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John 3:16: The Simplest Verse in the Bible, Right?

john 3 16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Christians tout John 3:16 as the simplest verse in the Bible. They revel in the simplicity of its message. It is often the first Bible verse children are taught to memorize.

Is John 3:16 really the simplest verse in the Bible?  What if we looked at John 3:16 through the lens of the plethora of theological beliefs within the Christian church?

We would first have to settle who wrote the gospel of John in general, and John 3:16 in particular. We know chapter and verse numbers were added fifteen centuries after the writing of John. There’s a lot of debate about who wrote John, when it was written, and whether it should even be considered a gospel or a part of the canon of Christian scripture.

Once we settle the textual legitimacy issue, we would then have to decide who is actually doing the speaking in John 3:16. The author of John? Jesus? Did the author actually hear Jesus speak these words? Is John 3:16 a verbatim quote of what Jesus said?

Now to the verse.

For God

Right away we are forced to decide which God the Bible is talking about. Christianity is hardly unified on the God question. Witness a Baptist and an Apostolic fight over whether the Trinity is taught in the Bible. Is God one? Is God three in one?

So Loved the World

It would seem that this part of the verse is pretty straight forward. God loves the world. World means God loves everyone. However, as millions of Calvinists will quickly tell you, all doesn’t necessarily mean all, and world doesn’t necessarily mean world. First, you have to take the verse and push it through the Calvinist sieve and then you can interpret John 3:16 correctly. World doesn’t mean everyone. It means out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue, God has people he loves and people he intends to save. In other words, God doesn’t savingly love everyone. It is right there in the verse, can’t YOU see it?

At about this point Calvinists launch into a discussion about the difference between God’s love for everyone (common grace) and the love he has for those he has chosen from before the foundation of the world. Of course, Arminians have a far different view of the scope of God’s love and grace. Let the never-ending debate begin.

That He Gave His only Begotten Son

We will assume that son means Jesus. This raises an issue right away, an issue about which many Christians have fumed over the years. Was Jesus always the son of God? One side adamantly says yes. The other side says he became the son and there was a time when he wasn’t the son.

Then we have to deal with the only son issue. Did God have more sons or daughters? As Mormonism becomes a mainstream Christian religion, what about their belief that Lucifer (the devil, Satan) is Jesus’ brother?

The next issue we have to deal is “how” Jesus was begotten. Did Jesus have a sperm-donating father?  If the Holy Spirit “begat” Jesus, how did that happen? Did God have sex with Mary? Virgin birth? “What a laugher,” many liberal Christians say. Everyone knows virgins can’t be pregnant. Besides, the word “virgin” means young woman. Liberals and Fundamentalists battle back and forth, each group certain their view is correct.

And there’s the whole consent issue. Did Mary consent to the Holy Ghost having sex with her? Did Mary have a choice in the matter?

That Whosoever Believeth in Him

Whosoever. Once again does this refer to everyone? No matter who you are, where you are, if you believe in Jesus you will have everlasting life? What about reprobates? Does “whosoever” apply to them? The Calvinist – – the party of the exclusion — says “whosoever” doesn’t mean everyone. Only the elect will savingly believe in Jesus. Everyone else, even if they wanted to, cannot savingly believe in Jesus. If you are not elect, predestined, chosen by God, you are headed for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. God decided before you were even born that you would burn forever.

What does it mean to believe? What do we have to believe? Here is where the whole issue becomes every sect for itself. Every flavor of Christian ice cream has its own take on what it means to believe and what it is a person must believe to be saved. Even among churches of the same denomination, there are differences about what it means to believe and what one must believe to be saved.

Should not Perish

What does it mean to perish? Death? First or second death? Hell? Lake of Fire? Purgatory? Eternal punishment? Temporary punishment? Annihilation?

But Have Everlasting Life

When it comes to life after death, all Christians believe that they will go to Heaven after they die. No matter what road they take, what theology they have, every sect/church believes everlasting life is the prize for those who believe.  Though . . . I do remember a debate among preachers about the difference between eternal life and everlasting life. It goes something like . . .

