My wife and I have twelve grandchildren, ranging in age from two months to seventeen years. Each one of these precious children is part of the Gerencser family. Polly and I have never made a distinction between grandchildren and step-grandchildren. We’ve never understood this obsession with blood children. If a child is part of one of our children’s families, he or she is our grandchild. It matters not to us if Gerencser sperm or egg played a part in their conception. We have never said of our grandchildren, even one time, that this or that child is a step-grandchild. Come Christmas, every grandchild is treated equally. We’ve never had the thought of treating some of our grandchildren differently because they were not 100% Gerencser. Unfortunately, Polly’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) family views things differently.
Polly and I recently traveled to Newark, Ohio to visit her mom in the hospital. My mother-in-law was scheduled for cancer surgery, and the day before surgery she developed heart problems which landed her in the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, Polly’s mom asked her how many grandchildren we had. When Polly said twelve, her mom replied, “yeah but all of them aren’t yours.” Polly replied, “yes they are,” to which her mom replied, “well, you know…. ” If I had been there I would’ve likely asked, “know what?” Of course, both Polly and I already know the answer to this question. In Polly’s parents’ minds, it’s blood that matters. This has been a common theme throughout the years. My youngest daughter received the same treatment the next day when asked about her oldest daughter — a child from a previous relationship of her husband. Much like her parents, our daughter does not make a distinction between stepchildren and “real” children. It’s absurd and offensive to even think this way. I like to think that this is a generational issue; one where older generations believe blood and name matter and that children and grandchildren who aren’t their blood or don’t carry their name shouldn’t expect the same kind gift or money on birthdays or Christmas as those who have the proper pedigree. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no hope of fixing this type of thinking apart from death. As with many social ills, it takes the death of a generation to get beyond them.
Ezra, our latest grandchild, two months old. Born six-weeks premature, he was released from NICU several weeks ago and he is now packing on the weight.
Polly and I have two grandchildren who have either a different father or mother than a Gerencser. One grandchild is seventeen and will graduate from high school this coming spring. This girl has been in our lives since she was a toddler. She may have a different name, but she is very much a part of our lives. My son and her mother went through divorce last year. There’s no Gerencser in the home; that is, except our four grandchildren. No matter who marries whom and what happens in the future, there’s a hard, fast rule in our family: once a Gerencser, always a Gerencser. It is cruel for someone to be a part of a child’s life for years, and then, due to divorce or other social upheaval, walk away from him or her. I’ve never understood people who can do this. When our granddaughter graduates in the spring, we will be there. When she plays basketball games this winter, we will be there. Whatever comes her way — today, tomorrow, or a decade from now — we will be there. The same goes for our four-year-old step-granddaughter. We have known her pretty much from birth. She is every bit as much our grandchild as any of our grandchildren who have the “proper” DNA. We will be in her life from preschool to the day that she says “I do” — that is, if we live long enough. You see, what grandchildren really need is love and support; and Polly and I have enough of that for all of them. We wish that Polly’s family had the same, but they don’t, and it’s their loss. They are missing out on wonderful opportunities to have awesome relationships with two beautiful children. It makes me wonder about all their talk about the love of Jesus for sinners. Are these children not sinners worthy of love? And if their daughter and son-in-law say “these are ours,” shouldn’t they accept that and do all they can to be the best great-grandparents possible? I will never understand the kind of thinking that divides families according to DNA. I don’t get it, and I never will.
For a number of years, Polly and I took in foster kids. At the time, we had three children of our own. Many of these children were teenagers. Some of them were with us for weeks, but others were long-term placements. Our three children have many memories of their experiences with JR, Steve, Floyd, Roseann, Tonya, and Linda. For a number of months, a black girl by the name Tracy lived with us. Her placement was unusual because this made her the only black child in the school district. When our first two children were very young, a troubled church girl lived with us for almost a year. Years later, she would tell someone we knew that we made a big difference in her life. It’s gratifying to hear from children who lived with us, thanking us for loving them. And therein lies the core issue for Polly and me. These children, regardless of whom their parents were or what horrific experiences they had their life, we loved them as if they were our own children. Granted, some of the teenagers who went through our home didn’t want our love. In fact, they didn’t want anything from us. But we loved them anyway. Why? First, because of Jesus. We believed, at the time, that Jesus loved everyone; and if Jesus loved everyone, so should we. Second, it was inconceivable to us that we could love one child more than another. Who thinks like this? “Oh, you have the right DNA so I’m gonna love you more than these children who are placed in our home after being raped by their stepfather or abused by their parents”? Where’s the Christianity in that kind of thinking?
Here’s what I know: Bruce and Polly Gerencser are going to love every child that comes into their lives, regardless of their lineage. By God, if we can unconditionally love the feral cats that frequent our backyard and care for them spring, summer, fall, and winter, we can certainly — without reservation and a test from 23andMe — unconditionally love our grandchildren — all twelve of them. That’s just how we are, and we feel sorry for people who can’t see beyond the names on birth certificates.
Evangelicals often tout their love for those who are different from them. I love everyone, Evangelicals say. I love unconditionally, just as Jesus does. I hate the sin, but love the sinner! On and on the cheap, worn-out cliches go, with nary a thought given to their truthfulness.
Evangelicals are universally panned as people of hate, people who loathe anyone who fucks in any way or manner other than that which has been approved by God. Much like their God, Evangelicals are obsessed with who does what with whom, where, why, and how, sexually. Violations of “Biblical” morality are met with cease-and-desist orders, and when that fails, people not practicing Evangelical-approved sex are threatened with God’s judgment and eternal punishment in the fire and brimstone of the Lake of Fire. Yet, Evangelicals will still, with a clueless straight face, profess to love everyone. Funny kind of love, I say, a love foreign to those of us who know what it is to love and be loved without strings attached.
Spend enough time in the trenches fighting against Evangelical apologists and you will more than likely be told by one or more of your combatants, I love you. Over the past decade, I have had countless Christians say they loved me. Recently, a particularly obnoxious Evangelical told me this and I replied, sorry, I am not gay. The man in question missed my dripping sarcasm and thought I was making some sort of homophobic slur. What I wanted this zealot to see is that I didn’t buy the notion that he “loved” me. In fact, based on my understanding of love, none of the Christian Romeos who have professed their love to me, actually do.
Evangelicals are taught from an early age that God commands them to love everyone; that demonstrating this love is evidence that they are children of God; that the two great commands are love God and love your fellow-man. Why is it then, that some of the nastiest, most hateful people on earth are Evangelicals? Long-time readers of this blog have witnessed numerous Evangelicals spew venomous bile in their comments about something I have written. Yet, these preachers of hate can turn right around and say, Bruce, I love you (and sometimes add, and God does too).
Many Evangelical apologists believe that telling people the “truth” — truth being their interpretation of a Bronze Age religious text — is an act of “love.” When confronted with their hateful, bombastic words, Evangelicals will often respond, I am just telling you what God says! In other words, God is to blame for their words, not they themselves. What a cop-out, right? This allows Evangelicals to rail against LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, abortionists, liberals, Catholics, and atheists without being held accountable for their words. All these zealots are saying is, THUS SAITH THE LORD!
