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Tag: Leaving Christianity

How IFB Beliefs and Practices Ruin Family Relationships

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, in front of first apartment in Pontiac, Michigan, Fall 1978 with Polly’s Grandfather and Parents

Millions of atheists, agnostics, pagans, and non-Christians have wonderful relationships with their Christian families. Unfortunately, this is not the case for unbelievers who have Evangelical families, especially those affiliated with churches on the extreme right of the Evangelical spectrum. The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — the religion of choice for my wife and I for many years — is one such extremist sect. Why do so many former IFB Christians have so many problems with their IFB parents, siblings, and extended families?

The IFB church movement — a broad collection of thousands of independent churches — is by nature separatist, exclusionary, and anti-cultural. (This thinking can be found in the Southern Baptist Convention and other Evangelical sects too.) IFB preachers tell their congregants that it is “us against the world.” Everything is neatly put in two categories: saved or lost, Heaven or Hell, godly or ungodly, worldly or wicked. Either you are part of the “in” group, or you are not. Their relationship with you depends on what group you are in.

IFB Christians are Bible literalists. In their minds, the Bible is not only inspired (breathed out by God), but it is also inerrant (without error) and infallible (true in all that it says). This thinking cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained, but millions of Fundamentalist Christians believe otherwise. Thus, when IFB believers read the Bible — and they do, far more than most Christians — they believe every word, including the words “thee” and “and” are true, straight from the mouth of God. Granted, IFB Christians don’t always practice what they preach, but when confronting sinful, wicked, evil, worldly non-Christian family members, they will expect them to submit to and obey the Bible’s inerrant, infallible edicts.

IFB Christians live in a black-and-white world without shades of gray or nuance. In their minds, there is only one way to see things: God’s divine plan as revealed in the Bible. All other worldviews and philosophies are false, even Satanic. That’s why IFB believers are at the forefront of the culture wars. They used to withdraw from the world, but thanks to successes in the political realm, Trumpism, and theocratic tendencies, IFB believers are quite militaristic in the public square.

While there is some theological and social diversity within the IFB bubble, generally people are expected to all believe and practice the same things. The IFB church movement is a monoculture where unapproved beliefs, practices, books, and interactions with the “world” are roundly condemned. Church members who can’t or won’t follow the yellow brick road are considered backslidden or carnal (worldly) Christians. Typically, such people will, over time, move on to other churches that are more accepting of theological and social diversity.

IFB Christians are encouraged by their pastors to treat their churches as their families. In fact, many pastors tell their congregants that their church “family” is their real family. Most IFB churches are hives of activity, often having services, ministries, and programs five days a week. These things, of course, are meant to reinforce the notion that the church is just one big, happy family. Families are encouraged to fellowship with fellow church families outside of the church. Friendships with unsaved people are frowned upon, if not outright condemned.

Many IFB parents either send their children to a private Christian school (often operated by their church) or homeschool them. After graduation, IFB children are expected to either get married or attend a Christian college. Many of these institutions are unaccredited, often providing inferior education. I recently perused the website of an IFB college that a family member is attending so she can be a school teacher. The college requires all students to earn a minimum of sixty hours in Bible. That means my family member, who is training to be a teacher, will only have sixty-eight hours of teaching-related training (the equivalent of an associate arts (AA) degree). Of course, upon graduation, she will only be able to work for unaccredited IFB schools. In other words, her degree will be worthless outside of the IFB bubble (though she will likely graduate with a preacher boy on her arm and have a baby two years later).

As long as everyone believes and practices the same things, all is well. Fellowship: a bunch of fellows in a boat all rowing in the same direction. This perfectly describes the IFB church movement. What mucks family relationships up is when a family member either jumps out of the boat or starts rowing in a different direction. This causes immediate conflict, often leading to hostilities and estrangement.

My wife, Polly, and I were raised in IFB churches. In the fall of 1976, we both enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — a militant IFB institution. Polly’s father and uncle were IFB preachers, both graduates of Midwestern. Her grandfather was a lay Fundamentalist preacher with the United Baptists. Everything described in this post fits her family to a T. While my family was also IFB in my younger years, by the time I was 15, my parents had divorced and remarried and stopped attending church. I continued alone in the IFB church, seeing the church as my “real” family.

After Polly and I Ieft Midwestern in February 1979, I started working for and pastoring IFB churches. I spent the next decade pastoring IFB churches in Montpelier, Buckeye Lake, and Somerset (all in Ohio). By the late 1980s, thanks to the Jack Hyles/David Hyles scandal and changing soteriological and eschatological beliefs, I stopped self-identifying as IFB. That said, my theological beliefs were still quite conservative and many of the social strictures from my IFB years remained. We remained in fellowship with Polly’s IFB family until we left the ministry in 2005 and left Christianity altogether in 2008. For a few years, we maintained a strained relationship with Polly’s IFB family. We were able to maintain cordial relationships at family holiday gatherings. Then everything fell apart.

In 2020, I wrote:

With my parents being dead, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Polly’s parents. This abruptly changed in 2010. I left the ministry in 2005 and we abandoned Christianity in November 2008. In early 2009, I sent out my family-shattering letter, Dear Family Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter fundamentally changed our relationship with Polly’s IFB family.

Christmas of 2009 was best remembered by a huge elephant in the middle of the room; that elephant being Polly and me and the letter I sent the family. No one said anything, but the tension was quite noticeable.

2010 found us, just like every year since 1978, at Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. This would be the last Christmas we would spend with Polly’s parents and her extended family. We decided to blend into the background, and besides short pleasantries, no one talked to us. Not that they didn’t want to. We found out later from one of our children that Polly’s uncle wanted to confront me about our defection from Christianity. Polly Mom’s put a kibosh on that, telling her brother-in-law that she had already lost one daughter and she was not going to lose another. (Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All.)

I appreciate Polly’s mom being willing to stand up to the man who is generally viewed as the spiritual head of the family (and a bully). I am glad she put family first. If Polly’s uncle had confronted me there surely would have been an ugly fight. Whatever our differences may be, I deeply respect Polly’s parents. They are kind, loving people, and I couldn’t ask for better in-laws.

Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and throughout the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism behind it made for an uncomfortable evening.

Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Big Lots. One of Polly’s uncle’s grandchildren asked him what the plate was for. He replied, “to go poo-poo on” — poo-poo being the Fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life with James Dennis.)

