. It was a dumb term for Christians to start using, and I apologize for all of those who inadvertently give credence to the narrative that yours is a community and not a group of sinners who share in community-destroying behavior.
2. I’m sorry that Christians have made a habit of referring to you as LGBT or LGBTQ or by any other acronym or term, identifying you by your sin. First, it is unfair and unhelpful to identify you by your sin. This is actually discriminatory against you, because we don’t behave this way toward any other group of sinners. Adulterers don’t find their identity in adultery. Liars don’t find their identity in lying. Gluttons don’t find their identity in gluttony. We tend to view others as “people who happen to [fill in the blank with any number of sins].” We haven’t viewed you as people – first and foremost – who suffer from the sinful desire of sodomy. Now, you have self-identified as LGBT, because there is a unique tendency when it comes to homosexuality to let the sin consume you as a person, but we should not have participated in the unfortunate reality that your identity has become wrapped up in sinful behavior. If you thought of yourself as a person who suffers from homosexual desires, rather than as a homosexual, you might realize that you’re more than your specific sexual deviancy. ….
3. I’m sorry that we’ve given you the impression that “self-identifying” is a thing. Yes, I know I’ve used the term to get a point across in this letter of apology. But, here’s the thing…you don’t get to “self-identify.” God gave you your identity. Bruce Jenner is not Caitlyn. That’s silly. He’s a guy who emasculated himself to look like a woman, adding breasts and makeup and tucking appendages. It’s a game of dress up, essentially. And if he were to remove his genitalia, he still wouldn’t be a woman. He’d be a man without his genitalia. Bruce Jenner will never have PMS. That’s because he’s not a woman. It’s really, really mean for Christians to be anything but straightforward with this reality. I’m convinced that Bruce Jenner doesn’t have people around him that loves [sic] him, or else they would tell him that he doesn’t look like a beautiful woman. He looks like the person that kids on the bus snicker at behind them, and dare one another to go up and touch. Christians, if we were loving, would say “Bless your heart, but you’re not a woman. You’re a man trying to look like a woman, but no one really thinks you’re accomplishing that so well. You are Bruce, and God made you to be Bruce, and you can never be Caitlyn.” ….
6. Finally, I apologize for all the professed Christians that you thought had convictions, only to find out that they were sniveling, driveling compromise machines. It probably surprised you how they changed their tune and their tone when the Supreme Court ruled. That’s especially tragic. It’s tragic, because I know that your conscience is cutting you. I know that even truth suppressed in unrighteousness hurts. It’s painful, I’m sure. You might even be on the look-out for conviction and resolve and truth, and while perhaps being glad to see the rainbow filter go on your professing-Christian Facebook friends’ profiles, you’re a little let down that there isn’t an unchanging reality out there somewhere. Down deep, you know that you need that. I’m sorry for all those who have professed Christ, but haven’t loved you (or Him) enough to dig their heels in and speak a truth that’s as helpful as it is inconvenient.
I sincerely hope you’ll forgive us for these shortcomings, and we strive to do better in the future.
While Evangelicals fall all over themselves attempting to explain that Steven Anderson is some sort of lone homo-hater, Hall’s “apology” letter is a reminder that hatred of LGBT people can be found in EVERY Evangelical church. (Hall’s church, for example, is a Southern Baptist congregation that self-identifies as Reformed Baptist.) I am sure Hall is a proud as a peacock over his “apology” letter. Ha! Ha! Ha! No apology here, you sexual deviants. God’s still hates you, and since I, a properly circumcised Calvinist, love what God loves and hate what God hates, I hate YOU! As Steven Anderson does, J.D. Hall and the Pen & Pulpit blog have a large following — including 2,373 likes on Facebook and 6,708 followers on Twitter. Hall and other Pulpit & Pen contributors also use a radio program, podcasts, frequent blog posts to promote their version of Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals who now realize how their vitriol towards the LGBT community caused much harm need to own the fact that there are numerous Halls and Andersons within Evangelicalism (and the Southern Baptist Convention). Granted, many of these haters will never preach hateful sermons as Anderson does, or pen hurtful “apology” letters. Many Evangelicals are too “nice” to ever do such things, but don’t be deceived by their niceness. Behind closed doors, in the safety of their faggot-free churches and homes, these “nice” Evangelicals continue to rail against the letters of the rainbow, condemning LGBT people to hell.
