Menu Close

Tag: Jesus

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-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary

hopeless and helpless

Repost from 2015-2016. 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-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

iPhones Lead Us to Jesus

apple jesus
“Steve Jobs is Jesus” by Daphne van Kesteren

Calvinists are fond of claiming the Sovereign God of John Calvin is the first cause, the source of everything. Everything we atheists say, do, and have comes from the Christian God. There’s no aspect of our lives which are not created and controlled by the thrice holy God. No matter how vivaciously we object to such stupid claims, Calvinists say that we know in our hearts of hearts that this is true.

Supposedly, everywhere we look there is evidence for the existence of God. And not just any God either. Oh no, all the evidence points to John Piper’s God. Only those who are deliberately blind or reprobates deny what is clear to all who have eyes to see. Or so the Calvinist say, anyhow.

Take Greg Morse, a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and a staff writer for John Piper’s Calvin-24/7 website Desiring God. Morse writes about his interaction with a man who told him that he was happy without God.

Here’s what Morse had to say:

“I know you don’t believe me, but I do not need Christianity to be happy. I am happier than most Christians I know.” Looking up from his coffee, he smiled and assured me, “I am glad you found happiness in Jesus, but I am quite content without him. I have found my path to happiness, and I am glad you have found a different one. We stand at the same end, it would appear.”

I did not know what to say.

I knew how to share the Joy of the world to the discontent, the miserable, the downcast, but I stood perplexed at this man who told me, in no uncertain terms, “I do not need Christ to be happy.” Wasn’t his heart restless until it found its rest in him? He assured me it wasn’t. Didn’t he have a God-shaped hole in his heart? He swore that he didn’t. And what was more, he truly seemed to be, as far as I could tell, happy.

Most atheists would likely agree with the happy man’s sentiment. We don’t need God/Jesus/Christianity for our lives to have meaning, purpose, and happiness. Many of us were, at one time, Greg Morse. We believed that the Christian God was the sole source of all that was good in our lives. Our joy and happiness came from God alone, not anything we ourselves did. We believed, that without Jesus, our lives were steaming piles of worthless shit. This is especially true for those of us who were Calvinists. There’s no better theological system than Calvinism for destroying human value, purpose, and self-worth.

Morse wants atheists and other believers to know that despite their claims, everything they have comes from the Calvinistic God.

Morse writes:

God allows those who ignore him, reject him, despise his glory, and belittle his name to breathe his air, feast on his food, swim in his waters, hike in his forests, ski on his mountains, laugh, sing, and dance on his lands. He has not yet evicted them. He has not taken back his bread from their plates nor his air from their lungs. Rather — and note the benevolence of the God of the universe — he “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

….

The man that I spoke with took these gifts from God, enjoyed them, and refused to say thank you.

Man is the only creature other than fallen angels to pay God back so basely. God opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.

How dare unbelievers believe that the good in their lives comes from their own efforts and that of their fellow homo-sapiens. How dare we think we don’t need God/Jesus/Christianity.

This seems like a good place to interject my all-time favorite TV prayer.

Video Link

The character played by Jimmy Stewart believes in giving credit to whom creThe character played by Jimmy Stewart believes in giving credit to whom credit is due. As an atheist, I don’t pray and thank God for the meals prepared by my wife. Why should I? What, exactly, did God do? Every aspect of the meal, from its raw ingredients to the finish product, can be attributed to things other than a deity. Over the weekend, I made fried chicken. It turned out well, although Polly might have something to say about Tornado Bruce’s cooking behavior. 🙂 If Polly said to me about all my hard work, All praise be to Jesus for this wonderful fried chicken, I would be more than a bit upset.

Morse, on the other hand, has never cooked a meal, or done anything else for that matter, without at least thinking that Jesus was worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

Morse concludes his post by telling readers what he would say to the aforementioned godless happy man if given the opportunity to do so again:

The Christian faith is not merely about man’s happiness, although God gives more joy than you can now imagine. Christianity addresses how sinful men, women, and children can be reconciled to their Creator and live happy lives for his glory. God has placed good gifts to summon you to see God’s ultimate gift: his Son, Jesus Christ. He came to save a people he didn’t have to save. To live a life we couldn’t live. To die the death we deserved to die. And to rise, summoning all everywhere to turn away from their sin, and trust in his finished work on the cross for sinners.

The smartphone in your pocket has everything to do with this God. The music massaging your ears, the colors jumping before your eyes, the gladness of heart and the love you feel are kindnesses from God with one message upon their lips: “Repent and believe.”

With a straight face with Morse asserts without one whit of evidence, “The smartphone in your pocket has everything to do with this [the Calvinistic] God.” In other words, if I carefully peer into the screen of my iPhone I will see “God.” That’s right, iPhones lead us to Jesus. Android phones? Straight to Satan and Hell! Only iPhones lead to the straight and narrow way.