On our way home the next day, I told Polly that I couldn’t do it anymore and she said neither could she. We decided to stop going to Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. We do try to see her parents during the holiday season, but we no longer attend the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Making this decision saddened us, but we knew we had to make it. (By the way, our children still attend the Christmas Eve gathering.)

It has been over a decade since we attended a family gathering. We do travel to Newark the week of Christmas and spend the day with Polly’s mom (her father is dead). While in Newark, we may see several of our nephews while at Polly’s mom’s home. Outside of that, we have no contact with our IFB family. We are Facebook friends with one of Polly’s cousins and nephews, but the rest of the family either refuses to respond to friend requests or has no interest in talking to us. We are godless outsiders, not part of the “in” group.

IFB Christians have little capacity to bend or compromise. That’s certainly the case for Polly’s family. As long as we remain atheists, humanists, and Democrats, we will be ostracized and shunned. Oh, they talk (gossip) about us and pray for us and use us as sermon illustrations, but love us for who and what we are? Never. As a result, many of our great-nephews, great-nieces, and second cousins have no idea who we are. One of our great-nieces got upset over something I had written about a family member on Facebook. “HOW DARE YOU! I DON’T KNOW YOU! YOU ARE A STRANGER!” I replied, “Actually, I am married to your dad’s first cousin. Your dad was in our wedding.” You see, we have been written out of the family’s storyline. The only way these children will ever know anything about us is if they do a Google search.

Polly and I would love to have meaningful relationships with our IFB family. Unfortunately, Fundamentalist religious beliefs and practices make that impossible. We lament these lost relationships, but time is too short for us to spend much time trying to have relationships with people who cannot or will not love us as we are. Polly and I can and will compartmentalize our religious, political, and social beliefs so we can have relationships with IFB family members. We spent six hours earlier this week with Polly’s IFB mother and family. (Please see “I Don’t Know What You Are,” My IFB Mother-in-Law Says.) I (we) didn’t say shit, fuck, or goddammit one time. 🙂 Yet, Polly’s mom had to stop all of us from eating our pizza so a prayer could be offered up to Jesus. No compromise for Polly and Bruce. And that’s fine. We tend to follow the rule, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We stopped eating so our food could be Jesus-blessed. Jesus didn’t make or cook the pizza, nor did he earn the money to pay for it. But, IFB Christians are duty-bound to thank Jesus for everything (except ice cream at Dairy Queen). When Polly’s parents came to our home for Thanksgiving, I would have Dad pray a prayer before we ate — the only prayer ever uttered in our home except when Polly screams out “Oh God!” 🙂 Why do I do this? I wanted Mom and Dad to feel at home. Unfortunately, that’s a one-way street. When at that their home, we are expected to behave and conform. That’s the essence of IFB Christianity: obedience and conformity.

Mom is dying. When is unknown, but based on how she looks, we expect her death will be sooner, and not later. We will greatly miss her. However, we won’t miss her IFB beliefs and practices. We won’t miss being “othered.” We won’t miss being treated as outsiders, or worse yet, as complete strangers. We won’t miss being judged for how we talk, dress, or act.

One thing is for certain: Religious Fundamentalism kills everything it touches. For Polly and me, IFB Christianity killed the relationships we would love to have with our family. And once dead, there’s no way to resuscitate them.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Deconstruction Advice for Evangelical Christians

deconversion

What would prompt you [someone who has questions about Christianity] to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind?…Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself…Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.

Evangelical Apologist William Lane Craig

I get a lot of emails from Evangelical Christians who are struggling with their faith. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, and devout church members will contact me about their existential struggles. Some of them have questions, others just want someone to listen to them. Consider how bad it is for many Evangelicals that they can’t talk to their pastors or other church leaders, so they contact a stranger on the Internet. They read my story and it resonates with them. They see me as someone who will understand, and they hope I will listen to them or answer their questions.

My goal as a writer has always been the same: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity and to help people who have left Christianity altogether. My objective has never been evangelization. While scores of people have deconverted after interacting with me, that’s never been my goal. I genuinely want to help people. I suspect that I am not much different today from the way I was as a pastor. Of course, I no longer see salvation or restoration as the end-all. I am content to help people wherever they are on this journey called life. I don’t try to “save” people. I’m content to let people come to their own conclusions. I might challenge their worldview and beliefs, but I know that their journey is theirs, and I’m content to let them follow the path wherever it leads. Any movement away from Fundamentalism (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) is a good one.

When interacting with deconstructing Evangelicals, the first thing I do is listen. I am fascinated by their stories, so similar, yet so different. Sadly, they find themselves in a lonely place. No one wants to listen to them. Their pastors see them as a “problem” that needs to be fixed. Evangelicalism demands conformity and obedience. While differences of belief are permitted, typically they are discouraged or expected to fit closely defined parameters. Evangelicalism is like a box. Church members are free to wander within the box, asking hard questions such as premillennial or postmillennial, KJV or NIV, speaking in tongues or not, Calvinism or Arminianism, and a host of other game interpretations. Asking hard questions about God, the Bible, and the central claims of Christianity are unwelcome, and will quickly bring a visit from the pastor or a list of approved books from Evangelical apologists to read. Dare to climb out of the box to see what’s on the outside and you will be judged, condemned, and marginalized. And in some cases, you will be asked to shut the hell up or you will be threatened with excommunication. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are In It and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When interacting with Evangelicals, the first thing I do is encourage them to read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos. I suggest they stay away from Evangelical apologists and preachers. Such people have an agenda: to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. Their goal is to maintain the status quo and protect at all costs that which they and their fellow gatekeepers have built. They know that providing honest answers to questions about God, the Bible, and church history will cause more doubts and questions, and even unbelief.

When dealing with Evangelicals, I always recommend they read authors such as Bart Ehrman and John Shelby Spong. If I sense they can handle stronger doses of medicine, I recommend authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the anthologies published by John Loftus. These men speak truth, but their books can be difficult for sensitive Christians to swallow.

If, as Evangelicals allege, God, the Bible, and life after death are the most important things facing the human race, then it behooves us to know whether their claims are true. Reading books written by Evangelical authors will only reinforce, not challenge, beliefs. Such writers are certain they are right, and they want you to be just as certain as they are. Non-Evangelical authors are usually more interested in facts and evidence. Their goal is education, not evangelization and conversion.