Here’s my point.  Even the simplest verse in the Bible can be interpreted different ways. Each interpreter believes his interpretation to be the correct one. The truth is, there is no such thing as Biblical truth. All we have are sects/churches/pastors/individuals, each saying their interpretation is the truth. Armed with study Bibles, concordances, and dictionaries, many Christians believe they are ready to emphatically tell anyone who will listen exactly what the Bible teaches.

Imagine a person who has never heard about any of the religions of the world. He has lived his life in isolation. One day he comes upon an inscription on a cave wall that says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What conclusions would he come to? Would he naturally come to the conclusions I mentioned above? Not likely. Perhaps he would start a religion. What is the likelihood that it would resemble any of the Christian sects? Once again, not likely.

This is why I don’t involve myself in long debates or discussions about the Bible. Such discussions become like ten students looking at a Monet, each giving their own interpretation. Then the teacher says,NO! NO! NO!, all of you are wrong. The picture is saying ________________.

After all, the Bible does say, Let every man be persuaded in his own mind . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Woman Wants a Man Who Loves Jesus More Than He Does Women

jesus loving man
Dating Profile Sent to Me by an Atheist Friend of Mine

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Snark, Snark, Snark Ahead!

I’m confused. Why does this heterosexual woman want to date gay men? If a man, any man, loves Jesus, who is a man, more than he does a woman, doesn’t that make him gay? And since there is no such thing as a gay Christian, this woman might as well give up now. Cuz, if she is looking for a man who desires, wants, needs Jesus more than a woman . . .

I’m sure there are a few I love Jesus more than I will ever love you girl men out there, but do you really want to marry a Jesus-loving man and start life as number 2 on his love list? Cuz, number 2 on his love list will turn into literal number 2 (that’s shit, for my Evangelical readers) pretty quickly.

Any man who says that he loves a man whom he has never seen more than a real, live, anatomically blessed, sexy woman is either lying so he can score or he is delusional. Again, not sure that this guy would be marriage material. Any woman wanting and getting a man who will love Jesus more than he loves her is going to be sorely disappointed.

Honey, let’s have hot missionary sex tonight, the Christian newlywed wife says. Her Jesus-loving husband responds, how dare you ask me to have sex with you. I am saving myself for Jesus!

Evidently, this woman has not read 1 Corinthians 7. Paul says a lot of crazy shit about marriage in 1 Corinthian 7, but since it is in the holy, unadulterated, inerrant, inspired word of God, let’s allow God to speak:

…He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

This woman needs to understand that if a man really does love Jesus more than he loves women, then he should never ever marry. According to the aforementioned passage of Scripture, when a man marries a woman, his first priority is to the things of the world and how he may please his wife. It’s right there in the Good Book. So, this means that his wife comes before Jesus. God said it, I didn’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.

Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World

jesus loves the little children

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Snark and humor ahead

For those of us who grew up in the Evangelical church, we likely sang Jesus Loves the Little Children in Sunday school or junior church. The song goes something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They are all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They are all precious in His sight
Jesus came to save the children of the world

Did you start singing along?  Can’t get the song out of your head? Sorry.

According to the Share Faith website, the original lyrics were somewhat different:

Refrain:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus died for all the children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the children of the world.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Jesus is the Shepherd true,
And He’ll always stand by you,
For He loves the little children of the world;
He’s a Savior great and strong,
And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
For He loves the little children of the world.

I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
And Your soldier I will be,
For You love the little children of the world;
And Your cross I’ll always bear,
And for You I’ll do and dare,
For You love the little children of the world.

Written in the late 1800’s by Christian pastor C. Herbert Woolston and put to music by George F. Root, the song is one of the most popular songs in American Christianity. Conspicuously absent from the song is any mention of people with brown skin color. In the late 1800s, the brown horde from the south had not yet invaded the United States and I suspect Woolston considered brown-skinned people a tan version of white. 