Richie Clendenen is the pastor of Christian Fellowship Church in Benton, Kentucky. One out of every four residents of the Blue Grass State attends a Baptist church. One out of three Kentuckians self-identify as Evangelical. Kentucky is the state that gave us Kim Davis and Ken Ham, and is currently governed by Southern Baptist Matt Bevin. By all accounts Kentucky is, from stem to stern, a Christian state, yet Pastor Clendenen thinks Evangelicals are being persecuted. Clendenen recently stated:
I never thought we’d be in the place we are today. I never thought that the values I’ve held my whole life would bring us to a point where we were alienated or suppressed.
Clendenen also thinks that Evangelical Christians are the most hated people group in America. More hated than gays, Muslims, and atheists, Clendenen claims that Evangelicals are the most despised people in America:
The Bible says in this life you will have troubles, you will have persecutions. And Jesus takes it a step further: You’ll be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
Let me tell you, that time is here.
There’s nobody hated more in this nation than Christians. Welcome to America’s most wanted: You.
Clendenen confuses persecution with being forced to treat all people with respect. Clendenen thinks those of us who demand justice, fairness, and equal protection under the law are persecuting Evangelicals, yet he provides zero support for his claim. Are Clendenen and his fellow Evangelicals free to worship as they please? Are they free to verbally attack gays, Muslims, Transgenders, atheists, socialists, secularists, Democrats, and Barack Obama from the pulpit? Are Evangelicals free to bar anyone who doesn’t believe as they do from attending their churches? Yes, yes, and yes.
Clendenen is 38 years old. He grew up in an era when Evangelicals wielded great political power. But, the times, they are a-changin’, and Evangelicals have lost their seat at the head of the cultural table Thanks to the LBGTQ community, secularists, atheists, humanists, liberal Christians, and the fastest growing religion in America — the NONES — Evangelicals are no longer the cultural authority on moral and ethical issues. Preachers such as Clendenen view their banishment from cultural discussions as persecution. These preachers of intolerance and hate demand, like toddlers who stomp their feet when they don’t get their way, that everyone bow in obeisance to the Christian God and their peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Bible. And when millions of Americans say NO? Stop persecuting us, cries Clendenen.
Clendenen is right about one thing. An increasing number of Americans DO hate Evangelicals. Evangelicals are now the face of bigotry, homophobia, and misogyny. Evangelicals oppose all forms of sexual expression except virgin-before-marriage, monogamous, married, heterosexual, only-with-a-Christian, missionary-position, God-glorifying intercourse. Evangelicals are anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-social-progress, and anti-science. Granted, I am painting with too broad a brush, but Evangelicals need to understand that this is how they are perceived by non-Evangelicals. If Evangelicals want to change how they are viewed by others, I suggest that they shut the hell up and devote themselves to ministering to “the least of these.”
Pastor Clendenen was a Ted Cruz supporter, as were many of his fellow Evangelicals. Cruz is an arrogant, bigoted Christian nationalist, yet Clendenen thinks Cruz would have made a wonderful President. Can he not see that his support of Cruz is yet another reason non-Evangelicals despise the people who claim to be the purveyors of True Christianity®? And now many Evangelicals are supporting fascist Donald Trump. Trump is the most unqualified man to ever run for President, but Evangelicals have backed themselves into a corner with their fawning support of all things Republican, and they are now obligated to vote for a misogynistic, racist, narcissistic, KKK-approved blowhard.
So yes, many Americans hate Evangelicals, and the Pastor Clendenens of the world have no one to blame but themselves. Instead of following in the footsteps of Jesus, Evangelicals spread their legs wide and gave themselves to the Republican Party. Impregnated with power, Evangelicals brought to life a hateful ideology that has caused untold harm. Over the past year, Americans have watched as Evangelicals hysterically attacked gays, immigrants, same-sex marriage, and Transgenders. Oozing revulsion from every orifice, Evangelicals, along with their Republican overlords, have become the party of hate. And to this I say, to quote Evangelical Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick:
Tweet sent out after massacre at gay club in Florida. Fifty people died and dozens more were injured.
Spend any time swimming in the septic tank called Evangelical Christianity and you will likely come in contact with hateful bigots. Why are so many Evangelicals so nasty? While the reasons are many, one major reason for their hatefulness is that they believe that being a Christian is all about BELIEVING the right things, not DOING the right things. Let me illustrate this point with a few comments from Megyn Kelly’s Facebook page —The Kelly File. Last Friday, Montel Williams appeared on Kelly’s show and had this to say about Evangelical outrage over Transgender bathroom laws:
“What is the basic premise of every religion on this planet? You get judged by what you do for the least of us when you pass on. How dare you try to judge them now… and claim to be a Christian.”