The second thing I do is encourage them to talk to people who have different beliefs from theirs. Visit non-Evangelical churches. Interact with writers who are willing to listen and try to answer what questions you might have. My inbox is always open. I will interact with some people for a time and then I won’t hear from them again. I am quite happy to be “used” if I can help people in some way. Sometimes, people will reconnect with me years later. Often, they email me to let me know where they are in life or that they are now an atheist.

Third, I ask people to be brutally honest with themselves. Meet truth in the middle of the road and do business. Don’t try to back up or go around. If people are willing to do so, they will always end up exactly where they need to be. While many of them will remain Christians, I am confident that they will come to understand that Evangelicalism cannot be rationally sustained; that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible; that many of their beliefs are irrational and harmful. Evangelicalism sells itself as THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, but many people learn that there is a Christianity that exists that is not Fundamentalist; one built on a foundation of love, peace, mercy, and kindness. While I am always happy when people embrace atheism, I know that most people won’t. Thus, I gently encourage people to expand their religious horizons. The goal, from my seat in the atheist pew, is to smother the life out of Evangelicalism.

Hopefully, this short post will be helpful for those who are on the path away from Evangelicalism. I have no interest in arguing with zealots or debating apologists. I don’t intend to cast my pearls before swine. But I do want to befriend deconstructing Evangelicals and help them in any way I can.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Robin Schumacher is Dead Wrong About the Number One Reason “True Christians” Leave Their Churches

why

Recently, Robin Schumacher wrote an article titled The No. 1 Reason True Believers Leave a Church for The Christian Post. Schumacher’s bio states:

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master’s in Christian apologetics, and a Ph.D. in New Testament.

Schumacher thinks he knows exactly why “True Christians” are leaving leaving Evangelical churches in droves:

True Christians leave a church when they’re unable to properly worship God.

….

These folks are solid, mature believers who prioritize God in their lives and aren’t ruffled by trivial matters that go on in a local body.

For them (and me) it’s all about being enabled to submit to God an acceptable form of worship while they’re present in the assembly. When that can’t happen, the Spirit within them demands action.  

….

While the juvenile come to church for what they can get, mature believers attend for what they want to give, which is true worship to God. And when they’re disabled in that pursuit, they’ll seek a different setting.

Thousands of former “True Christians” read this blog; people who loved Jesus and followed his teachings; people who gave their time, talent, and money; people who attended church every time the doors were open; people who daily read the Bible and prayed; people who evangelized others and worked to advance the Kingdom of God; people who lived and breathed Jesus, the church, and the Bible. Yet, scores of them walked out of their churches and never returned. Some moved on to mainline churches, while others stopped attending church altogether. Many of them embraced agnosticism or atheism. What happened?

Schumacher would have us believe that these conscientious Christians left because they couldn’t “properly” worship God. As a poster child for people who were once “True Christians” and are now unbelievers, I can confidently say that most people who walk away don’t do so because they can’t “properly worship God.” This seems to me to be a shallow, superficial answer to a deeper, systematic problem. Of course, this is what Evangelical talking heads do. They rarely have extensive, thoughtful discussions with people who exit stage left. Evangelical churches don’t do exit interviews. Instead, they often take a “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out” attitude.

I certainly understand becoming disillusioned with church. I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years. I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan for twenty-five years. Evangelicalism flowed through my veins. I was all in, a true believer who loved Jesus with all his heart, soul, and mind, and who followed his teachings and commands. Years ago, a woman who had known for years, upon hearing of my loss of faith, said, “If Bruce isn’t a Christian, nobody is.” Countless Evangelicals tell me that I was never a “True Christian.” However, they will search in vain to find one person who knew me as their pastor or colleague in the ministry who is willing to say, “oh, I knew Bruce was never a real Christian.” Not one.

That said, my wife, Polly, and I went through a period of several years when we became disillusioned with Christianity. By this time, I was done with the ministry. Whether tired, sick from my increasing health problems, or burned out, I decided that it was time for me to move on to a new chapter in life. I pastored my last church in 2003, Victory Baptist Church in Clare, Michigan. In the spring of 2005, I decided to reenter the ministry. I sent my resume to several Southern Baptist area missionaries in West Virginia. I quickly received numerous inquiries from churches with open pulpits. I decided to candidate at two churches: New Life Baptist Church in Weston and Hedgesville Baptist Church in Hedgesville. New Life demanded that I only use the King James Version. I quickly said no, knowing that I wanted nothing to do with people who put Bible translations above ministry. Hedgesville was a wonderful church, positioned in an area that was growing by leaps and bounds. The church paid well and owned a nice trilevel parsonage. I thought the church would be the perfect place for me to reestablish my career. The church had an interim pastor, a man who was a police officer. They were not considering him because he lacked the educational requirements they were looking for. Besides, he never said he wanted to pastor the church permanently. After spending two days with the man, it became evident to me that he wanted to pastor the church. The pulpit committee expressed interest in me becoming their next pastor, but I declined and told them they needed to talk to the interim pastor. They did, and the church decided to make him their permanent pastor. This was the right decision for them to make. I preached a couple more times for friends of mine, and by the summer of 2005, I officially “retired” from the ministry.

Polly and I wondered, “now what?” We had celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary the year before. We had spent every waking hour in the ministry. It’s all we knew. From 2002-2008, we decided to find a church to attend; one where we could serve Jesus and lend our support. During this time, we attended more than 125 churches, everything from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Methodist, and Lutheran to Baptist, Mennonite, Church of Christ, and non-denominational — and other sects in between. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!) Our goal was to find a church that took the teachings of Christ seriously. We took a minimalist approach, willing to jettison secondary matters for a church that loved God and loved their neighbors; a church that oozed devotion to God. Sadly, our search came up empty.

I call this period of time our “disaffected years.” We were still committed followers of Jesus. We still believed the Bible was the Word of God and lived our lives according to our interpretation of its teachings. By the time we reached the fall of 2008, it was evident that we were in serious trouble faith-wise. We started doubting and questioning our sincerely-held beliefs. Our nightstands and end tables were littered with books written by Bart Ehrman, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and other contrarian authors. I started reading books written by Emerging Church authors and liberal/progressive theologians. The more I read, the more questions I had. And then it happened: I came to the conclusion that the Bible was not inerrant and infallible. This led to more and more questions about my beliefs. I finally arrived at the place where I had to admit that the central claims of Christianity could not be rationally sustained; that many of the claims found in the Bible were false. On the last Sunday in November, 2008, Bruce and Polly Gerencser, and their three teenage children walked out of the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church for the last time. At the age of fifty, I was done with Christianity. In early 2009, I sent out my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners to several hundred family members, friends, ministerial colleagues, and former parishioners. This was my (our) coming out letter. I said to all who knew me that I was no longer a Christian. Not long after, I publicly embraced atheism.