According to WikipediaJesus Loves the Little Children is sung to Root’s 1864 Civil War tune Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Here are the original lyrics for Root’s tune:

First Verse:

In the prison cell I sit,
Thinking Mother dear, of you,
And our bright and happy home so far away,
And the tears they fill my eyes
Spite of all that I can do,
Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.

Chorus:

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up comrades they will come,
And beneath the starry flag
We shall breathe the air again,
Of the freeland in our own beloved home

I suspect if this song was written today it would not include the last line of the verse ‘Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.’ But then again, Evangelicals might want to leave the line as is. After all, since it says “be gay” it reinforces their belief that gays choose to be homosexuals.

I’ve heard a rendition of Jesus Loves the Little Children that includes brown in the race jingle, but I found that adding brown to the song made the lyrics clunky.

Calvinists can’t sing Jesus Loves the Little Children due to its heretical Arminian theology.  Perhaps they could change the song to:

Jesus died for all the elect children,
All the elect children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All the elect are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the elect children of the world.

To make the song more inclusive, some churches and songbooks replace the ‘Red and yellow, black and white line’ with ‘Ev’ry colour, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace’. Another modern adaptation has a verse that goes like this:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Fat and skinny, short and tall,
Jesus loves them one and all.

When I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, the church and my fellow pastor Pat Horner had actually gone through the Baptist Hymnal and corrected the words that were at odds with their Calvinistic theology.  ‘Rescue the perishing’ became “rescued when perishing’. We can’t have Calvinistic Christians rescuing sinners, that’s God’s job.

While Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World is sung regularly in thousands of American Evangelical and Independent Baptist churches, most of the people singing the song are white. Jesus might love red, yellow, black, brown, and white children, but Evangelicals prefer they go elsewhere to church. This is especially so in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement.

Originally, this post was meant to be about the whiteness of the Family Research Council (FRC). It morphed into something completely different, but let me finish this post with a couple of screenshots from FRC’s staff/leadership/team page. These screenshots will visually show what the average Evangelical church looks like:

frc staff
frc leadership team
frc experts
frc team
frc team 2

Walk into the average Evangelical church and this is what you will see. If Evangelicals want to point the finger at one reason for their decline, they should point to the subtle and not so subtle racism that flourishes in its churches. While they pride themselves in being past the days of racist Bob Jones University, their churches still reflect that they are a whites-only club (and overwhelmingly voted for racist Donald Trump). Missionaries are sent overseas to evangelize the red, yellow, brown, and black, while the most segregated place in America is the local Jesus-loving Evangelical, IFB, and Southern Baptist church.

Yes, I am painting with broad strokes in this post. I am aware of Evangelical attempts, in some corners of America, to become more racially inclusive. However, most churches and pastors find this hard to do since they know history clearly shows that Jesus was a white man.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.

Hey Girlfriend, Jesus is Way More Muscular than Your Boyfriend

manly jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe, had this to say about Jesus’ muscles:

Video Link

According to Hendricks, big biceps come from Jesus, and no matter how big a man’s muscles are, Jesus’ muscles are b-i-g-g-e-r. Jesus even has bigger muscles than Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, when Arnold said, I’ll be back, he kept his word. Jesus? 2,000 years later, we are still waiting.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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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.

Hey Girls, What Jesus Gives You is Way Better Than What Your Crush Gives You

jesus-my-boyfriend
Jesus on his way to Paula Hendrick’s apartment to pick her up for a “date”

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

What follows is a short video by Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website. Hendricks asks: Have a mushy crush on a hot boy, girlfriend? Are you blown away by his attention and all the gifts he gives you to let you know he cares? Well, Jesus is way, way b-e-t-t-e-r.

Video Link

According to Hendricks, Jesus gives girls:

  • Life
  • Breath
  • Food
  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Himself
  • Forgiveness of sins
  • Peace
  • His perfect righteousness
  • Eternal, never-ending life
  • and more and more and more . . .

