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Tag: Matthew 25

2006: It’s Time to Leave the Christian Ghetto and Become “Worldly” for Jesus

christian ghetto

What follows is a post I wrote fourteen years ago. I thought readers might appreciate reading something I wrote back before I became an atheist; back when I was slowly exiting Christianity stage left. 

Enjoy!

My comments concerning HisHolySpace have elicited some interesting comments (both public and private), In almost every case, the writer disagreed with me. In one case, I think the writer, intentionally or not I do not know, questioned my relationship with God:

I do not know much about you, but it is like you are searching for the truth. search sincerely and diligently, you will find Him.

I didn’t know God was lost, and certainly didn’t know that I was the one who lost him. Yes, I am a seeker, as all Christians are to be. I just happen to look in other places than many Evangelicals do. I refuse to divide my world into secular and Christian. I reject all such dualistic views of the world. There is one God, and Jehovah is His Name. That God created one world, and He called it Good. Adam and Eve corrupted that Good creation, and every human been since has walked in their footsteps.

We live a sin-corrupted, sin-darkened world. It has been this way since the beginning. Because of sin, we die. The newspaper lists the casualties of sin every day. All of us are doomed to become a casualty someday. All of us will face the ugly specter of death someday, probably sooner than later.

Since death is an ever-present reality, what are we to do with our lives? As Christians, we are called on to press the claims of the Kingdom of Christ in every facet of human life. No area of life is exempt. We will search the Scriptures in vain for any command to build a separate Christian society that operates as a sub-culture of the prevailing culture. The Scriptures must be read in their Jewish historical context. If we read them with American Evangelical eyes, the result will be a corrupt world view.

As Christians, we are to be “in the world but not of the world.” What does that mean? Well, Christian Ghetto builders contend that Christians are to build a Christian world that exists alongside the secular world. They venture out into that secular world to work, shop, and eat, but the rest of the time they retire to the safe haven of their Christian ghetto. If only they could work for a Christian employer, buy their gas at a Christian owned gas station, eat at Christian owned restaurants, and shop at Christian owned grocery stores, then their world would be perfect.

Some object when I call this escapism, but that is exactly what it is. Christians like this have hunkered down in their spiritual bomb shelters, waiting for the Rapture. While they are waiting for Jesus to come again, they busy themselves playing Christian games, watching Christian TV, playing Christian music, and contacting the Christian underground at places like HisHolySpace.

A person’s eschatology does matter. For Rapturists, this all makes sense. The return of Jesus is imminent. I remember when the book “88 Reasons Jesus will Return in 1988″ came out. The church I was pastoring at the time was quite stirred up about it. People were getting copies of the book and handing it out. I took the opposite stance. I preached a message titled “Why Jesus WON’T come back in 1988″ As the calendar clearly proves, I was right.

Rapturism is pretty much a new-fangled theological position. Historically, the church has NOT believed in Rapturism. Instead, the church has primarily held to amillennial or postmillennial eschatological views. Both views reject escapism, and instead require Christians to actively engage the culture they live in. No imminent check-out for Christians. We are here for the duration. Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do.

Every Christian has the mandate to engage and change the culture they live in. We are to be counter-cultural, not absent-cultural. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called on to wade into the muck and the filth of the world and make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with.

Christian Ghetto builders do just the opposite. They build fences to keep the world out. They put Christian pit bulls in the yard to keep those dirty, filthy worldlings out. They elect Pseudo-Christian politicians to do their bidding. They clamor for laws against abortion, homosexuals, and same-sex marriage. God forbid they ever have to come in contact with someone who has had an abortion or who is a homosexual. The front doors of their houses are papered with magazines from Focus on the Family. They hope all peddlers of the secular world will be warded off by the magazines. If that doesn’t work, they will sic the Christian Ghetto Godhead of Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, on them.

All the while, our culture is dying, sinners are going to hell, and most Christians don’t give a damn. As long as they can maintain their membership in the Christian Ghetto they will live under the delusion that they are serving Jesus. They will forget that Christians are to love the Lord their God with all their being and to love their neighbor (not fellow Church member) as they love themselves. Pretty simple. Love God. Love your Neighbor.