I suspect my story resonates with many ex-Evangelicals. We didn’t leave Christianity, as Schumacher alleges, because we were “unable to properly worship God.” Our problems with Evangelicals were much deeper and more extensive than the inability to worship God as we pleased. What bothered us was indifference and incestuous behavior that focused on feeding fat, lazy sheep instead of ministering to “the least of these.” What bothered us was all the attention paid to the man of God instead of the needs of the congregation and those outside of the church. What bothered us was the constant demand for loyalty, obedience, and money. Damn, it all seemed to be about money. And most of all, what bothered us was the inattention paid to our doubts and the shallow, cliche-driven answers to our questions. We read, studied, and prayed, desperately seeking ways to hang on to our faith. In the end, what bothered us the most was the silence. When we stopped attending church, to put it frankly, no one gave a shit. Or worse yet, our pastors sent us stern, judgmental letters or preached about us. They couldn’t be bothered to talk to us, choosing instead to use us as sermon illustrations or warnings. Once out the door, we were abused and marginalized. Even if our questions could have been answered, why would we ever want to return to places that treated us like shit?

I am sure Schumacher means well, but I encourage him to actually talk to people who left the church, never to return. Read their blogs and listen to their podcasts. The real reasons “True Christians” divorced the church are there for all to see. Seek and ye shall find. Of course, Schumacher might think there is no need to do this; that people such as I were not the “True Christians” he’s talking about; that “True Christians” would never walk away from Jesus and his church. After all the Bible says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Evangelical Reckoning

guest post

A Guest Post by Larry C

Over a century ago, upon reviewing the work of the white churches, Frederick Douglass had this to say:

Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity . . . .

White evangelicals have a real and deep reckoning coming. They have embraced exactly what Fredrick Douglass refers to as the bad, corrupt and wicked. This is not anything new. They have always done so. The white Evangelical movement has a long and dark history of racism, bigotry, misogyny, child abuse, and intolerance in general —  all of which are unchristian at their core.

I am not saying that all white evangelicals embrace these evils. Large and increasing numbers are rejecting these flaws and are instead finding a new path of greater love and tolerance for their fellow man. Still others are leaving the movement entirely. There is a wide diversity of beliefs under the umbrella of evangelicalism so it is very difficult to say anything that applies to all of them. Instead of trying to parse all the variations in the beliefs of these groups, it is easier to simply call those that still embrace the evils of the past as the “Religious Right.”

It is those who still adhere to the conservative values of 150 years ago who are most being blinded to the harm that they perpetuate. The more conservative they are, the more they cling to the ideas of the past. When you fast forward to today and look at the beliefs and actions of the Religious Right, they are still rooted in bigotry, racism, misogyny, hypocrisy and intolerance. If you look at what is important to them today, you can see the basic values are still the same.

Movement of faith becomes movement of grievances. For the Religious Right, the big three issues are Abortion, LGBTQ rights, and evolution. They have been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade for decades. Their goal is to give local state governments the power to outlaw abortion, thus allowing the government to tell women what they can do with their bodies. To say that women don’t have the right to decide for themselves is clearly misogynistic. They have been trying to overturn LGBTQ rights from the first moment these rights were affirmed by the courts. They want to be able to discriminate against them with no consequence. They want to be able to deny them seats in restaurants, service by businesses, and even health care. This is the same old racism we saw leveled against African Americans for centuries. Now, it’s against gays. The last of the big three is evolution. The Bible has a creationist view of our origins. The Religious Right has been attacking evolution for a century, not simply because the story is different, but because it is incompatible with the bible. And the Religious Right is totally intolerant of any view that is incompatible with theirs. Their intolerance does not begin and end with evolution. It permeates virtually every core belief that they have, which leads to all the other issues we see with the Religious Right. This goes in lock step with their denial of science as a whole. Science is not biblical.

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.

Eric Hoffer

All of this would not really be a problem for the rest of us except for the fact that the Right has chosen a path of political power over religious persuasion. Political power can be wielded quickly. Persuasion takes time and patience. Political power can be wielded nationally while persuasion starts locally and only spreads nationally when locally successful. Persuasion has been largely a failure in expanding their views so the cudgel of the force of law has become the weapon of choice. They are less interested in changing minds and more interested in changing laws. They believe that they are doing “God’s work.” They believe this gives them the right to do anything regardless of the ethical and moral problems associated with it. In short, they have come to believe that the end justifies the means.

They raise huge amounts of money and embark on acquiring the political power that comes with the money. They forge relationships with governors, senators, lobbyists, leaders of industry, and anyone who can advance their agenda. They donate huge sums of money to political campaigns. Little by little they make moral compromises. One piece at a time, they sell their souls to the devil. They become duplicitous and dishonest. To that end they have made a devil’s bargain. Their support of a man like Donald Trump is only the latest manifestation of this bargain.

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

Eric Hoffer

Pastors of mega-churches amass fortunes on the donations of people who can ill afford to donate. We see them hawking “prayer cloths” and “holy anointing oil” supposedly blessed by God with the promise that God will answer their prayers if they buy this stuff. They preach the “prosperity gospel” telling their people that they will become rich and prosperous if they pray hard enough and donate enough money. The leaders of these movements become richer and richer while their spiritual worth becomes poorer and poorer. They preach Christian values to ensnare the followers and behind closed doors they behave as corruptly as the worst of us. From the sexual scandals of Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, and Jerry Falwell Jr. to the financial crimes of Jim Bakker and Ephren Taylor, they are as hypocritical as they can get. They have been seduced and corrupted by fame, money, and power absolutely. They continue to fleece their flocks of trusting followers week after week, year after year, becoming obscenely rich on the donations of the faithful. And for good reason, it’s easy: They just tell their followers what they want to hear.

Week after week, year after year, the faithful hand over their money as if they were in a trance. Their trust in these charlatans is seen as a measure of their faith in God. In a sense, it is their reward for their naïve, childlike trust in these charismatic authority figures and their willingness to be deceived. It’s easy to fleece them blind once you are seen as God’s messenger. And the grift goes on and on. What do you get when you mix a conman preacher with sheep asking to be sheared? You get what you deserve.