Here’s how some of Kelly’s followers responded:
As you can clearly see, these Evangelicals see no connection between Christian salvation and good works. And this is the reason why many Americans now consider Evangelicals hateful bigots. Evidently, these verses are missing from the bibles Evangelicals dust off and carry to church on Sunday:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:8-26)
Self-righteous Evangelicals will say that these verses don’t mention Transgenders, so there! Other Evangelicals will say these verses only apply to their treatment of fellow believers, so there! Fine, I say. Please share how and to what degree you are helping fellow Evangelicals who are in need. *silence* That’s what I thought. You see, what the Transgender bathroom issue reveals is Evangelical hatred for anyone who doesn’t bow to their moral (and political) demands. Transgenders are just the latest in a long line of people Evangelicals hate: liberals, mainline Christians, atheists, secularists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, undocumented workers, Barack Obama, abortion doctors, and gays, to name a few. Evangelicals need to stop preaching love, joy, and peace, when all people can see is hatred and bigotry.
If you have your hip waders on, I encourage you to check out the comments on The Kelly File’s Montel Williams segment (April 29, 2016). Be prepared to be sickened by what Evangelicals say in the name of their God. Even if I believed in the existence of the Christian God, there’s no way in heaven or hell that I would ever want to go to church with people who think like many of Kelly’s Evangelical followers. Their words betray who and what they really are.
Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the inspired (God breathed), inerrant Word of God. They believe the text of the Christian Bible is without error and they are certain that every word in the Bible is the very words of God. (either spoken or inspired by God)
While many Evangelical pastors and professors don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant, they continue to preach the inerrancy myth from the pulpit and in their college classrooms. These Evangelicals late at night get out a flashlight, pull the covers over their head, and secretly read one of Bart Ehrman’s books. They will never tell anyone about this lest they lose their job. But, when it comes to the people in the First Baptist Church pew, I’ve never met an Evangelical Christian who didn’t believe every word in the Bible is true. They are certain that the leather-bound Bible they carry to church every Sunday is the very words of God.
Evangelicals are told from their youth up that the Bible can be understood by anyone, even a child. Why then are there so many theology books if the Bible is so simple it can be understood by a child? The fact is, the Bible is anything BUT a simple book. It is a book that must be interpreted and this is where Evangelicals get themselves into trouble. They think, the Bible is God’s Word, it is so simple a child can understand it, I have read it, and I understand it, thus my interpretation of the Bible is exactly what God said. This kind of thinking leads to arrogance. When a person is absolutely convinced they are absolutely right, they no longer have to consider competing ideas or interpretations. This is why most Evangelicals are closed minded about any God or belief but their own
All Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. (see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) The doctrine of inerrancy requires the Evangelical to have a fundamentalist view of the Bible. In most cases, Evangelicals are also social fundamentalists who take their inspired, inerrant Bible and strictly apply it to every aspect of their lives. They believe that everything in their lives is governed by what the Bible says. It is theological and social fundamentalism that is driving Evangelicals as they wage war against secularism, atheism, pluralism, abortion, same-sex marriage, and homosexuality.
Evangelicalism is a large tent, so it is impossible to point to one group and say, this is Evangelicalism. On one end of the spectrum you have the hip relational preachers found at nondescript megachurches and on the other end of the spectrum you find the fire and brimstone preachers of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Every Evangelical church falls in between these two extremes. Some are Calvinist, others are Arminian, but the one thing that binds them together is the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God.
In most Evangelical churches the pastor is considered a person uniquely called by God to preach and teach the Bible. Their words are given great weight and authority because God leads and directs them as they preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Some pastors are laid back, more of a teacher or a professor, while others are animated foot stomping, pulpit pounding preachers. Regardless of their style or methodology, every Evangelical pastor believes they are speaking the words of God to the people of God and the people of God believe, through the preaching and the inward work of the Holy Spirit, that God is speaking to them.
In most Evangelical churches diversity of belief is discouraged, and in some churches it is forbidden. After all, if the Bible is inerrant then there can only be ONE correct interpretation of the Bible, right? While Evangelicals skirmish over peripheral doctrines and peculiar beliefs, there is a core set of doctrines every Evangelical must believe. Don’t believe these things? Then you are not an Evangelical.
Currently, Evangelicalism is going through great upheaval over beliefs that were once were considered cardinal doctrines of the faith. Thanks to postmodernism, concrete doctrines like creationism, eternal punishment for unbelievers, God’s omniscience, the exclusivity of the Evangelical gospel, and whether a homosexual can be a Christian are now being attacked and challenged. Politically, an increasing number of Evangelicals are moving towards the left, rejecting the conservative, Republican values of yesteryear. While most Evangelicals are Republicans and support some or all of the tenets of the culture war, there are a small number of Evangelicals, mostly young adults, who are no longer willing to blindly accept the politics of their church, pastor, and parents. The question for me is at what point in this postmodern, questioning move to the left does a church, pastor, and individual church member cease to be Evangelical?