People raised in Evangelical churches likely remember being told by their pastors that Christians are to speak the truth in love. This idea is found in Ephesians 4:15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. However, when taken in context, this verse teaches that Christian pastors and evangelists are to speak the truth in love to the CHURCH, not the world at large. Context is a bitch, eh?
Evangelical apologists who use hate and bigotry to preach their warped gospel of “love” do great damage to their cause when behaving in ways that cause non-Christians to feel hurt and shame. Of course, these zealots think that feeling “guilty” after being preached at is a sure sign of Holy Ghost conviction. I sat in countless church services growing up where a “man of God” stomped, spit, and thundered as he savaged the congregation for whatever behavior(s) he deemed an affront to the thrice holy God. A preacher skilled at manipulating human emotions can cause congregants to suffer emotional stress; that, come invitation time, will result in much weeping and wailing at the church altar. And then at the next preacher’s meeting, pastors will share stories about how God used their sermons to bring conviction and repentance. No, what brought conviction and repentance was skillful manipulation of human emotions.
True love is not found in words. Countless men have told women they “loved” them just so they could have sex with them. Women suffer and endure physical abuse because their abusers apologize and say, I love you. The Bible says that the Christian God is a God of love. However, his behavior suggests otherwise; that God is, in fact, a mean, violent, sadistic son-of-a-bitch. There’s nothing in the Bible that remotely suggests that God is a loving deity. What about God demonstrating his love to us in the atoning death of Jesus? Sorry, but even here, God comes off as a bad person. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father violently and viciously punished Jesus, his Son, on a Roman cross. The father’s torture of his son led to his death. Why did the Father do this to his Son? Not because of anything he did. Oh no, God rained physical terror down upon Jesus because of what other people did — namely the human race. What kind of father acts this way toward his innocent progeny? Love? Not a chance. The death of Jesus and his father’s culpability in his death is better suited for an American Horror Story series or an episode of Criminal Minds.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Charity never faileth….And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
When is the last time you have seen this kind of love coming from Evangelicals — especially those who roam the internet and social media seeking opportunities to attack and condemn unbelievers? Not often, if ever.
Many Evangelicals believe that they have a duty to tell sinners (anyone who doesn’t believe as they do) the “truth.” It matters not whether they were given permission to do so. Sinners need to hear the gospel even if they don’t want to. These soulwinners likely have been told by their pastors that if they don’t witness to sinners when given the opportunity and these sinners die and go to hell, God will hold them accountable for the sinners doing to hell. Ezekiel 33:8,9 says:
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
The majority of Evangelicals never share their faith, never witness, never preach the gospel to sinners. They might invite those sinners to church so their preacher can evangelize them, but outside of that, most Evangelicals keep the world’s greatest story to themselves (and we should be very glad that they do). The remaining few believe God has commanded them to preach the truth in love. Unbelievers, like it or not, will have to endure being harassed, cajoled, and shit upon by people who “love” them.
I spent fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent “loving” people as detailed in this post. This warped idea of love caused me to view unsaved family members, friends, and neighbors as prospects for heaven. I wasn’t interested in them as individuals. All that mattered were their souls. If I determined they were unsaved, I attempted to evangelize them — either verbally or by giving them literature/tracts. Holidays with unsaved family were opportunities to witness to my heathen relatives. Several times a year, I would have evangelists come and preach to the churches I pastored. The evangelists and I, along with zealous congregants, would make a concerted effort to knock on doors and witness to the lost. I would ask church members to submit the names and addresses of people they believed needed salvation. We would then go visit these sinners and attempt to evangelize them. Having their names ahead of time gave us an in, much like vacuüm salesman who knock on your door and say, Hello Mrs. Jones. My name is Clarence. Betty Jones, your sister-in-law, gave me your name and asked me to stop by and share with you the dirt-cleaning power of the Rainbow vacuüm cleaner. May I come in and share the good news of clean carpets? Most people aren’t interested in getting “saved” (or buying a vacuüm cleaner), but once their friend or family member’s name is mentioned, they feel obligated to listen to the sales pitch. (There is a close connection between door-to-door sales methods and the techniques used by many Evangelicals to evangelize unbelievers.)
During the deconversion process, I realized that I had a warped understanding of love. I had to learn to love people without condition or expectation. Evangelicals can often be busybodies, sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Believing that the Bible is some sort of divine blueprint or owner’s manual will do that to a person. Having marital problems? Let Evangelical Sally “share” with you what the Bible says about marriage. Having financial problems? Let Evangelical George “share” with you God’s plan for economic prosperity. Whatever problem people are facing, Evangelicals have a Bible proof text meant to address their “need.” Behaving this way is seen as “love,” but it is anything but.
Polly and I decided ten or so years ago that when our children became adults and later married that we would not “lovingly” meddle in their lives. We love our children enough to let them live their lives on their own terms. Do they make stupid decisions? Absolutely. Do we have opinions about the choices they make? Sure. But, as long as they are not doing something that causes physical harm, we intend to leave them alone. And we expect the same from them. I am sure our children have opinions about decisions Polly and I have made. Because of the love we have for one another, we recognize personal boundaries and don’t cross them. Now, if one of my children asks for our opinion or advice, then we will give it. If not, mouths are zipped.
In the same manner as we treat our children, Polly and I treat our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. We love these people as they are, expecting nothing in return. We love them because they matter to us and we want them to have happy, prosperous lives. Again, this doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say or do.
One other thing I have learned post-Jesus is that I don’t have to love everyone. That’s right, not everyone is worthy of my love. In fact, there are a few people I despise and hate — here’s looking at you, President Trump. Generally, I try to treat people with respect and I expect the same in return. Those who don’t respect me for who I am are quickly erased from my iPad contact app. I couldn’t do that as a pastor. Frankly, I had to “love” more than a few asshole church members. I find it refreshing to shower my love on those deserving of it. Life is too short to spend much time trying to love those who hate and despise who and what I am. Does this make me a bad person, an unloving man? I don’t think so. I have a great capacity to love others — even people I disagree with. The people closest to me know that I am polite and respectful to everyone I come in contact with. It’s not in my nature to be mean or hateful. That said, I won’t go out of my way to love people who have misused and abused me or my family.
I have met numerous good people over the years through this blog. For those I have known for years, I have come to love them. Two years ago, a woman sent me an email that said, I love your writing, but your grammar needs some help! At first, I was offended, but then I realized she was right. From that point to today, virtually everything I have written for this site has been edited by her. We have become friends. We likely will never meet one another face to face, but yet we are friends and have a love for one another as good friends do. All of us, I suppose, have people we have met on the internet/social media who have become friends we dearly love. Isn’t that awesome? I can love people all across the globe without ever meeting them in the flesh.
Have you experienced the Evangelical “love” mentioned in this post? Did you have to relearn what it means to love after you deconverted? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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Forty years ago, a young man from the flatland of rural northwest Ohio moved to Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. Also enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College was a young woman who hailed from Bay City, Michigan. What follows is their story.