It has been reported that child abuse is worse in the Evangelical Church community than in the Catholic Church, and like the Catholic Church, the leaders of the Religious Right would rather bury these cases than own up to them. There is a long history of sexual child abuse by the pastors of Evangelical churches and, so far, no real effort to confront it. Instead, the powers that decide the response choose to hide the abuse and blame the victim for reporting the abuse, thus abusing the victim a second time. This is being exposed by the Guidepost Solutions audit and report of 2022 to the SBC Executive Committee. Finally admitting that this is happening and dealing with this will be a major part of the coming reckoning.

Evangelical treatment of women is just as bad. For the sake of “biblical purity”, they treat women like second-class human beings, worth less than a man. From their views on abortion to their beliefs that women should be totally subservient to their husbands, they see women as being less. Women are treated as less. Women are devalued as less.

A friend of our family, an evangelical, once characterized Democrats as “baby killers.” She was completely oblivious to the fact that many Democrats are Pro-Life Catholics. She didn’t comprehend that you could be Jewish and Pro-Life either. Her view is the prevailing view of evangelicals.

Their intolerance is like the blinders on a horse. Their view is deliberately narrowed; their understanding is simplified into black vs. white; us versus them; good versus evil choices. There is no room for gray areas; no understanding of other points of view; no room for tolerance. 

All of these sins of the Religious Right are coming to the surface in today’s politics and are becoming ever more visible. This has never been more self-evident than in their unconditional support for Donald Trump, a man that stands 180 degrees opposite from everything that they profess to believe in. They are willing to support and defend separating immigrant children from their parents at the border and putting them in cages; a move that experts say will leave these children with lifelong emotional damage. By their support for the program separating the children from their parents, they enable destroying immigrant families, increasing violence against Muslims and other minorities. They support a man who lies with every breath, steals at every opportunity, and has no regard at all for the rule of law or the political norms that have made our democracy so successful. They support a man whose cruelty and lack of empathy harms everyone in his orbit. And they continue to support him in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he does not give a damn about their faith, their country, or anything else but himself. To think that they support Trump in spite of his values would be wrong. They support him because of his values. They support his racism, misogyny, and bigotry because these are also their values. It’s not faith that decides their beliefs, it’s the politics of racism, bigotry, and intolerance — intolerance that is systemic and pervasive. It’s a longstanding bigotry that extends all the way back to our time of slavery. Evangelicals are perpetuating it to this day and they see in Donald Trump a strong man who will allow them to impose the worst in their nature on all of American society by the force of law. This is the bargain they struck with this evil man. This is what they have sold their souls for.

There is another aspect of the Religious Right that needs acknowledging, perhaps the most dangerous aspect. We see violence and militancy in the movement that is both striking and alarming. White Christian Nationalism has become a prominent part of their ideology. Instead of messengers of God, they see themselves as “soldiers of God.” They see the world in a binary “us versus them” war of good versus evil, God versus the devil. As a result, they are prone to justify the use of violence to fight this war. The bombings and arson of abortion clinics are examples. The harassment of abortion clinic workers is an ongoing and persistent occurrence. The murders of abortion doctors such as George Tiller and Barnett Slepian are additional examples. Paul J. Hill, a Pastor, shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton (an abortion provider) in July 1994 in Pensacola, Florida. Before he was executed for the crime Hill stated “I’m willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did,” The Religious Right has adopted an end-justifies-the-means attitude that again, has roots that run long and deep in their history, and runs counter to all that is Biblical. Violence for political gain has become an accepted method of the Religious Right. Many of the rioters that stormed our capitol on January 6th were doing so with a religious motivation to “go to war” for God. After all, Trump is God’s President.

The reckoning is coming. I believe that it has already begun. I see it coming in many forms. The unconditional support for Trump has alienated an entire generation of young evangelicals who not only reject Trumpism but reject the entire racist underpinnings that pervade the evangelical movement. The evangelical movement is losing the young at alarming numbers. The youth have seen the movement for what it is and many have moved beyond the tipping point and are leaving. It’s not just the young. Many of the more progressive corners of the movement have already spoken out against the racism, bigotry, and misogyny in the movement. They have denounced Trumpism for what it is and have put their words to action. Political action groups and progressive publications are all starting to dot the otherwise red landscape. More and more, pastors and other church leaders are speaking out about how their movement has been corrupted by the pursuit of wealth, fame, and political power. They speak of how their movement has been enablers of racism, misogyny, bigotry and Trumpism.

Rod Dreher, writing in the American Conservative a piece called The Coming Christian Reckoning, says:

I expect that a number of congregations will be seized by a spirit of “wokeness” commensurate to how other congregations were seized by a spirit of #MAGA. It’s all a false idol. All of it. The path out of this dark wood leads through pain and suffering. There’s no doubt about it. The church is not the Republican Party (nor the Democratic Party) at prayer — and to the extent that it is, it deserves to die.

His words echo the growing awareness of how the movement has been corrupted by politics. This awareness is growing in strength and numbers, leading to a fragmentation of the Evangelical movement. Many are speaking out. Many more are leaving altogether.

In her blog, The LPM Blog, Beth Moore, a prominent and outspoken Evangelical leader, author, and founder of the Living Proof Ministries publicly said the following:

Some key Christian leaders ’had attitudes’ that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire.” She further goes on to say: “I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason, ungodliness.

In response to the support for Donald Trump, Beth Moore also tweeted in December, 2019, that “Evangelicalism as we knew it, as imperfect as it was because we are imperfect, passed away in 2016. History will plant its grave marker there.”

Beth Moore has paid a heavy price by the Evangelical Southern Baptist establishment.  Not only has she been widely criticized for her views, but she has also been called a heretic.  She has been accused of being “at war with the Bible” and called a “rabid never-Trumper.” She was so marginalized that in March of 2021 she left the Southern Baptist Church and joined the Anglican Church where she remains today.

Russell Moore, a prominent evangelical theologian and (former) member of the Southern Baptist Counsel was forced to resign his position on the SBC for criticizing Donald Trump in 2016. He was also a prominent critic of the way the SBC handled allegations of misogyny and sexual abuse within the church. Thousands of public comments calling him a Democrat and liberal and therefore an enemy of the evangelical world had the impact of shunning him from the church and evangelical community. Today, Russell Moore is a writer for Christianity Today magazine and a full-time theologian.