During the George W Bush administration and the run up to the War in Iraq, we saw a good example of how fundamentalism works. George Bush and his administration were certain their beliefs about Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and weapons of mass destruction were infallibly right. Fourteen years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, we now know that virtually every belief peddled by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld was wrong. Yet, to this day, none of the architects of the Iraq war are willing to admit that they were wrong. They are certain that their beliefs were/are correct, and in the case of George Bush, the Christian God was/is on their side.
If I took a political party survey at the average Evangelical church I’m sure I’d find that most church members are either Republican or Libertarian and come the first Tuesday in November 2016 they will vote for the Republican candidate for President. I am sure there are a few Evangelicals who are Democrats, but they, like gay or bisexual church members, are way in the back of the closet. While church members are told to vote their “conscience”, everyone knows that voting your conscience means voting exactly the way God the pastor tells you to vote. To vote differently means going against the man of God, the Word of God, and God himself, and no one want to do that, right? Again, things are changing in the Evangelical church, but lets not mistake ripples on the pond for a tsunami.
Challenges to core beliefs is not permitted. Those who think for themselves or believe differently than the pastor are told they are not right with God or that they are backslidden; they are told their “discerner” is broke and that they need to listen to their pastor. Those who refuse to conform end up marginalized, disciplined, or asked to leave the church. Evangelical churches go through quite a bit of membership churn. There is a steady stream of people going out the back door as new people come in the front, with most new people coming from other churches.
The lifeblood that courses through the veins of Evangelical Christianity is the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. To the Evangelical, the Bible is not just a collection of words, chapters, and books written by humans as they try to explain their understanding of God and the world. The Bible is God’s words, a supernatural book given to fallible humans by a supernatural God. Every book, every sentence, and every word is truth. When an Evangelical reads the Bible they believe they are reading the very words of God. They can know exactly what God’s truth is by reading and studying the Bible. In the Evangelical’s mind, the Bible is THUS SAITH THE LORD!
Since most Evangelicals are, to some degree or the other, literalists, it becomes quite easy for them to develop rigid beliefs, and as their certainty grows the more likely they are to see themselves as right and everyone else wrong. Is it any wonder that this kind of thinking turns people into haters? Is it any wonder that people raised in this kind of environment lack the necessary skills to make sound, reasoned judgments about the world they live in? This is the kind of thinking that gives us Fred Phelps, Al Mohler, John MacArthur, Joyce Meyers, Rod Parsley, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Ken Ham, Matt Chandler, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Richard Land, Andy Stanley, Charles Stanley, Tony Perkins, David Barton, TD Jakes, Brad Powell, Rick Furtick, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and a plethora of parachurch groups dedicated to waging war on an unbelieving, sinful, and wicked culture.
According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, 28% of Americans believe the Bible is the actual Word of God and should be taken literally. 47% of Americans believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally. This means that three out four American believe the Bible is the Word of God. (The good news is that 21% of Americans now believe the Bible is an “ancient book of fables,legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man. The percentage of Americans who believed this in 1976 was 13%) According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 46% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form (creationism) and 32% of Americans believe humans evolved with God guiding the process (theistic evolution). In other words, three out of four Americans believe God is the creator of everything. Only 15% of American believe humans evolved, but God had no part in the process.
Depressing, isn’t it? While secularism, humanism, and atheism are making inroads, the vast majority of Americans still believe the Bible is the Word of God, a unique book different from every other book ever written. The only way to reach people like this is to attack their foundational belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. If they can be brought to see that the Bible is not what they claim it is, there is hope for them. Sadly, most Evangelicals will die with their fingers clenched around a book they consider the words of God. When you take a high road position like inerrancy it is hard to back up. To admit the Bible is not inerrant is to admit you are wrong and Evangelicals rarely admit they are wrong. Those who do do so on their way OUT the doors of the Evangelical church.
Since every Evangelical believes there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain, believing and practicing the teachings of the Bible is essential. While Evangelicals will tell you that they preach a gospel of grace, what they really preach is a gospel of right belief. Believe THIS and thou shalt live in heaven forever with God; don’t believe THIS and thou shalt live in hell forever with the Devil and his angels. Evangelicals are taught that this present life is preparation for life beyond the grave. Believing the right things is important because that is what gets your ticket to heaven punched. Is it any wonder that most Evangelicals will leave this life firm in their belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God? Too much rests on believing this for them to ever question or doubt.