How many non-Christian friends or acquaintances do you have? When is the last time you shared a beer with your fellow workmates? When is the last time you talked to your non-Christian neighbors? When is the last time non-Christians were invited to your house for dinner? How do you treat that dyed-hair, many-times-pierced, cashier at the grocery? And the list goes on and on . . . And I don’t mean inviting them to church. Stop inviting people to church and instead BE THE CHURCH. Go to an AIDS hospice and volunteer to be a helper. Go to the nursing home and love some old people. Seek out a single mother and buy her some formula, diapers, or offer to babysit for her. And the list goes on and on . . .

Buy some secular CDs and try and hear the voice of the culture you live in. Stop listening to escapist Christian music that has you so hopped up about Heaven that you neglect the world you live in. Stop leaving tracts at restaurants. Instead leave a gracious tip and be a nice customer. Call up the local bar and offer to drive any person home that is too drunk to drive. Be a friend to a prisoner. Adopt their family. Love them. And the list goes on and on . . .

Live the Gospel.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Don’t tell people the Gospel, SHOW people the Gospel; then, and only then, will you find a receptive audience. Get out there in the dirty, old world and show them that Jesus is worth loving and that Christianity is worth living.

Stop trying to get them to come to your Christian Ghetto. Go to Them. Jesus Did.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Matthew 25: Will There Be Any Evangelicals in Heaven?

evangelicals-heaven

Warning: I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not the type of Evangelical mentioned in this post, no need to whine, complain, moan, and object to my unfair characterization of your tribe. Perhaps you should ponder why you are still an Evangelical instead of feeling butt-hurt over being unfairly characterized. When Donald Trump was elected, that was your cue to run, run, run. Unless you have no legs or wheelchair, I can’t think of one reason for thoughtful, decent, socially aware Christians to remain Evangelical.

Many critics believe that Evangelicalism is imploding; that the baby birthed by the Moral Majority decades ago has now turned into a full-grown, power-hungry monster. Drunk with political success, many Evangelicals have abandoned all pretense of being followers of Jesus. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, arguably the most unqualified, most vile man to ever sit in the Oval Office. Trump made and continues to make a mockery of virtually everything Evangelicals supposedly hold dear, yet the president continues to have widespread support in the Evangelical community. Trump is a pathological liar, capable of repeatedly contradicting himself in a matter of minutes. Showing all the marks of being a sociopath, the president has no regard for women, children, the disabled, or, quite frankly, the human race. Trump is a one-man band, and all that matters to him is the fawning love he receives at campaign rallies and from positive news coverage. Trump continues to attack the very foundation of our democracy. He daily lashes out at the media — except for Fox News — calling them fake, threatening them with punitive action. It is clear to all who are paying attention that the president’s election campaign was in bed with people out to destroy our country. Winning at all costs is what matters to Trump, and one has to wonder if this approach will one day lead to another depression or world war. Recent news reports reveal that President Trump, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — all of whom are professing Christians — think it is moral, decent, and right to separate children from their parents in their zero-tolerance pursuit of shutting off the flow of undocumented people coming into the United States. Despite all these things, Evangelicals still overwhelmingly support porn-star-loving, pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump. It seems the president was right when he said that he could murder someone and people would still vote for him. It leaves me to wonder if there’s anything the president could do that would cause Evangelicals to turn on him and demand his removal from office. I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, the pathological desire for a return to the mythical days when America was white, Christian, and great precludes most Evangelicals from ever seriously asking themselves the question, what would Jesus do?

The current state of affairs has me wondering if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven? I have my doubts. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

According to this passage of Scripture — and yes, I am well aware of all the ways Evangelicals use to get around the clear intent and implication of this passage — there is coming a day when Jesus will return to earth with his angels and sit upon the throne of his glory. At that time, he will gather humanity together and judge them, dividing them into two categories: sheep and goats. The sheep will be rewarded with eternal life, whereas the goats will receive everlasting punishment as their reward. How will Jesus determine who is in what category? Will it be, as Evangelicals contend, right beliefs that put them in the sheep pen, and wrong beliefs that land most of the human race — past and present — in the goat pen? Is right belief the true gospel Evangelicals preach? Or is there some other standard by which Jesus will judge the dead and the living on judgment day? The aforementioned passage of Scripture is clear; it is good works and not right beliefs that determine our eternal destiny. I have long argued that one must ignore much of the Gospels to conclude that good works have nothing to do with salvation. Note carefully what Jesus said would be his standard of judgment:

  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving drink to the thirsty
  • Taking in strangers and caring for them
  • Clothing the naked
  • Caring for the sick
  • Caring for those in prison

Considering the current state of affairs and Evangelicals’ continued support of the Republican Party and Donald Trump, it’s fair to ask if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven. In fact, I wonder if the largest section in Hell will be reserved for American Evangelicals. Using Jesus’ standard of judgment, there will be few Evangelicals in God’s eternal sheep pen. And it’s just not their support of Republican policy and President Trump that will land them in Hell. For decades now, Evangelicals have increasingly found themselves on the opposite side of the teachings of Christ. While Evangelicals revel in their love for zygotes, many of them show little interest in life after birth. Once born, children are left to the wolves, expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps before they even own a pair of boots. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support government-sponsored violence. Ever the flag wavers, Evangelicals continue to support the murderous actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and countless other countries. Drones rain violence and death from the sky, and Evangelicals say nothing, believing that part of making America great again is fighting them [Muslims] over there [Middle East] so we don’t have to fight them here. Evangelicals seem indifferent towards the maiming and killing of hundreds of thousands of children, women, unborn babies, and innocent bystanders. I wonder what Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would say about Evangelical support of these things? Something tells me that, much like asylum-seekers on our southern border, Evangelicals will be turned away at St. Peter’s gate. You see, it’s behavior that matters, not beliefs. Don’t tell me what you believe, show me!

Evangelicals not only support the American war machine, but they are staunch supporters of unbridled capitalism and its immoral destruction of our planet. Jesus had a lot to say about money, and something tells me that if Jesus were alive today, he and Bernie Sanders might be best friends. Greed rules virtually every aspect of American life, yet most Evangelical preachers never say a word. How can they, with their fancy churches, stained-glass windows, and million-dollar church budgets. Something tells me that these modern moneychangers would find themselves at the end of Jesus’ whip as he overturned their media tables and soundboards. Think of all the good that could be done with the money Evangelicals spend on buildings, staff, and incestuous programs that do little more than entertain fat sheep — or fat goats. Evangelicals support the rich getting richer at the expense of working-class people. I wonder who Jesus would hang out with if he came back to earth today? The ruling class? The rich? The powerful? Big name preachers? I suspect, as the Joshua series of books — written by Catholic priest Joseph Girzone — so aptly showed, that Jesus would be found hanging out at the local pub and caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned — the very people Evangelicals have no time for. But Jesus, some Evangelical might say, we are having a worship service in your name tonight. Surely you will want to spend your time with us. Why, we even pray for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. And you know Lord, once a year our church has what we call Serve Day (a local church does just that). For five hours, we do good stuff for people. Don’t you want to join us, Lord, as we take five hours out of our busy masturbatory Jesus-worship schedule to give back to our community? I suspect that Jesus might inquire as to where all their money went; the money he gave them to do good works; the money he gave them to, you know, care for the weak, the poor, the disadvantaged, and marginalized.

Thanks to widespread ignorance concerning matters of science, many Evangelicals are also global climate-change deniers. Believing that the earth is six thousand twenty-two years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days, will ruin the best of minds. Besides, why worry about increasing sea levels, increasing temperatures, and wildlife habitat loss when the return of Jesus is eminent? To heck with the world, Evangelicals say, God is in charge of the weather, and if he wants increasing sea levels and increased temperatures, who are we to object?

Everything that I’ve written above will likely just piss off Evangelicals. I’m an atheist, humanist, pacifist, and a socialist, so Evangelicals will likely ignore what I have to say. I’m just a guy with an axe to grind. I hate God, so it’s no wonder that I have it out for God’s chosen ones. However, Evangelicals might consider that perhaps I am right, and that their continued support of Republican politics, Donald Trump, capitalism, and a host of other anti-Christian behaviors might earn them a bunk in Hell. Perhaps Evangelicals need consider Pascal’s Wager — you know, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, caring for strangers, and all the other things that Jesus said are the markers of a man or woman who follows after him, just in case Jesus really meant what he said. Yes, I am an atheist. The miracle working Jesus of the Bible is a myth, but the human Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem and the shores of Galilee said some good things that Evangelicals might want to put into practice if they expect to be singing with the Angels in the sweet by-and-by. And even if there is no Heaven or Hell, no afterlife, no judgment — don’t you want to kind, thoughtful, and helpful to others? I know I do.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce Gerencser