 Bruce Gerencser was an Evangelical Baptist pastor for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. In 2005 he left the ministry. In 2008 he left Christianity completely. His parting words on his blog in 2008 summed up the reasons for leaving simply and revealingly.

Dear God,

I can’t pretend anymore.

I can’t lie to myself anymore.

I can’t lie to others anymore.

And most of all, I can’t lie to You.

I still believe that You are the Living God.

I still believe Your Word to be Truth.

I still believe I am your Child.

But I can’t stand some of Your Children.

Their hatred wounds.

Their self-righteousness cuts.

Their narrow-mindedness tears.

And I can’t have those kinds of people in my life anymore.

What is a man to do when all that he has ever known is found to be a lie?

What is a man to do when hatred and self-righteousness are passed off as virtues?

What is a man to do when he can’t find God where God should be found?

This man quits.                             

Today Bruce Gerencser writes a “post-Evangelical” blog. He identifies himself as a Humanist and Atheist.    

Beth Moore, Russell Moore, and Bruce Gerencser are not unique. A growing number of former Evangelical leaders have left the movement and sometimes the Church as a whole, never to return.

 A slow shattering of the Evangelical movement is happening before our eyes. Instead of being centers of faith and religious thought, in the words of Peter Wehner writing in The Atlantic,

Evangelicals have become political, tribal and repositories of grievances. Their religious priorities have been replaced by political priorities. Evangelicalism is dying by its own hands and thru its own actions. Trump was not the root cause but was the accelerant that triggered a slow ember of resentment and fear of “the other” to explode into a raging fire. This fire will consume not only evangelicalism but is likely to consume the Baptist world as a whole. It’s too late to put out the fire. There is little that the rest of us can do except wait until the fire has consumed all that it will and pick up the pieces. Until then, try not to get burned.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Bruce, You are Bitter!

atheist bitter

It’s been fifteen years since I first started blogging. Initially, I was still a Christian — barely. I was struggling to hang on to some recognizable form of Christianity. For almost two years, I slid down the slippery slope toward unbelief. Emerging church. Liberal/progressive Christianity. Universalism. Agnosticism. And finally, atheism. At every stop, I hoped I had found a resting place. I was weary on my journey. I just wanted to quit thinking and reading, plop myself in my recliner, and watch the Reds lose another ballgame. But, I couldn’t. I continued to read, study, and explore, and that’s why I am an atheist today.

Along the way, I have had my life minutely dissected by Christians — mainly Evangelicals and Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB). Thinking that I am an existential threat to their faith, these devout believers have laid all sorts of charges and allegations at my feet. One such charge is that I am “bitter.”

The Sage VII Dictionary — my go-to software-based dictionary and thesaurus — defines “bitter” (relating to human behavior) this way:

  • Marked by strong umbrage, resentment, or cynicism
  • Proceeding from or exhibiting great hostility or animosity
  • Expressive of severe grief or guilt
  • Harsh, sarcastic, or corrosive in tone

Evangelicals read my writing, become offended over me saying shit about the dead Jesus or their fantastical beliefs, and angrily say that I am “bitter.” While they sometimes use the dictionary definition of bitter to describe me, typically they mean something very different. When Evangelicals are confronted with the life of a man who was part of the Christian church for twenty-five years; a man who pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years; a man who devoutly and resolutely loved Jesus, the Bible, and the church; a man whose life was governed by the teachings of the Word of God; a man who is now an avowed atheist and enemy of the one true faith, they don’t know what do with me. So they comb through my life looking for evidence of bad experiences or crises that might have fueled my eventual unbelief. Surely, I must have been “hurt” or God didn’t deliver on his promises. Unable to square my life with their beliefs, they search for answers to why I am no longer a Christian.

Instead of allowing me to tell my own story or accepting the explanations for my unbelief at face value, they psychoanalyze me, concluding that I had been hurt — by someone, a church, or the Big Kahuna himself — and that’s why I am so bitter today.

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking: I am not bitter. Ask anyone who knows me if I am bitter and, to the person, they will tell you no. Ask my wife. Ask my six grown children. Ask long-time readers of this blog. You will search in vain for someone that will say “Bruce Gerencser is bitter.” I could be bitter about all sorts of things that have happened in my life. Just look at how many Evangelicals treat me; the lies they say about me; their character assassinations; their attacks on my person, my wife, and my children. They have given me plenty of reasons to be bitter, but I am not. I choose not to let them affect my peace and happiness. My pervasive health problems and unrelenting pain have the power to make me bitter if I let them. I choose not to let them have this power over me. I choose, instead, to embrace life as it is. I understand that the universe yawns at my existence. I know life is hard, and then you die. All I can hope for is that there are enough good things in my life as I crawl towards the crematorium. This is my reality: a road paved with heartache and loss and pain and suffering; a road with rest areas where I am refreshed with love, joy, peace, happiness, and satisfaction.

Could I become bitter someday? Sure, but not today. My physical struggles are, at times, monumental and insurmountable, yet I still have much to live for: family, friends, writing, and working to make the world a better place to live. I live in hope of having our mortgage paid off, finishing my to-do list, watching my grandchildren graduate from high school and college, holding a great-grandchild in my arms, spending time with the love of my life, and yes, the Reds winning the World Series and the Bengals winning the Super Bowl.

Do Evangelical family members, friends, and former church members accuse you of being bitter? How do you respond to them? Please share your bitter feelings in the comment section. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Evangelical Stalker Daniel Kluver Thinks I’m a Christian and Have Returned to Preaching

danny kluver

In May 2021, an Evangelical man named Daniel Kluver began stalking me on the Internet. I have asked him to stop emailing me or sending me messages on social media, yet he continues to do so. Some of Kluver’s past literary works say things such as this:

Evangelical Man Says I am Infested with Evil Spirits:

You are the one making an ass out of your self! If all you can talk is shit then go talk It to the devil. A devil did speak through in a lie yesterday. You claimed to have demonic power yesterday [evidently Kluver doesn’t understand sarcasm] but the fact is the devil in you was just boasting about himself! You have no power and your garbage that you dump into the world will soon be over according to your testimony about your health [ah yes, another passive-aggressive threat]. Sometimes when people are infested with evil spirits they don’t even know what is wrong with their selves. If that’s the case with you then you still have a chance for the evil spirits to be flushed out and then you won’t have to keep living like the guy in mark chapter five.[the demon-possessed maniac of Gadera] I have learned how to get demons to manifest in people like you and that is evident.