Hendricks asks, what are you looking to your crush to give you that Christ can’t give you?

In other words, girlfriend, Jesus is w-a-y better than any crush or boyfriend.

Except he’s not. Jesus is a fictional, feel-good crush that will do when one is between relationships, but Jesus is no match for a tender kiss, a warm embrace, or making love. Simply put, Jesus doesn’t have a penis. Hendricks, of course, is married, so she has plenty — I assume — of sexual satisfaction in her life. I find it interesting that many of these preachers of the no-sex-until-marriage purity gospel are, in fact, getting laid on a regular basis. I am not sure Hendricks is a person from whom a young horny unmarried Evangelical women should be taking advice.

Hendrick’s video is a reminder of the fact that Evangelical preachers and media hosts have an unhealthy obsession with the sex lives of others. Following Hendrick’s preaching leads to fear, guilt, frustration, and, often, sexual dysfunction later in life. My advice? Practice safe sex, girls, and e-n-j-o-y.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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 Women: Jesus Should be Your Only Romantic Interest

fallen annie lobert

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

According to Annie Lobert, founder of the group Hookers for Jesus, women are putting their love, hope, desires, and needs in the wrong place. The only person who can give women all they could ever want from a relationship is Jesus.

In a Christian Post interview, Lobert had this to say:

What us women need to understand [is] if a man can’t do what you ideally think he should do, [it is because] God is the only one who can do that for you. Jesus Christ is the only one who can ultimately be your ultimate romantic interest and I’m not talking about sexually. I’m talking about that intimate love bond that we have that heals all wounds, that heals all insecurities, that heals all the things that we think our husbands should do and be…

My prince was Jesus Christ. I said that in the book, it was Jesus Christ that was my knight in shining armor and I didn’t know it.

We poor men don’t stand a chance.

On second thought, maybe we do. What kind of man was Jesus? Was he a man whom women would love to be in a relationship with? When Jesus walked into a bar or club, did everyone’s eyes turn towards him? Did women think, wonder what Jesus looks like under his tunic? Was Jesus THE man that every woman longed for?

Jesus was a single man born out of wedlock to a teen girl — who was allegedly impregnated by a deity. He grew up in a carpenter’s home in a squalid, non-descript village. As a 12-year-old, Jesus disrespected his parents and ran off, and later in life publicly disrespected his mother when she asked him to get some wine from the fridge. Jesus spent most of his life traveling with a group of men. All men. Dare we imagine how many fart jokes were told by Jesus, or how rarely he took a bath, shaved, or used Giorgio Armani cologne? While there were women who traveled with Jesus from time to time, we don’t know if he ever had sex with one of them. Perhaps, as some suggest, Jesus was gay. And what most men would love to know is this: did Jesus masturbate?

The Bible doesn’t tell us how the adult Jesus made a living. Did he work, or did he sponge off the people who traveled with him? He owned no property and had no house he called home. When a man expressed interest in traveling with Jesus but wanted to wait a couple of days so he could bury his father, Jesus told him to forget about the funeral and follow him. Not much an empathetic man, if you ask me.

And I could go on and on . . . the gospels paint a less than flattering picture of Jesus when you read them without theological bias. Once you strip away the supernatural fantasies from the story, what you are left with is a very ordinary man whom many women would not view as the ideal catch. Jesus was hardly the man above all men with whom every woman would want to have a relationship.

Lobert fails to realize that she actually makes life more complex for Christian women with her “Jesus Christ is the only one who can ultimately be your ultimate romantic interest” thinking. This fictitious, romanticized Jesus is the gold standard women are told they should measure their relationships by. When compared to the human Jesus, many men fare quite well. But, the fictitious, romantic, gives-me-an-orgasm-every-time-I-pray, Jesus? No man can measure up.

The good news for men is that Lobert’s Jesus is a fiction of her imagination. If women want a relationship with men, we’re here. Real men, with real penises.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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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.

Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus

there is power in the name of jesus

Often, atheists and agnostics grossly underestimate the power of Jesus. I am sure that some of you are already thinking or saying out loud, Bruce, are you nuts? Have you renounced atheism and become a follower of Jesus again? We don’t underestimate the power of Jesus because he doesn’t exist. End of story!

But he does exist, and I think many atheists and agnostics forget this. In our desire to rid the world of the damaging effects of religion, we often forget that Jesus is alive and well.

Now, the Jesus who is alive and well is not an actual, physical living human being, and neither is he an actual, physical God or Son of God. The Jesus who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is dead. The Jesus who, for thirty-three years, walked the roads of Palestine is dead. The Jesus spoken of in the Bible is dead. We know that dead people do not come back from the grave. We know that once a person is dead, he stays dead. Jesus is dead, and there is no chance that he is coming back from the grave.

But, Jesus is alive and well in the myths and beliefs of millions and millions of Christians. In the mythical Jesus, people find comfort, meaning, and hope. In the mythical Jesus, people find what they think is lacking in their lives, and quite frankly atheists and agnostics don’t have much to offer when it comes to what Jesus can offer a person.

But, Bruce, believing in Jesus is irrational. Believing in Jesus is as rational as believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Totally correct, but this doesn’t matter.

When suffering and loss come our way, our rationality often doesn’t do us much good. When our lives are in a heap of ashes, knowing the evidence for God not existing does nothing to comfort us. When we are struggling to keep from drowning, the books written by Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, provide no help. All our rational, well-thought-out arguments do little for us when we are at those moments in life where the most precious thing to us is our next breath.

In these times, we look for comfort and hope. We look to those who love us and who are willing to do anything for us. In these times, our intellectual prowess does not matter. What we desperately want and need is a hand to hold on to, someone who will tell us it is going to be all right.

But, Bruce, shit happens and we are all going to die in the end. Atheists and agnostics don’t need sentimentality. Surely, we can face what comes our way with a rugged resolve, knowing we are right. Perhaps.

But is knowing we are right the most important thing? Is drawing our last breath knowing we were right about religion, God, Jesus, and the Bible really the grand objective?

Forget for a moment what you know about the Bible. Forget what you know about its teachings. If you were once a Christian, forget your experience in the church. Think for a moment about the essence of the Christian religion. What is the one thing that matters more than anything else? What is the one thing that allows millions of people to live in a state of cognitive dissonance? What is the one thing that allows Christians to shut off all the criticisms of Christianity and allows them to continue believing?

One word . . . Jesus.

The mythical Jesus, the Jesus of legend, the Jesus that is preached in countless Christian churches all over the world, this Jesus is the one thing that matters above all else.

Why is this? What is it about this Jesus for whom millions of people will abandon rational thinking? There is no proof for what the Bible teaches on most anything. Few of the events in the Bible have any historical foundation. Why does Jesus have such power over people?

Jesus offers salvation. Jesus offers friendship, love, and compassion. Countless drug addicts and alcoholics have abandoned their addictions because of Jesus. Gang members have forsaken their violent ways, and thieves have turned to gainful means of employment all because of Jesus. Only the most hardheaded and blind among atheists and agnostics would deny the fact that, for millions of people, Jesus makes a qualitative difference in their lives.

In Jesus, millions of people find meaning, purpose, and direction. In Jesus, they find the necessary strength to suffer and die. This Jesus promised to never leave them or forsake them, and no matter how hard we try to show that Jesus is AWOL in the lives of Christians, they still believe he is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

I am sure there is some psychological or neurological explanation for why this is so, but such explanations have little value. People believe what they believe, and that is all that matters.

My wife’s parents are almost 85 years old. They are on the short side of life, and it is unlikely that either of them will still be living five years from now. When they die, I will mourn their deaths. I love them dearly. I will grieve over the loss of two people I have known most of my adult life. Good people. Loving people. Caring people. And yes, devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christians.