The young man packed his worldly goods into his beater of a car, and waving goodbye to his Mom, drove out of the trailer park, turned east on U.S. Hwy 6 and set a course for Pontiac, Michigan. His mother had kissed him goodbye, letting the young man know how proud she was that he was the first Gerencser to go to college. He pushed her away, uncomfortable with her display of affection, a behavior he would one day regret. The young man thought, finally, away from the craziness and the drunkard husband.
Two-and-a-half hours later, the young man turned off of Golf Drive onto the driveway for Midwestern Baptist College. He stopped his car in front of the dormitory so he could unload his belongings and move them to his assigned dorm room — room 207. On that day, the young man wore a maize and blue shirt with the number 75 on the front and the word REV on the back. This shirt was a gift from a young woman who hoped the young man would remember her. He didn’t, knowing that enrolling at Midwestern would provide him ample opportunity to meet attractive Fundamentalist women. He would soon learn that a wide-open field of romance would quickly fade in the beauty of a dark-haired, beautiful young woman.
Shortly after classes began in the fall of 1976, the young man and young dark-haired woman began flirting with one another. At first, they sent flirtatious notes, often meeting up for card games in the dormitory kitchen. While both of them would briefly date other people, by the end of September, the young man and young woman decided to give dating one another a try.
They were an odd match. The young woman was quiet and reserved, rarely speaking more than a few words. The young man, on the other hand, was a talker, and opinionated. He lived life in the fast lane, serving Jesus, yet pushing the lines of Fundamentalist decorum and acceptability. Years later, the young woman would tell him that she was drawn to his wildness — her bad boy.
Midwestern Baptist College — a Fundamentalist institution founded by Dr. Tom Malone, the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church — had strict rules concerning dating and male/female interaction. Dating couples were only allowed to date on Saturday evening and after Sunday night church. Couples were required to double-date, and all dates had to be approved by dorm supervisors. Couples were not permitted to travel beyond a ten-mile radius from the college. Coupled were not permitted to have any physical contact with each other. Breaking this rule would result in being campused — meaning that offending couples were not allowed to date off campus. Repeated infractions led to being kicked out of school.
The young man and young woman quickly found that keeping the six-inch rule — the width of a songbook — was impossible. Fearing expulsion, they sought out other dating couples that also found the no-contact rule a strain on their relationships. On date nights, the young man and young woman could now snuggle close to one another and hold hands. As with all young couples with raging hormones, their desire for physical intimacy increased as time went along. Yet, fearing being discovered and expelled, the young man and young woman — for three months — didn’t kiss.
Christmas of 1976 found the young man visiting the young woman at the home of her parents in Newark, Ohio. The young woman’s father was a preacher — a recent graduate of Midwestern. Her father was the assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church pastored by the young woman’s uncle, Jim Dennis.
One evening, the young woman’s mother asked her to retrieve their clothing from the laundry room. The young man followed along, and it was there, in an apartment laundry room, the young couple kissed one another for the first time. Many kisses would follow, but neither of them would ever forget that one brief moment where they were able for the first time to express their love for one another.
Love for one another? Yes, their relationship quickly moved from casual to serious, culminating in the young couple’s engagement on Valentine’s Day 1977. A quarter-carat diamond engagement ring was purchased from Sears and Roebuck for $225, sealing their commitment to marry in July of 1978. Little did they know that the young woman’s mother would do everything in her power to foil their plans, going so far as to tell her daughter that she forbade her to marry the young man. He comes from a divorced family, her mother said, and divorce is hereditary.
After a year of pressuring the young couple to abandon their plans, the young woman’s mother relented and consented to the wedding — not that she had any other option. For the first time, the young woman stood up to her mom, telling her that she planned to run off and get married if she continued to oppose her marriage to the young man.
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Wedding July 1978
July 15, 1978, was a hot and humid day. There was no air conditioning at the Newark Baptist Temple, not that this mattered to the young couple. Their special day had finally arrived, the day when they would become Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Gerencser. Their friends from college, along with family members and church members, filled the pews to witness the joining of the young man and young woman in holy matrimony. Songs were sung, vows were exchanged, and then, with a kiss for luck, they were on their way, innocent of where their life together would take them.
Six weeks after their wedding, the young man came home from work and was met with the news, I’m pregnant. Nine months later, the first of the young couple’s six children was born in Bryan, Ohio. After almost three years at Midwestern, the young couple was forced to drop out of college and move to the Bryan – the birthplace of the young man. This would be the first of many moves for them. Over the next thirty-eight years they would move numerous times, living in dozens of rental houses.
Life was not easy for the young married couple. Ignorance about how to manage money quickly led to all sorts of problems. Years later, the young man, now a seasoned Baptist preacher, would remark, it took us a few years to figure out that you had to pay the electric bill to keep the lights on. They faced numerous problems, wondering if their marriage would survive – thus proving the young woman’s mother right: divorce is hereditary. Survive they did, and here on July 15th they will celebrate their thirty-eighth wedding anniversary.
The young couple walked out of the Newark Baptist Temple, cheered on by family and friends — two innocents wondering what fate would hold for them. Six children, one with Down Syndrome. Poverty. Moves to Michigan, Texas, Arizona, and Ohio. Bankruptcy. Health problems. Constant struggles to survive, living on poor wages and food stamps. Leaving the ministry and losing faith. Yet, despite stresses that often cause marriage failure, the commitment and love of the young couple endured. Seasoned by adversity and failure, the pair — now nearing their 60th birthdays — continue to honor the vows they made to one another years ago.
Later today, the ageing couple will celebrate their wedding anniversary with a meal at a fancy restaurant and a night of watching races at a local dirt track. They will make jokes with another, promising hot, torrid sex before the night is over. And more than likely, once they arrive home, they will each give the other the look, the one that says, I’m tired, maybe tomorrow. Climbing into bed, they will turn to one another — just as they have thousands of times before — and say, I love you. The young woman, now with gray hair and weathered skin, will quickly fall to sleep, leaving the young man to his thoughts; thoughts of a well-lived life, of love and commitment and adversity and failure. But thoughts, most of all, of the fact that he is the luckiest man alive.
Soon the young man — now with a white beard and failing health — will gently run his fingers through his sleeping love’s hair, pondering the life they have shared together. His mind will likely return to a basement laundry room and the moment where he realized that the young woman in his embrace was his one and only. Forty years later, she remains not only his wife and lover, but also his best friend and confidante. Life is good, he will say to himself as he drifts off to sleep, hoping that come morning he will have one more opportunity to say, I love you.
Despite the many challenges Polly and I have faced over the past 40 years, we, amazingly, still love each other. We began life together as two naïve young people mutually infatuated with one another. As most couples who have been married a long time will tell you, deep, abiding love takes time to grow. Young love is often focused on the physical, but as couples age, their love for one another becomes more complex. Certainly, the physical is still important, but love is so much more than biological needs and urges. As people age, they change. We get up in the morning, look in the mirror, knowing that the youthful beauty and virility of 40 years ago is waning. It’s not that I don’t think Polly is beautiful — I do — but she is much more than just a pretty face. She is my friend and confidant. She’s the hand on the till when my life is spinning out of control. I am there for her and she is there for me. Oh, we still fuss and fight, often over the same things we fought about 30 years ago. Each of us is still as irritating to the other. But love forged in the fires of human experience sees beyond the irritations and personality quirks. Some days we don’t like each other very much. That’s life. Loves sees beyond the moment, reminding us that we have been privileged to experience a life that many will never know.