Another Facebook Message From an Evangelical Zealot:

Peter ruckman was disliked by many brainwashed preacher boys but he was my favorite teacher because he was a straight shooter! Just because the Bible says in the latter times some will depart from the faith giving heed to doctrines of demons like the nuns that won’t marry doesn’t mean you have to. You should watch demons and Christians by ruckman.

You speak like you were a brainwashed preacher boy and it makes me wonder if you are really saved.

I have prayed for god to soften your heart and cut you to the marrow if that’s what it takes.with stents and patches all over our bodies we are in the third quarter of life.

I would probably bet that your wife has been a first peter chapter three wife at times.

Gods message to you is don’t let your pride get in the way of eternity! The only way you could ever preach gods word and denounce him later is only by devils that you have let surround yourself. Devils perched on both shoulders whispering lies into your mind to block the Spirit of God all mighty!

there is a literal hell and I have found that out before I was saved. God used it as a tool to get my attention and it worked.

I am going to ask God to pull back his protective hand off of your life if that’s what it takes to get your attention. In case you haven’t realized it yet I asked God to use me and instead of street witnessing like I used to he is using technology. I have to stay prayed up to fight the devil everyday and you saw how he was working on me with the first message I sent you.

If I don’t see you in heaven then I will see you on judgment day! Take care and god bless!

Yet Another Facebook Message From an Evangelical Zealot:

You morphs are just confirmation of the times we are in.

You have shown that you don’t love or fear god and you are useless now!

Your opinions are slanderous and you have become just like satan whom you serve. A stumbling block to some. Just a bunch of hot air to others.

Rough times ahead just right around the corner for those who hate god.

You’re wrong about who dies when you said that we will both die. Believers never die!

I am amazed at your ignorance and you probably were thrown out of the congregation that you say you were pastoring. I doubt that much of what you said is true!

Why don’t you get a job?

Kluver even contacted my wife, Polly, on Facebook:

If we are truly born again we cannot quit the church because we are the church. You can walk away from the lord and be miserable if you are truly born again just as a non believer that thinks they are born again and can’t understand why they are miserable.

I have been where Bruce is or was and Hebrews twelve verses seven and on confirms the truth about someone.

God has answered every one of my prayers over the last twenty five years and you and your family have been my first and foremost prayers!

Praying for others is my spiritual gift and I wasn’t sure what it was until I asked God to confirm it. We all have these gifts if we are born again and I believe one of yours is your heart for children.

take care and god bless you and your family!

Kluver also sent me private messages on Facebook. Eventually, I was able to successfully block and ban him. Somehow, earlier this month, Kluver was able bypass being blocked and banned and contacted me on Facebook. Not remembering my previous interactions with him, when Kluver messages me about the weather and IFB evangelist Dennis Corle, I politely and happily answered him. After two or three messages, a light went off in my addled senior brain, reminding me who this man really is. I quickly banned and blocked him. Not one to take a hint from anyone but the Holy Spirit, Kluver came to this site and used the contact form to send me an email:

Hey Bruce I heard that you are preaching again. That’s awesome because you know what the baptist say: once saved always saved! If that’s true then you are stuck being a Christian. I will tell Dennis corle hello for you and tell me where you are preaching so I can stop by and say hello.

What the fuck, right? Kluver is a sociopath with advanced degrees in gas lighting and passive-aggressive behavior. Kluver has in the past threatened me, so I find him saying “so I can stop by and say hello” troubling. Fortunately, Kluver lives in California, so I am not too concerned that he will try to show up on my doorstep and say “hello.”

I am not sure what to make of his claim “Bruce I heard that you are preaching again.” I assume this is just Kluver making shit up. No one, anywhere, including yours truly, is saying that “Bruce Gerencser is preaching the Christian gospel again.” I remain an unrepentant atheist, an enemy of God and Christianity. Now, if an Evangelical church would like to have me come and preach, I am more than happy to do so. However, I suspect they might not like my sermon. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Two Questions from an Evangelical Man

i have a question

I recently received an email from an Evangelical man named Jason. His email was quite verbose, so I’ve edited it for clarity. Jason only read a handful of posts before contacting me.

Mr. Gerencser, I have spent time reading through some of your posts. I won’t claim to have read enough of these to have a great understanding of your views or of this blog/site. What I will claim, is that I am a born-again Evangelical Christian who feels that perhaps you might be interested in something different than what you’ve labeled as your usual detractors’ intentions or comments, etc. I get it. You’ve got a lot of history both in the faith, and since leaving it. I won’t question the path you took as you’ve made it clear how you react to folks like me doing so.

….

In one of your posts, it stood out to me that you seem to believe that you should be respectful of others’ journeys in struggling with their faith — or questioning of it, regardless of their journey’s outcome — and that you and others whom frequent this site can offer assistance through your/their writings to perhaps ease some of the burdens in their minds.

….

So, my question — or suggestion, depending on how you look at it — is this: would you consider going the other way….deliberately? What I mean to suggest is, given your experiences with your own path, and your intimate knowledge of the faith and of Churches in general, as well as the fact that every person within that faith is still a flawed human being, would you consider offering help to people who want to remain as Christians (or even other faiths) or to “convert” as it were FROM atheism or agnosticism, etc., with the goal of helping people who are within that faith (or potentially-future believers) to be fully open and frank about the questions they have, including the contradictions they observe within the people of the Church (or other faith group). In other words, would you be open to facilitating a way to help people find what I would call the true Jesus, that is, the Jesus who does not discriminate nor hates nor holds people accountable for things beyond their control? Would you — as an outsider, as it were — help the Church to become what it really ought to be, as a place where God demonstates genuine love and compassion through it’s members while also being openly self-aware and willing to face up to the problems that both individual members as well as whole congregations ought to deal with?

Jason asks:

Would you consider offering help to people who want to remain as Christians (or even other faiths) or to “convert” as it were FROM atheism or agnosticism, etc., with the goal of helping people who are within that faith (or potentially-future believers) to be fully open and frank about the questions they have, including the contradictions they observe within the people of the Church (or other faith group). In other words, would you be open to facilitating a way to help people find what I would call the true Jesus, that is, the Jesus who does not discriminate nor hates nor holds people accountable for things beyond their control?

My express purpose over the past fifteen years has been to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity or who have left the faith altogether. Most of the people I interact with are present or former Evangelicals. This is not surprising since I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years and a pastor for twenty-five years. Evangelicalism is what I know, so it’s the focus of my writing. That doesn’t mean, of course, that every reader of this blog is an ex-Evangelical. A sizeable percentage of readers are practicing Evangelicals, progressive/liberal Christians, or former practitioners of a variety of religious/spiritual faiths. And yes, a minority of readers are atheists/agnostics who have never been religious.

Jason wants to know if I would be willing to help people with questions or doubts move TOWARD Christianity. If someone wants to remain a Christian, yet wants to get away from Evangelicalism, then, yes, I am more than happy to help them find a kinder, gentler form of faith. While I am an agnostic atheist, I am not an evangelizer for atheism. I am not an anti-theist, though I am certainly anti-Evangelical, anti-IFB, and anti-Mormon. I don’t hate religious people, nor do I hate all religions. I can hear atheist zealots screaming now! “I knew it! Bruce is not a true atheist.” Believe what you will, but we live in a world where most people have some sort of religious faith. They are family, friends, and neighbors. I am not willing (nor interested) in waging war with the human race. I know that atheists will always be a minority. We mistake the rise of NONES with the rise of atheism. Sure, the number of atheists is increasing, but most NONES are just indifferent toward religions. They might one day become atheists, but most NONES just want to live and let live.

I oppose any religion that teaches humans are broken (sinful) and in need of fixing (salvation). I oppose any religion that teaches children are sinners. I oppose any religion that teaches some people go to Heaven and other people go to Hell after they die. I oppose any religion that teaches anyone who doesn’t believe in their deity will be tortured in Hell for eternity. I oppose any religion that teaches patriarchalism. I oppose any religion that “others” people. I oppose any religion that teaches Bible literalism.

As you can see, I oppose most organized religions. Organized religions promote division, exclusivism, and sectarianism. Not all religions, but most. When it comes to Evangelicalism (in all its forms), I can’t think of any flavor of Evangelicalism that is not inherently harmful. I am of the opinion that Evangelicalism is, at best, cult-like. In its most virulent forms, Evangelicalism is a full-blown cult. The IFB church movement, in particular, is a cult (with few exceptions). Thus, I can’t in good conscience promote Evangelicalism. When dealing with Evangelicals, I give them this piece of advice: RUN! Evangelical beliefs and practices cause psychological harm and can cause, at times, physical harm. I can’t in good conscience encourage people to stay in Evangelical churches. At best, I encourage Evangelicals to seek out kinder, gentler expressions of faith. I am friends with Jim Brehler, the pastor of St John United Church of Christ in Defiance, Ohio. I have no problem encouraging locals to attend his church. That said, I don’t know of another local church that I can recommend to people looking to break free from Evangelicalism. I am sure they exist, I just don’t know about them. (And part of the problem is that a lot of the local mainline churches are aging, have terrible — and I mean terrible — music, and far too often are pastored by men trained in conservative theological colleges.)

As far as the “true Jesus” is concerned, how could we possibly know who that person is? Jesus left no writings behind. All we have are the words of unknown authors written years after their death. Besides, Jesus allegedly said some things that are problematic, especially his views on marriage, divorce, and human sexuality.

Every generation of Christians remakes Jesus (and God) in their own image. The Jesus of first century Palestine is very different from the plethora of American Jesuses today. Which Jesus, then, should we follow? Sure, the Bible contains some wonderful teachings attributed to Jesus. The world would be better served if Christians lived according to Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. However, most of the New Testament contains the writings of the founder of Christianity, the Apostle Paul — a misogynistic man, if there ever was one. Paul’s writings, along with much of the Old Testament, are a millstone hung around the neck of modern Christians; filled with bigotry, misogyny, and violence. Richard Dawkins was right when he said:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Now, to Jason’s second question:

Would you — as an outsider, as it were — help the Church to become what it really ought to be, as a place where God demonstates genuine love and compassion through it’s members while also being openly self-aware and willing to face up to the problems that both individual members as well as whole congregations ought to deal with? Would you — as an outsider, as it were — help the Church to become what it really ought to be, as a place where God demonstates genuine love and compassion through it’s members while also being openly self-aware and willing to face up to the problems that both individual members as well as whole congregations ought to deal with?

What should the Christian church be? How do we know what the Christian church should be? I assume Jason thinks the Bible should be the standard by which we answer these questions. Of course, this leads to another question: whose interpretation of the Bible should we follow? There are countless Christianities, and as many interpretations as there are Christians. Referencing what I wrote several paragraphs before, what expression of Christian faith is kind, loving, and supportive of all people, regardless of who and what they are? Years ago, my wife and I attended 125+ churches. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!) While most of these churches were Evangelical-leaning, some were quite liberal. We didn’t find one church that was truly inclusive; a church that welcomed and accepted all comers. I am sure such churches exist, I just don’t know of any.

In the short term, I am more than happy to help churches become more friendly, loving, and inclusive. I am more than happy to challenge their Fundamentalist tendencies (Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?). I want to do everything I can to lessen the psychological trauma that takes place in most Christian churches. Any pastor who tells congregants that they are broken and in need of fixing; that there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun; that the Bible is an authoritative standard, by which to govern one’s life is materially harming people. And since these churches and pastors are causing harm, my goal is to further their demise. For example, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement has caused horrible harm. It is a movement that is in numerical decline. It is my hope that the IFB church movement dies a quick death. In fact, I wish I would still be alive when it draws its last breath. I want to be the person holding a pillow over the face of its wheezing, dying body. And when it draws its last breath, I will say with countless others, AMEN!

Over the years, I have written articles for Christian blogs and publications. (Please see Advice for Young Pastors From an Ex-Evangelical Preacher.) I am more than happy to continue to do so. In the long term, long after I am dead, I envision a post-religion world; one where the principles of humanism rule supreme. Of course, it is likely climate change, nuclear war, or the Republican Party will destroy the world before that happens, but one can hope, right? I can envision a time when humans no longer need religion to explain their lives and the world around them; that religion will be viewed as a relic from our infant, ignorant past.

I hope I have adequately answered Jason’s questions. If not, I am sure he will let me know. 🙂

Saved by Reason,

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Bruce Gerencser