They believe that Jesus is with them through thick and thin. Jesus has been their faithful guide. According to them, Jesus has worked countless miracles for them. To them, Jesus is as much a part of their lives as the air they breathe.

I could point out to them all the times that Jesus wasn’t there for them. Where was Jesus when they miscarried? Where was Jesus when their daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident? Their life is filled with countless examples of Jesus leaving them for dead along the side of the road. He seems to always be around when they need a hundred dollars, but nowhere to be found when faced with job loss, economic troubles, or sickness. Yet, they still steadfastly believe.

Is it my place to expose their fraudulent Jesus? Is it my place to point out all the places that their friend Jesus was no friend at all? Perhaps I should buy them Bart Ehrman’s books for Christmas so they can know the truth about the Bible and Jesus? Why would I want to do this? Would their life be better without Jesus?

I can’t think of any way their life would be better without their mythical best friend. Their whole existence and being is invested in him, and they are trusting Jesus to be there when they are dying, to carry them home to their reward in Heaven.

None of this is true, BUT it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is what Jesus means to them, and what value he adds to their lives. If this Jesus gives their lives meaning, purpose, and direction, I have no right to disabuse them of their beliefs. If this Jesus gives them peace and comfort . . . who am I to take that away from them?

Sometimes, we atheists and agnostics, in our zeal to rid the world of the evil of Christian Fundamentalism, forget that most Christians are not theocrats trying to take over America. They have sincerely-held beliefs and, for them, Jesus adds value to their lives. Yes, we must battle Christian Fundamentalists who want to turn American into a Christian theocracy. Yes, we must battle attempts to teach creationism as science in public schools. Yes, we must battle attempts to codify Christian morals and ethics as the law of the land. We must battle any and all attempts to lessen the individual liberty we have to believe or not believe. But, beyond these things, it is not our place to rid the world of beliefs we think are silly or anti-intellectual.

We must remember, those of us who are writers, that the Evangelical Christians who come to our blogs to debate, evangelize, and attack are not typical believers. Zealots and apologists deserve all that we give them, and I have little tolerance for such people. But . . . I must never forget that most Christians are not like Bible thumpers. Most Christians are like my wife’s parents — people who love Jesus and want to live a good life.

All human beings want a life that has meaning and purpose. We want to be loved, and we want to know our lives mattered. In the end, we all die, and we will soon be forgotten by all but those who loved us. Let’s be careful in our zeal to rid the world of all the evils associated with religion, that we don’t lose those we love, that we don’t trade being right for those who will be there for us when we draw our last breath.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary

hopeless and helpless

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I used to enthusiastically preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say the Evangelical Christianity, made them weary and hopeless.

What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive — so destructive that some people have thoughts of committing suicide.

It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus — real or not — is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.

No, it is what the church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.

I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot of people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.

They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no place to turn. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).

So they suffer in silence. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.

Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to Hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?

I want you to know that I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.

My desire for you is hope and rest.

For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has caused psychological damage. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know.

It’s late . . .

I can hear the clock ticking.

Another night with no sleep.

I hear my lover snoring.

I think of our life together.

So much time wasted.

So much work invested in things that do not matter.

Years have passed us by.

God, we served you.

God, we loved you.

God, we worshiped you.

God, we left all to follow you.

Careers, ambitions, wealth, family . . .

All forsaken to follow you.

Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.

And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.

What am I to make of all this?

Can I go on?

Will I go on?

I must go on.

God or not, there is a life to be lived.

God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.

Because I AM dying.

So much life yet to live.

So much life yet to experience and enjoy.

God is back on the shelf where he belongs.

Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.

Probably not.

Until then, I will live morally and ethically.

Until then, I will love and hate.

Until then, I will walk the path called life the best way I know.

Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.

I still have hope.

My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.

These days, the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.

I devote myself to these gods.

I worship them.

That’s enough for me.

I will leave eternity to another day.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.