That Morse would dare to utter such nonsense out loud is quite amusing. If we listen carefully, we can hear Steve Jobs hollering from Hell, Dammit! How dare God take credit for my creation, and that of Apple.

Nothing Morse writes is new. As a devout Calvinistic Evangelical, I heard countless sermons, and preached more than a few myself, that promoted the notion that we humans are helpless; that everything we have physically and materially comes from God; that without Jesus our lives are n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

How has your life changed since deconverting? Did you find it hard to give up giving all praises and blessing to God from whom all things flow? Do you now give credit to whom credit is due? Do you have Christian family who steals the credit for your happiness and success and gives it to their God? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Are You Worshiping a False Jesus?

blue eyed jesus

Evangelicals want everyone to believe that they worship Jesus; not just any Jesus, either. Their Jesus is the one and only Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Their Jesus is special and unique, unlike the Jesus worshiped by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, or revered by Muslims and other non-Evangelical sects.

Take the Sovereign Grace Music song, Jesus, There’s No One Like You:

There is no song we could sing
To honor the weight of Your glory
There are no words we could speak
To capture the depth of Your beauty

CHORUS
Jesus, there’s no one like You
Jesus, we love You, ever adore You
There’s no one like You
Jesus, we love You, ever adore You, Lord

VERSE 2
There is no sinner beyond
The infinite stretch of Your mercy
How can we thank You enough
For how You have loved us completely?

BRIDGE
All we have
All we need
All we want is You

Video Link

It’s evident Sovereign Grace has a particular Jesus in mind. More on that below.

blue eyed jesus

Years ago, Evangelical musicians Bill and Gloria Gaither released a song titled, There’s Something About That Name:

There’s just something about the name of Jesus

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that name

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that name (that name)

Something about that name.

Video Link

Both songs reference Jesus, yet the Jesus of Sovereign Grace Music, and that of Bill and Gloria Gaither are very different from one another. Sovereign Grace is Calvinistic, whereas the Gaithers belong to an Arminian sect. The Jesus of the Calvinists and the Jesus of the Arminians are two very different Sons of God. Oh, outwardly they appear the same, but doctrinally they are very different. Mere semantics? I think not. Evangelical sects build complex systems of theology around their peculiar versions of Jesus. These beliefs can’t help but color how believers view the Savior of the world (to the Gaithers) or the Savior of the elect (to the Calvinists). And it’s not just Evangelicals who do this. Liberal/progressive Christians have a very different Jesus from Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB). Which Jesus is the right one? How could we possibly know who possesses the Jesus who alone can save us from our sins?

black jesus

Worse yet, individual churches, pastors, and congregants shape and mold Jesus into their own version of the Son of God. Instead of there being one Jesus for all, there are countless Jesuses, each eerily looking like their creators.

The next time you have a discussion with an Evangelical who is preaching “Jesus” to you, perhaps it would be interesting for you to ask them “which” Jesus? Ask them how their Jesus compares to the one found within the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that whomever and whatever the Jesus of the gospels might have been, he bears little resemblance to the Jesuses of today. And that’s okay. Is that not the power of religion; its ability to adapt, change, and transform over time? All I want is for Evangelicals to admit, in particular, that Jesus is NOT the same yesterday, today, and forever; that he is a chameleon of sorts.

I find it amusing when Evangelicals attempt to assert that their Jesus alone is the “right” Jesus, and that all other Jesuses are false. Take our Fundamentalist friend Spaniard VIII. In a post titled, Satan Is After You To Destroy You, Sp8 gives “examples of a false Jesus Christ that comes from the teachings of demons through false religions.”

middle eastern jesus

Sp8 believes that he worships the one true Jesus. He even gives a checklist for readers to follow to determine if they are worshiping a demonic Jesus, Do you believe that (my answers in parentheses):

  • Jesus is not God (yes)
  • Jesus didn’t die on the cross (no)
  • Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (yes)
  • Jesus wasn’t perfect (yes)
  • Jesus was not born from a virgin (yes)
  • Jesus was not the Son of God (yes)
  • Jesus is not the only way to heaven (yes)
  • Jesus is another god apart from the Father (yes)
  • A denial of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all three being Yahweh (yes)

Oh my God! I just learned that I believe in a false Jesus! I have been deceived by Satanic forces out to send me to the Lake of Fire for eternity. Hey, I did answer the question “Jesus didn’t die on the cross” correctly. I am of the opinion that we have sufficient historical evidence for the execution of Jesus on a Roman cross (and, no, I don’t want to debate this issue). This claim makes rational sense to me. However, the rest of Sp8’s assertions are faith claims. Sp8 just wants us to take his word for it that he worships the right Jesus. Doubt this naked assertion of his? Burn in Hell!

socialist jesus

There’s no such thing as a monolithic Jesus. Two thousand years of Christian church history, along with the establishment and proliferation of thousands of contradictory Christian sects, have birthed countless Westworld-like Jesuses, each programmed to look, believe, and act like their creators.