There are times when I feel guilty over being happily married. I correspond with people whose marriages are on the rocks thanks to their loss of faith. I wish I could wave a magic wand over their marriages and make them whole again, but I know I can’t. Stress and loss often reveal cracks in marital relationships. Sadly, many marriages don’t survive when one party says I no longer believe. Similar to the loss of a child, losing Jesus can and does cause great heartache and often leads to marital conflict. Some couples find a way to make things work, others can’t find a way to build a bridge from loving Jesus together to one partner not believing God exists. For whatever reason, Polly and I were able to walk away from Christianity together. While our reasons for deconverting are different, both of us number ourselves among the godless. Sometimes, people will suggest that Polly is some sort of lemming blindly following her husband. I think there are members of her family who sincerely believe that once I am dead Polly will return to Christianity. The fact that they think this reveals that they have likely never understood Polly. She’s quiet and reserved, and people often mistake her demeanor for passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. She is, in every way, just as committed as I am to living according to the humanist ideals. And it is this commitment that continues to strengthen our marriage.
I usually listen to Spotify when I write. Today, I am in a country mood. What follows is a song by Jon Pardi that aptly expresses the love I have Polly. I hope she enjoys it, and I hope you do too.
Christianity offers its followers the promise of life after death. No matter how difficult and painful this life is, Christians are promised wonderful lives after death living with Jesus and their fellow Christians in a perfect, pain-free heaven. While I wonder how heavenly it is to spend your life prostrate before God worshiping him, Christians live in the hope that someday they will take possession of a room in the Father’s house, built especially just for them. (John 14) Without the promise of life after death in heaven, I wonder if most Christians would still be willing to forgo the pleasures of this life? While some Christians would argue that living according to the laws, teachings, and precepts of the Bible is still a good way to live, I suspect most Christians — without the promise of eternal life and bliss — would quickly abandon their houses of worship, joining people such as myself at the local pub or the church of the NFL. After all, even the apostle Paul said, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19) Evidently, Paul thought that inthis life only Christianity had little to offer. And so Sunday after Sunday, Christian preachers promise parishioners a home awaits them in heaven. According to the Bible, God promises some day to give Christians the desires of their hearts. Wait. Does that mean there will be booze, porn, cigars, dirt track racing, and hunting in heaven? Will heavenly citizens spend their days playing Nintendo or Xbox games? Will God really give Christians the desires of their hearts? Hmm, this got me thinking about the whole going-to-heaven thing. I know a con job when I hear it. What better way to get people to buy what you are selling than to promise them that they will have a wonderful life if they will just sign on the dotted line. A wonderful life, that is, someday, after you have made the 666 monthly payments and died.
Atheism offers no such promises. Atheism is rooted in a humanistic and secularist view of the world. No promises of a divine life in the sweet by and by. Life is hard, and then you die. No promises of blessings in this life or the life to come. Some have argued that atheists have a cold, sterile outlook on life. To some degree this is true. Atheists are realists, knowing they only get one shot at life— best get to living it. Life is what we make it, and even when hard times come (and they will most certainly come), atheists find a way to make the most of it. I could spend my days whining and complaining about my health problems, but what good would that do? Instead, I turn my pain and suffering into a platform for helping others. I can look at the five decades I spent in the Christian church and say, what a waste, but I choose to use these experiences as an opportunity to help others. I know that this is the only life I have, and it is up to me to make the most of it. Spending time wondering about what might have been accomplishes nothing. As my family has heard me say many times, it is what it is. Sure, if there were some magical way to redo certain things from my past I might do it. But maybe not. Polly and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary this July. We met at a Fundamentalist Bible college. If nothing else good came out of our past, both of us would say — on most days — that our relationship was the best thing about our years in Evangelicalism. I would not want anyone to follow the same path we did, yet we do have six wonderful children and 11 awesome grandchildren. They indeed are the bright spots of the years we spent working in God’s coal mine. I have learned, or perhaps I am learning, to reflect on the good of the past, and use the bad things to fuel my writing and my attempts to help others avoid similar paths.
I will celebrate my 59th birthday in June. I have lived 12 years longer than my mother and five years longer than my dad. There are days when my body is so overwhelmed with pain that I wonder if I can live another day. The means of my demise are always nearby, yet despite my suffering I choose to live. Why? Because this is the only life I will ever have. I only have one opportunity to love Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, my grandchildren, my brother and sister, and Polly’s mom and dad. I know that when I draw my last breath, there will be no family circle meeting in the sky — sorry Johnny! This is why I want to live each and every day to its fullest. This is not a cliché to me. This life matters. My wife, children, grandchildren, son-in-law, daughters-in-law, siblings, extended family, and friends matter to me. I know that I am only going to see them and enjoy their company in this life. There are places I want to go to and see. I want to enjoy and experience the fullness of what it means to be human. And since casting off the shackles of religion, I have been free to drink deeply of the human experience. No longer fearful of God’s judgment or hell, I am free to see, touch, taste, and hear the things I desire. Yes, there is that dirty word that dare not be spoken in Evangelical churches — desire. I spent way too many years denying passions, desires, wants, and needs, all for the sake of God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. No more. It is wonderful to do something just because I want to. I do not have to pray about it or see if the Bible approves of it. Bruce approves, end of discussion.
When I write posts such as this, there are always a few horse-bridled Christians who let me know that there is coming a day when I will regret not bowing to the will of the S&M master, Jesus. Someday Bruce, Evangelical zealots tell me, God is going to make you pay for your attacks on Christianity. Someday, God is going to judge you for your wanton living and rejection of the Bible. Sometimes, I think Christians such as these people relish the day when God is going to give atheist Bruce Gerencser an eternal ass-whipping. I am sure they will be standing among the crowd cheering and saying to God, hit him again! He deserves it, Lord.
I have been blogging now for going on nine years. I left Christianity in 2008, and since then countless Evangelicals — along with a few Catholics — have attempted to win me back to Jesus through the use of Pascal’s Wager. The basic premise is this, Bruce, what if you are wrong? Good question. Since I am not infallible, nor do I have at my disposal the sum of all human knowledge and experience, all I can do is make reasoned, knowledgeable decisions based on the evidence at hand. I can tell readers this much: I have been wrong many, many times. Not only that, I have made enough mistakes that if you piled them up they would reach to the International Space Station. I am, after all, a feeble, frail, and at times contradictory, human being. I can, like all people, be led astray by my passions, judgments, or incomplete information. I am not immune to irrationality and cognitive dissonance. However, when it comes to Christianity and its promises of eternal life in heaven or judgment in hell, it is my educated opinion that the claims of Christianity are false. Trying to get me to choose Jesus just in case I am wrong makes a mockery of intellectual inquiry (and Christianity). Having spent most of my adult life in the Christian church and 25 years studying and preaching the Bible, I think it is safe to say that I know a good bit about Christianity. I cannot remember the last time that some Christian presented me with something I have not heard before. I am not being arrogant here — as I am sure some Christians will allege. I spent decades reading and studying the Bible — devouring countless Christian books. I immersed myself in Christianity and its teachings, so when I say I am no longer a Christian because I think the claims of Christianity and the Bible are false, my conclusions — unlike many Christian opinions of atheism — come from an educated, reasoned, well-thought-out position. Do I know everything there is to know about Christianity? Of course not, but I sure as hell know more than most the Christians (and preachers) I come in contact with on a day-to-day basis. My point is this: I am an atheist today, not out of ignorance, but because I weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting.
If Christians come up with new evidences for the veracity of their claims — and I doubt they ever will — then I will gladly consider them. Until then, I am content to number myself among the godless. And when I die, I hope to leave this life knowing that I did what I could to be a help to others. I hope, on the day that my ashes are scattered along the shores of Lake Michigan, that my family and friends will speak well of me. I hope that none of them will have to lie, but that they will truly believe that my good works outweigh the bad. This is why I think that is important to finish well. I am sure Polly and my children have less-than-complimentary stories they could tell at my wake, but I hope, because I have made a concerted effort to be a better man, that they will share stories about a good man who just so happened to be an atheist.
I am often asked if I fear death. Yes and no. Since no one has died and come back to life — including Jesus — I do fear the blackness that awaits. There are been those times, late at night, when I have pondered being alive one moment and dead the next; going to sleep and never waking up. But this fear does not overwhelm me. I know that I cannot do anything about dying. It is, to quote the Lion King, the circle of life. We are born, we live, we die. End of story. All I know to do is to live a good life and be a good husband, father, grandfather, friend, and fellow citizen of earth. I have had the privilege of living at this time on humanity’s calendar, and when it comes time for me to draw my last breath, I hope my dying thoughts will be those of love. Love of family, love of friends, love of writing, love of photography, and love of all those who have made my life worth living. Will that not be what all of us desire? To love and to be loved? As dying pushes away all the minutia of life, what remains is love. For me, that will be enough.
Evangelicals sincerely believe that they love and accept people as they are. Some will even say that they love everyone unconditionally. (Please see Does God Love Us Unconditionally?) With pious smiles on their faces, Evangelicals say, We love everyone, just like Jesus did. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, praise his holy name! Of course, Calvinists and Arminians have been fighting for hundreds of years over whether Jesus loves everyone. While I love poking holes in both warring parties’ arguments, I will leave the Calvinism vs. Arminianism atonement debate for another day. I am far more interested in dealing with the idea that Evangelicals, in general, love and accept people just as they are.
Evangelicals believe that everyone is marred and broken by sin. The solution to this brokenness is Jesus. When Evangelicals say they love and accept people as they are, what they mean is that they, for a time, will do so, but only if sinners eventually come around to their way of thinking. The goal is to bring marred, broken people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Called by Christ to evangelize the world, Evangelicals desire to convert every boy, girl, man, and woman. Evangelicals accepting people as they are is but a means to an end — the salvation of sinners. So, when Evangelicals say they love drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, adulterers, Catholics, Muslims, and atheists, their love is based on an ulterior motive — winning the lost to Jesus.
What happens if people do not want what Evangelicals are peddling — deliverance from sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ? Will Evangelicals still unconditionally love and accept these intransigent people as they are? Most Evangelicals will turn to prayer, hoping that God will give sinners eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious gospel of amazing grace. Their love and acceptance is ALWAYS based on changing people from who and what they are. Since Evangelicals believe they are the purveyors of the true Christian gospel, the end goal is to turn lost sinners into saved Evangelicals.
This is why I have long believed that Evangelicals do not love or accept people as they are. They can’t. As long as they are part of an exclusionary sect that divides the entire human race into two categories — saved and lost, Evangelicals will never accept, as they are, people who are different from them.
Evangelicals are taught to not associate with the world. This is why there is a sprawling Evangelical subculture that now offers separate Evangelicals Jesusfied versions of the goods and entertainments found in the world — the domain of the prince and power of the air, Satan. Things such as Christian rock music, Christian radio, Christian TV, Christian clothing, Christian dating services, Christian schools,Christian auto repair, Christian, home improvements, and Christian (fill in the blank) _________ are all meant to provide Evangelicals with things similar to what the world has to offer.
Evangelicals are commanded by God to come out from the world and be separate. Not wanting to be like the Amish or other separatist groups, Evangelicals diligently work to transform the world into the Kingdom of God. Once everyone — well almost everyone except those vile, heathen atheists — has bowed a knee to Jesus and joined Club Evangelical™ all will be well and Evangelicals can then truly love and accept people as they are — born again Christians. Woo Hoo! Everyone is playing for the same team now! Praise Jesus!
Evangelicals forget that people such as myself — Evangelicals-turned-atheists — know the truth. Evangelicals not only don’t love and accept non-Evangelicals as they are, they also don’t accept fellow Evangelicals as they are. I monitor and read over 200 Evangelical blogs. Every day, this or that Evangelical is upset over what some other Evangelical preacher, church, or sect said or did. In particular, Evangelical discernment blogs — also known as keepers of the Book of Life — rail against other Evangelicals who have different beliefs, use the wrong Bible version, sing the wrong style of music, support the wrong ministries, or do anything else contrary to their narrowly defined version of the one true faith. Everywhere I look, I see Evangelicals fussing with each other. Acting like toddlers fighting over toys, Evangelicals seem oblivious to Jesus’ commands concerning love and unity.
I left the Christian church in 2008. Since my departure, countless Evangelicals have attempted to “love and accept me as I am.” When I point out to them that they do not really accept me as I am, these loving Evangelicals often get upset over me insinuating that their motives are not pure. It is not an insinuation, it is a fact. When Evangelicals want to befriend me, I immediately know that they have an ulterior motive. How could it be otherwise? What do I have in common with Evangelicals? This blog is a repudiation of everything Evangelicals hold dear. If Jesus is their friend, lover, and Savior, how could Evangelicals possibly be friends with someone who challenges their beliefs about Jesus? I am the ex-wife, the woman formerly married to the Evangelical bride’s new husband. I highly doubt the new wife is going to friend the ex-wife on Facebook or follow her on Pinterest.
The Bible is clear, I am an enemy of God. I am an apostate who tramples under the blood of Jesus. I spit in the face of God, wanting nothing to do with him. According to Hebrews 6:4-6 (edited for emphasis):
For it is impossible for Bruce who was once enlightened, and has tasted of the heavenly gift, and was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, And has tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If Bruce shall fall away, to renew him again unto repentance; seeing that he crucifies to himself the Son of God afresh, and puts him to an open shame.
Hebrews 10:26,29 states:
For if Bruce sins wilfully after he has received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for his sins…Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall Bruce be thought worthy, he who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
To my fellow atheists and non-Evangelicals, I suggest that the next time Evangelicals come bearing gifts of love and acceptance you ask them, what do you REALLY want? Lurking behind every friendship request is the desire to see you saved and made a part of Club Evangelical™. But, Bruce, says an Evangelical, I really, really, really want to be friends with you. Why? Be honest. Why do you want to be my friend? Please tell me what we have in common? Are you willing to meet me at the Pub and fellowship over a few beers or shots of whiskey? Are you willing to skip church so you can attend a baseball game with me? Are you willing to never mention the name of Jesus or Christianity in my presence? Are your ears tough enough to weather my cursing and risqué jokes? Be honest. Isn’t the real objective to win me to Jesus; to recover me from the pit of sin?
I have two Evangelical friends (husband and wife) — members of the Church of the Nazarene. Our friendship dates back to the 1960s when the husband and I lived near each other and walked to elementary school together. Our friendship has gone through many phases over the years. I was, for a time, their pastor. When I deconverted in 2008, I wondered if our friendship would survive. It has, and here is how. We don’t talk about religion or atheism unless one of us asks a question. We focus on the things we have in common: family, children, marriage, chronic illness, chronic pain, love of off-road travel, and eating food at out-of-the-way places. My friends are willing to let me go to hell and I am willing to let them go to heaven. Each of us knows that the other has made an informed decision about God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible.
I have invested 50 years in this friendship and I don’t want to argue or debate it away. I deeply love my friends and would do anything for them. Well ALMOST anything — accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior excepted. I am sure my writing, at times, causes them pain. I am sure they wish I were still a Christian. But I am not, so there is no need to dwell on that which will never happen. Will our friendship last until the end — when death proves the reality of that which we believe to be true? I don’t know. I hope so. Members of their family have told them not to be my friend. I am a tool of Satan, one family member said, and Christians should never be friends with people such as myself.
I hope Evangelicals will ponder what I have written in this post. Enough of the warm, fuzzy, syrupy pronouncements of love and acceptance. Atheists and non-Christians see through Evangelical offers of unconditional love. Surely there are enough people to befriend at church. Why troll for friends who will never share your beliefs? Why seek friendships with people whose lives are diametrically opposed to all you hold dear. I can hear the wheels turning in Evangelical minds. Come on, spit it out. Be honest. You really don’t love and accept people as they are. Your motive — no matter how hard you try to hide it — is to save broken sinners such as Bruce. And it is for this reason, we can never be friends.
The early days of fall have arrived and the young preacher boy busily loads his possessions into a dilapidated, dented Plymouth. It’s time for me to go, he says to his Mom. I wonder what she thinks, her oldest son headed off to college, the first in their family to do so. They embrace, a rare expression of emotion, and the preacher boy quickly turns away, not wanting her to see the tears running down his face.
Soon the preacher boy is headed north and then east of Bryan. Several hours later he arrives in Pontiac, Michigan, the community he will call home for the next few years. Midwestern Baptist College, A Character Building Institution, says the sign along Golf Drive. The preacher boy had planned to attend Prairie Bible Institute, but God had other plans for him.
The preacher boy parks his car in front of the dormitory, John R. Rice Hall, and quickly unloads his meager possessions. Tall and lean, the red-headed preacher boy, wearing a blue shirt with the number 75 and the name Rev. on the back, moves his possessions into room 207. The dormitory has two floors and a basement, with wings on either side of a common meeting room. The top floor houses the women. The first floor has two wings, one to each side of the meeting room. Students call one wing the Spiritual Wing, the other the Party Wing. The basement, for obvious reasons, is called The Pit.
The preacher boy lives on the Party Wing. There, he soon meets like-minded young men, filled with God, life, and recklessness. The preacher boy settles into the rhythm of dorm life at a fundamentalist college. Rules, lots of rules, and just as many ways to bend the rules to fit the desires of a youthful heart. The preacher boy would live in the dorm for two years, and in that time he would repeatedly run afoul of the rules. Told he is brash and rebellious, a fitting description, those who know him would say, the preacher boy does his best to outwardly conform to the letter of the law.
The blue shirt the preacher boy wore when he arrived at the college was given to him by a girl who hoped he would remember her while he was away. Not long after, the shirt disappeared, as did any thought of its giver. If there is one thing that the preacher boy loves almost as much as God, it is girls. And here he is, enrolled at a college that will provide him ample opportunity to ply his charm. Little does he know that fate has a different plan.
The week before the official start of classes, a young, beautiful 17-year-old girl from Newark, Ohio moves into the dorm. The preacher boy mentions the girl to his roommate. Stay away from her, the roommate replies. Her father is Pastor Lee Shope. Unfazed by the stern warning, the preacher boy decides to introduce himself to the dark-haired beauty. He quickly learns she is quite shy. Not one to be at a loss for words, the preacher boy takes the girl’s backwardness as a challenge, one that he successfully conquers over the course of a few weeks.
Soon, all thoughts of the field fade into the beauty of the pastor’s daughter. The preacher boy quickly finds himself smitten. Come spring, he proposes and she, despite her mother’s disapproval, says yes. Having known each other for two months short of two years, the preacher boy, now 21, and the pastor’s daughter stand before friends, family and strangers and promise to love one another until death severs their bond.
Thirty-seven years have passed since the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter pledged their troth. Under the proverbial bridge has flowed a shared life, one that has blessed them with a quiverfull of children and grandchildren. The grand plans of an idyllic pastorate, two children (a boy named Jason, a girl named Bethany), and a parsonage with a white picket fence, perish in the rubble of the hard work necessary to parent six children and pastor churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Twenty-five years of working in God’s vineyard have left the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter with deep, lasting scars. They have learned what it means to do without and suffer loss. Yet, they have endured.
Stoicism now defines them. As life has poured out its cruelties and left them wondering why, the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter continue to hold one another tight, refusing to let adversity win. When their love for God wavered and then died a death of a thousand contradictions, the preacher boy and pastor’s daughter, now aged friends and lovers, joined their hands once more and walked into the dark unknown.
The full moon sits high above his home on this cold winter’s night. The clock on the nightstand clicks as each second passes by, a reminder that life is fleeting. The preacher boy, now a 58-year-old atheist, turns his thoughts to the beautiful, dark-haired girl he met so many years ago. Who would ever have thought we would be where we are today?, he says to himself. Yet…here we are, survivors, taking each and every day as it comes, without a prayer or a God to smooth the way. He wonders what tomorrow will bring, safe in the knowledge that whatever might come their way cannot defeat the enduring love of the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter.
What follows is an email I received from a Christian who felt the need to show me the error of my way. My response is emboldened and indented. I get letters like this quite often. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals have a pathological need to be right. Not only do they have the need to be right, they are driven to make sure everyone else thinks and believes exactly as they do, They can’t conceive in their minds of any reason why someone would believe differently. Jesus becomes the perfect man or woman every person should want to marry. When confronted with stories like mine, many Evangelicals lack the capacity to wrap their minds around the notion of someone purposely walking away from the most a-w-e-s-o-m-e God e-v-e-r. (Please read last three words out loud with a valley girl voice.)
Email begins here
I was just reading your blog and my heart was touched. The Father definitely loves you, and his children should also. I want to apologize sincerely for every person who has spoken harshly to you in the name of Christianity. Please do not mistake there words or feelings for God’s. Jesus loves us all so much that when we sin and mar ourselves with the grime of this world He consistently reaches for us and continues to ask us to take his hand so that He can rescue us. I’m sure you’ve heard some of this before, and if not, i would guess that this is probably the reason you have “fallen” away. Just know that it is never too late to grab His hand. He doesn’t care how long it takes to win your heart, just as long as you receive and believe in Him.
So, what you are saying here is that I should ignore what Christianity is and instead embrace some form of hypothetical Christianity. Here’s the deal, and Christians need to understand this….It doesn’t matter to me what the Bible says, what you believe, or what you say your church believes. All that matters how you and your fellow Christ-followers live your lives.
If Jesus is all you say he is then it seems to me he would make a big difference in the life of Christians. But he doesn’t. For all your preaching and Bible verse quoting, the truth remains that there is little to no difference between an atheist and a Christian. Outside of where one sits on Sunday Morning the difference is nil.
Why would I want to embrace a religion that makes no difference in my life? Look around. Christians bicker and fight amongst themselves. They argue over the most trivial of things. Christians don’t agree on anything. Christians can’t even agree on salvation, baptism, and communion. If you can’t get those things right, why should I believe that you are right on anything else?
I would like to caution you though, because teaching people to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is a serious offense to God.
Since I don’t believe your God exists or the Bible is truth, your threat carries no weight. This might work for people who are still Christian, but not with me. I gladly and willingly blaspheme your God. He knows where I am. If he wants to kill me, here I am.
Imagine if you had 3 children, and one of them gets upset with you because you wouldn’t do things their way, so out of anger, frustration & disappointment that one decides to run away and tell everyone how horrible you are, or better yet, tell people that you never existed, that your other children made you up in their minds because they needed to feel secure and were not intelligent enough to take care of themselves. Now, say if you came back to that parent’s home and found a way to sneak in and convince the other 2 children that the lies you have been spreading about that parent are true. If you convinced them to join you in running away, can you imagine how that parent would feel? They would be enraged because you not only put yourself in danger, but you drug their other children into the situation and now they will be out of a home, without food and security. You all would be exposed to horrid things that the parent was only trying to protect you from in the first place. He would have to punish you.
I have no idea what you are saying here. It makes NO sense. That said, I encourage people to think for themselves.
A just God cannot just tolerate sin, that is why He made a way for them to be pardoned. He sent His Son to live a sinless life, and at the end take a punishment that anyone who sinned deserved [brutal death]. Afterward He rose from death to prove that He had power over it and went before the Great Judge [God] so that if anyone believed (so wholeheartedly that they would openly confess it before anyone) that Jesus indeed was the Son of God and subjected Himself to murder that He would trade what He [rightfully] deserved [eternal life enjoyed with the Father] for what we [rightfully] deserved (brutal death). He’s coming back to earth again, and this time he will be stripping the planet of every evil so that His people can live in freedom and in close relationship with Him. He can’t rid the earth of evil without being extremely severe because evil does not play nice or fair. Besides that, his anger is burning because of the suffering of not only human beings, but all creation, as a result of our sin. God is righteous and so are His judgments! Holy Spirit, please open their eyes to see the truth!
A just God cannot tolerate sin? Really? Look around. Your God is tolerating all sorts of sin. In fact, it seems God doesn’t care about sin at all; even among his followers: they sin willfully and often. When’s the last time there has been an Ananias and Sapphira report? Christian TV is proof that God is not serious about sin.
God’s anger is burning over suffering? How do you know this? What proof do you have? In the Bible when God was angry he acted out. I don’t see God anywhere today. Suffering abounds and your God does nothing.
You are parroting the Bible. You believe that it is truth. I get that, but you need to understand that I believe what I can see. When your God shows up and does some real God work then I will believe. Until then, I remain unconvinced that your God is anything more than a fiction concocted by people to explain their understanding of a pre-science, pre-modern world. Perhaps it is time to create a new God that is modern and understands science.
Whether you believe God is real or not, He is! And I will pray that you will have an encounter with him for yourself that will change your heart toward the Lord. I pray that your eyes will be opened to the truth. God is real, His love is real and a true encounter with Him is life changing. Prayerfully you will truly meet the King and willfully submit to Him without Him having to force you to. The bible does say that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Christ [Anointed One] is Lord. There is a great judgment coming to all who deny Him. I pray that you will not have to be judged in that day.
So God is real because you say he is. Awesome. End of discussion. Do you believe faeries are real? Why not? Whether you believe or not, faeries exist! I have never seen one BUT I read about them in a book so they must be real. Believe!!
I love you Bruce, although I have never met you and my hearts desire is that you will give in to the wooing of our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. He loves you soooo much, I just wish you could see it. He won’t condemn you, if you would just turn to Him and admit your need for His forgiveness. He needs you to recognize that you have wronged Him, but He’ll treat you like nothing ever happened once you repent. Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand and the hour of destruction is approaching quickly.
No, you don’t love me. Don’t give me this syrupy, cheap Christian love. My wife, kids, grandkids, family, and friends love me. They don’t have some fucked-up Jesus-love for me. They love me for who I am. You can’t do that. Unless I become like you, you can never accept me for who I am. Just as your God does not love everyone, you really don’t love everyone either, and you need to stop telling yourself that you do. Your email to me is filled with invective and judgments. You, a total stranger, think you have the right to speak to me like this. Such arrogance.
I wronged God and need to confess it to him? It will be a cold day in a mythical hell before that happens. The people doing the wrong are people like you. You come preaching a religion and a God I want nothing to do with. You offer me no tangible proof for God other than “you say so.” You shit all over my front porch and then say to me, isn’t that wonderful!
You say the hour of destruction is approaching quickly. Today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? When? Christians keep threatening nonbelievers with “God is coming to whip your ass,” but he never shows up. Either God is a coward, he’s dead, or you are misrepresenting him. Perhaps your God is like the God Baal Elijah mocked in 1 Kings 18:27:
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them (the prophets of Baal) , and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
Perhaps your God, like Baal, is busy talking, using the toilet, on vacation, or asleep.
I am sure you mean well, but I am to the place in life where I am no longer willing to ignore people like you. I have had enough. When people like you come into my house and throw around feces covered in a veneer of love, I’m going to expose you and your God for who you really are: arrogant control freaks who demand everyone be like them lest they suffer eternal damnation and torture in hell.
What a wonderful God you serve. On behalf of my fellow atheists, let me say, NO THANKS!
Tomorrow, Polly and I plan to eat at Mancy’s Steakhouse in Toledo, Ohio in celebration of her 57th birthday. Mancy’s is quite expensive, so we only go there once a year on Polly’s birthday. We hope to have a wonderful time. As I sit here contemplating the wonderful life I’ve shared with Polly, the song Wasn’t Expecting That by Jamie Lawson began to play on Rdio. I’ve never heard this song or artist before, and as I listen I find myself weeping. The song speaks to the bond and love Polly and I have for each other. I thought I’d share it with you.
It was only a smile But my heart it went wild I wasn’t expecting that Just a delicate kiss Anyone could’ve missed I wasn’t expecting that
Did I misread the sign? Your hand slipped into mine I wasn’t expecting that You spent the night in my bed You woke up and you said “Well, I wasn’t expecting that!”
I thought love wasn’t meant to last I thought you were just passing through If I ever get the nerve to ask What did I get right to deserve somebody like you? I wasn’t expecting that
It was only a word It was almost misheard I wasn’t expecting that But it came without fear A month turned into a year I wasn’t expecting that
I thought love wasn’t meant to last Honey, I thought you were just passing through If I ever get the nerve to ask What did I get right to deserve somebody like you? I wasn’t expecting that
Oh and isn’t it strange How a life can be changed In the flicker of the sweetest smile We were married in spring You know I wouldn’t change a thing Without that innocent kiss What a life I’d have missed
If you’d not took a chance On a little romance When I wasn’t expecting that Time doesn’t take long Three kids up and gone I wasn’t expecting that
When the nurses they came Said, “It’s come back again” I wasn’t expecting that Then you closed your eyes You took my heart by surprise I wasn’t expecting that
As Polly and I were traveling to Lake Erie and the Marblehead Lighthouse, we came upon the billboard pictured above. For the Christian, the message is perfectly clear, Jesus loves them or the Christian God loves them. However, for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the message is not so clear.
First, which God? The Christian presupposes that their God is the one, true and living God. All other Gods are false Gods. Since I don’t start my rational inquiry with the notion that the Christian God left this message for me or anyone else traveling by, I ask again, which God? This is the same argument I use when a Christian tries to argue that the wonders of the natural world testify to the existence of God. Fine, I say, so WHICH God? It is not evident from creation that the Christian God or any other God created everything. To come to the conclusion that the Christian God created everything as we now see it requires believing what is written in Genesis 1-3, a belief that runs contrary to everything science tells us about the universe.
Second, the I ‘HEART” U message is not at all clear. Most people assume that the message means I love you. However, according to the Urban Dictionary, this phrase has several different meanings:
Words uttered by a person not ready to say I love you
Words not as serious as I love you
I have feelings for you
I love you
This undefined God, does he really love me, or does he just have feelings for me? Perhaps he is not ready to make a commitment to me. There is nothing in the message that would lead me to conclude that this God loves or has feelings for me. This is how I view the Bible, just ink on paper. There is nothing in the Bible that would lead me to conclude that the Christian God loves me.
You see, love is not measured by words on a printed billboard or page. Just because an undefined God’s name is attached to a nonspecific phrase like I ‘HEART’ U doesn’t mean that any specific God loves me. Polly and I recently celebrated thirty-seven years of marriage. We’ve written a lot of letters to each other over the years, yet both of us would agree that love is shown, not in what a person says or writes on paper, but by what he or she does. In others word, when it comes it love, don’t tell me, show me.
We have an ancient book, the Bible, that tell us the Jewish/Christian God at one time walked among us, yet no one has drawn a picture or snapped a photograph of this God. All we have to go on are ancient writings by unknown authors. If knowing this I ‘HEART’ U God is so important, don’t you think this God would make an appearance now and then and let us know that he is alive and kicking? Jesus could settle things right now for everyone by coming back to earth and working a few miracles. Allow the press to report the miracles, allow photographers to shoot the Son of Man doing his miracle show, and perhaps let National Geographic do a feature spread on the mighty works of the Lord. Billions would fall on their knees and worship Jesus if this happened.
Instead, Jesus spends all his time building rooms in the heavenly Trump Hotel for his chosen ones. According to the Bible, when Jesus ascended back to heaven, he left a spirit form of himself behind, the Holy Spirit/Ghost. Supposedly, this Spirit/Ghost lives inside every Christian, teaching them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Of course, there is no proof given for this claim other than what is printed on the pages of the Bible.
If I believe what is written in the Bible about the nature and good works of the Christian, then it is easy for me to conclude that no one is a Christian. If the new life of the born again Christian is supposed to be radically different from the life of the non-Christian, where can I find these radically different Christians? If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,meekness, and temperance, where is the Christian who evidences such fruit?
The proof of any religion is the product it produces. An apple tree might look nice with all its green foliage, but unless it produces apples it has no value. So it is with Christianity, especially here in the United States. It looks nice with all its ornate, expensive buildings and well-dressed clergy, but a Christianity that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus is nowhere to be found. Why is this? 2,000 years removed from Jesus, Christianity has been reduced to a generic, nondescript, cheesy slogan on a billboard. Is this all Christianity has to offer the world after twenty-one centuries?
Have you ever read an Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church advertisement or sign that said First Baptist Church, The Friendliest Church in Town or We LOVE People? No one ever bothers to ask, so are all the other congregations in town churches that hate people and are unfriendly?
Churches that talk about their love for people and how friendly they are sincerely think these advertising slogans true. To them, shaking hands with visitors, making them feel at home, and letting them know where the nursery and bathrooms are, shows that they are a people loving, friendly church. The question I ask is this, WHY does this or that church love people and befriend newcomers? What is their motive for being so loving and friendly? Most often, their motive is to win lost souls to Jesus, resulting in increased attendance. And more people=more money in the offering plate. Like any business, their goal is to gain customers, increase revenues, and expand the business.
Ask any Evangelical pastor or church member if their church loves people and they will say, Of course we do! We love people like Jesus loved people. We love our neighbors like we love ourselves. But, this is no disinterested love. This is a love that has an ulterior motive. It is a love that has conversion and assimilation as its goal. Just ask them if a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage can join the church or teach Sunday school and you will find out quickly how little they actually love other people.
Their Jesus is a Jesus that loves people so much that he does not leave them where they are or as they are. Their Jesus changes and transforms people, so their objective is to love and befriend people so that might be saved (changed and transformed) and become a part of their church. That’s what their Jesus is all about, making more church members. (Matthew 28:19,20) Sounds crass, but any Evangelicals pastor who tells you church attendance numbers don’t matter is lying.
Compare the Evangelical love for people to a love that accepts people as they are and where they are. There is a big difference between the Evangelical love for people and loving and befriending people with no expectation of return. In some liberal/mainline churches I think such an approach to love and friendship exists, but I’ve never seen it in the Evangelical or IFB church. And I just know a commenter is going to scream that THEIR church is different. Sure it is.
Once a unaware newcomer is friended and loved to Jesus and made a part of the church, it is on to new people to pretend friend. For those taken in by the friendliest church in town advertising campaign, they quickly learn that the church is no more or less friendly than any other church or social group. In every church there are kind, decent, friendly people. There are also people, sometimes the pastor, who are mean, nasty, and unfriendly. Sadly, in churches that are more fundamentalist, the church’s initial friendliness quickly dissipates and is replaced with demands to conform, legalism, and a quick unfriending if you do not fall in line.
Ask anyone who has deconverted. What happened to all those friends they had while attending the friendliest church in town? Once a person leaves the church they often find out how unfriendly the church really is. They find out that friendship was a lure, a scam. The true nature of a church is revealed by how it treats those who leave the church, regardless of their reason for leaving.