Which Jesus, if any, do you worship?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Praise and Worship Music: Making Love to Jesus on Sunday Morning

praise and worship music

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected. 

Warning! Snark ahead.

When I started attending a Christian church in the late 1950s, hymns, hymns, and only hymns were the songs of the church. In the 1960s, southern gospel music started to influence what was sung on Sunday mornings. From there came the Gaither era, the contemporary Christian music era (CCM), and finally the praise and worship era. Drums, guitars, praise teams, and worship leaders are standard fare in churches now. Seniors tend to not like it, millennials think it is boring, and baby boomers say, FINALLY, rock music in the church.

Over the last eight years I spent in the ministry, the churches I pastored used a blended worship approach. We’d sing hymns, but we also sang a lot of praise and worship songs. My three oldest sons played bass and guitar, so they became the church band. At the time, I thought it was wonderful, but now that I am years removed from singing love songs to Jesus, I have a far different opinion.

Just for fun, I clicked the Praise and Worship channel on Rdio — a now defunct music streaming service. I listened to many of the songs we sang years ago, mixed in with new praise and worship songs. As I listened to the instrumentation, I couldn’t help but notice how the songs stirred my emotions. It’s the instrumentation that gives the syrupy, Jesus-is-your-boyfriend lyrics their sexual appeal. I thought, these songs are love-making songs. And that is exactly why so many Christians love them. Hymns generally appealed to the intellect. Praise and worship music makes no pretense of appealing to the intellect. The music is meant to agitate emotions, putting listeners in a frame of mind that makes it easy for Jesus to have “commune” with believers.

Many praise and worship songs are little more than aids for spiritual masturbation. Often, the lyrics are shallow and repetitive, focusing on self and not God. Some of the lyrics are so shallow that just by swapping a few words, you can change the song from a love song to Jesus to a love song to your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse, Take the song (Trading My Sorrows) Yes Lord by Matt Redman. The next time you are making love to your significant other, speak or sing these lyrics, changing the word Lord to the name of your partner:

We say yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord amen

Make sure you sing it loudly so the neighbors will know it is your lucky night.

The draw of praise and worship music is its emotional appeal. Visit a local we are the hippest church in town and observe the effect the music has on parishioners. All around you will be people dreamily lost in the love of Jesus. Some will be so enthralled that they begin making love to Jesus, not caring a bit that they are participating in the equivalent of a YouPorn video. It’s emotional sex with your clothes on.

On one hand, the effect this music has on parishioners reflects the power of music to move our emotions. When Polly and I attended a Darius Rucker concert years ago, both of us noticed the emotional connection attendees made with the music. Both of us were stirred emotionally by Rucker’s songs. The problem with praise and worship music is that it is sold as a way to get closer to God. Countless Evangelicals go to church on Sunday to get their emotional fix. Forget the sermon. They are there to wrap their arms around Jesus and do a slow dance with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is in this highly emotional state that parishioners are open to whatever their pastor is selling that day. While worship leaders will likely object and say that the music prepares believers to hear from the Lord, I am convinced the music is used, whether purposely or ignorantly, to weaken psychological defenses and make it easier for parishioners to “hear” what the pastor, uh I mean God, is trying to tell/sell them.

The music puts parishioners in an altered state. This is by design, and any pastor or worship leader who tells you differently is lying. Even with hymns, it is possible for the songs to elicit a specific emotional response. The ebb and flow of the average worship service is a highly designed and scripted affair meant to achieve a certain goal. If this is not true, why don’t churches start their services with the sermon? Instead, the music is used to open the hearts (minds) of listeners to whatever their pastors are going to say. By manipulating emotions, pastors have a greater chance to get those under the sound of their voice to do what they want them to do. Again, if this is not so, why do most pastors and worship leaders choose songs that perfectly dovetail with the sermon? Why not take requests from the floor if what song is sung doesn’t matter?

But it does matter. And it is not just the music. Modern church services have turned into tightly scripted affairs. Sound, lighting, and program structure are used to set the mood; no different from me coming home and finding the lights dimmed, candles lit, rose petals on the floor, and the sweet voice of Karen Carpenter quietly wafting through the air. The former is meant to help the parishioner get lucky with Jesus. The latter is meant to remind Bruce that sometimes the ballgame doesn’t come first. 🙂

Even in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches — a sect known for hating contemporary music — certain songs are used to elicit emotional responses from the congregants. The goal is the same regardless of the style of music. Through emotional manipulation, the words of pastors are more easily received. In most cases, little harm is done. But, sometimes, by manipulating the hearers’ emotions, the songs lead congregants to make decisions or do things they wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Those slobbering IFB preachers were right about secular music. Certain “Satanic” songs can lower inhibitions and pave the way for a romp in the sack with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Such evil! But what they don’t tell you is that certain “godly” songs can lower inhibitions too, and pave the way for a romp in the sack with Jesus.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser