Tag Archive: Self Worth

The Bible Says Our Good Works Are as Filthy Rags

works are as filthy rags

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Evangelicals believe that humans, Christian or not, are incapable of good works; that all goodness comes from the Christian God; that works apart from God that “seem” good are actually done for the wrong motivations and reasons. According to Isaiah 64:6, our works are as filthy rags, the rags, according to many Evangelical preachers, that lepers wrapped around their putrefying flesh. In other words, our good works, apart from Jesus working in and through us, are puss-filled, awful-smelling bandages. One reader told me that she heard one pastor say that the filthy rags in Isaiah 64:6 were the rags used by menstruating women. Gross right? That’s the whole point — to make people see and believe that “their” good works are filthy and vile before the thrice-holy God.

This kind of thinking, of course, causes great psychological damage to people who, with good intentions, try to be loving, kind, and help to everyone. Be overheard “bragging” about your good works and Sanctified Sally or Pastor Blowhard will most certainly rebuke you for taking credit for what Jesus did. Evangelicals are beaten coming and going when it comes to good works. They are reminded of the fact that the Bible says, faith without works is dead and work while it is yet day, for the night is coming when no man can work. Congregants are cajoled over their lack of devotion and commitment to Jesus and their lack of shining-in-the-light-of-day good works. And what happens when they change their ways and start working day and night in Jesus’ vineyard? They are warned about taking credit for their works or finding satisfaction in helping others. Pastor Blowhard thunders from the pulpit, Jesus alone deserves all the praise, honor, and glory for our good works. Without him, our works are but filthy rags.

Is it any wonder so many Evangelicals are downright discouraged and depressed? Being told over and over that one is a worthless piece of shit and that one’s life is n-o-t-h-i-n-g without Jesus is sure to ruin any thoughts of self-esteem. Pastors frequently remind congregants that the Bible commands them to deny self, to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. It is this notion of denying self that lies at the root of so much of the damage done by Evangelical preachers. Self is viewed as something that must be crucified, put to death. The Apostle Paul repeatedly told first century Christians of the importance of crucifying the flesh. Paul also talked about Christians presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God. This thinking has led countless Evangelicals to deny themselves not only material gain, but normal, healthy human emotions.

Somewhere along my life as a Christian, I died. My life was swallowed up by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. I lost all sense of who was Bruce Gerencser. It took me several years after walking away from Christianity to reconnect with self, with my emotions. I was shocked to find how buried my life had become under the weight of living for and serving the divine taskmaster, the Christian God; the deity who demanded everything from me and gave me little in return. No matter how hard I worked in Jesus’ coal mine, I still felt vile and dirty. How could it be any other way, right? I was a sinner, and my only saving grace was Jesus, not any of the good that I had done. I remained, as Isaiah 64:6 says, a dirty, vile, puss-filled rag.

Did your pastor or other church leaders use Isaiah 64:6 as a weapon to destroy your self-worth and good works? If so, please share your thoughts 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Humans Are But a Speck of Worthless Dirt in the Eyes of God

without god

Many of the beliefs Evangelicals hold dear are of little or no consequence. Believing them or not has little effect on Evangelicals. Two beliefs, however, fundamentally affect how believers view themselves. The doctrines of original sin and human depravity are key tenets that provide the foundation for other doctrines such as atonement and redemption (salvation). If humans, thanks to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, are not, by nature, sinners, then there is no need for Jesus to die on the cross, nor is there a need for humans to be saved. Is it any wonder, then, that Evangelical preachers emphasize the doctrines of original sin and human depravity? For those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, hearing preaching on sin was quite common. Sunday after Sunday, preachers spit, scream, and pound the pulpit as they decry humanity’s sinfulness. Often, these sermons focus on specific sins, particularly sexual sins. The goal of such preaching is to make congregants feel guilty over their sins. Once congregants are thoroughly stripped naked before God, then they are ready to seek forgiveness of sin from and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Preaching against sin, calling out sins by name, becomes a weapon in the hands of preachers, used to attack human self-worth and self-esteem. The goal is to reduce congregants to worms and specks of dust — insignificant in God’s sight. Imagine hearing such preaching week after week, year after year. Is it any wonder that many Evangelicals think that they are little more than pieces of shit in the eyes of their God? Any good they do is not because of them, but because of Jesus. Congregants are reminded that the Bible says that it is impossible to do ANYTHING without God. He gives people the very breath in their lungs. He gives their legs the power to move. Everything humans do is because of and through the power of the Christian God.

 

Imagine every good thing ever done by you being credited to another person. I suspect most of us would not be happy about other people getting credit for our good works. We did the work, so we should receive the credit. But for Evangelicals, they do all the work and God gets all the credit. Why? Because they are worthless, hopeless, helpless sinners whom Jesus, through his blood and mighty power, saved from their sins. After being graciously saved by God, Evangelicals are expected, out of a heart of gratitude, to spend the rest of their lives giving God credit for everything they do. And I mean EVERYTHING!

It is hard not to see the Christian God as the religious equivalent of Donald Trump.  Trump craves the praises of others. Recently, several UCLA basketball players were arrested in China for shoplifting in China. President Trump was supposedly instrumental in securing their release. After the players arrived home, Trump tweeted out:

donald trump ucla players 2

It is the duty of the U.S. government and its president to assist citizens in trouble in other countries — no praise or thanks needed. Trump, however, has a pathological need for people to grovel before his greatness, thanking him for what he did on their behalf. At least with Trump, we can see that perhaps the president played a part in the release of the UCLA prayers. With the Christian God, however, there is no evidence that he has done anything for anyone, yet his earthly spokesmen, using verses from an ancient book purportedly written by God, demand that all of humanity bow before God’s greatness and give him praise, honor, and glory. This is especially true for Christians, those who have been delivered from their depravity by the finished work of Jesus on the cross. God relenting to their pleas for forgiveness and salvation comes with one non-negotiable demand — you will humble yourself before me all the days of your life, praising me for every good thing you do and every good thing that comes your way. Not only do Evangelicals get to grovel at the feet of Jesus and praise him in THIS life, they will continue their masturbatory praising in the life to come. Does this sound like something you would like to do for life without end? Of course not. But when you have been repeatedly told you are a worm, a speck of dust in the eyes of God, deserving of eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire, an eternity of massaging the Big Kahuna’s ego sounds like a great idea.

without god you are nothing

Of course, there is God, no heaven, and no hell. Knowing this is makes Evangelical preaching against sinners and their sins so cruel. Many of the behaviors deemed sins because an ancient religious text says so, are normal, healthy human practices. And those that aren’t can be addressed in ways that don’t require assaulting the psychological well-being of offenders.

People who spent much of their lives in Evangelicalism before deconverting know all about the psychological damage caused by repeatedly being told you are worthless without Jesus, and the only reason you do good in your life is because of what God does in and through you. Over time, believers develop long lists of prohibited behaviors (sins). Sinning — even the slightest of sins — requires believers to prostrate themselves before God, telling him they are sorry, and begging for forgiveness. Since, according to Evangelical preachers, Christians sin daily in thought, word, and deed, believers are expected to spend significant time daily getting “right” with God (at least Catholics let their sins accumulate before going to confession and getting absolution). Imagine the emotional toll a lifetime of this extracts from sincere, devoted people who just want to make a demanding God happy.

Many ex-Christians require professional counseling to undo the damage done by such thinking. Some of us, myself included, were so deeply scarred by constantly feeling guilty over behaviors deemed sinful and never seeming to be able to find victory over sin, that it is likely we will live out the rest of our lives trying to find peace, happiness, and contentment. Life after Jesus requires through deconstruction. Only then can a new life rise from the ashes of our Evangelical pasts. I’ve had to learn anew what good and bad behaviors are. I also have had to learn to stop judging people over perceived violations of my personal code of conduct. Over the past decade, what I call my “sin list” continues to shrink. What once required sixty-six books and 783,137 words to divine, now fits on a 3×5 card. As my dear friend Ami is fond of saying, the one rule we all should live by is this: don’t be an asshole.

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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: You Are NOT a Good Person says Michelle Lesley

michelle lesley

I am absolutely weary of some of the memes aimed at Christian women these days. You know the ones I mean, ladies- the ones with lovely pictures of flowers or an ocean or a meadow with a superimposed flowing script practically BEGGING us to believe how much worth we have to God, how awesome we are, how we need to discover the greatness within, how God gives us limitless potential and a superfantastic divine purpose, blah, blah, blah.

You know why they have to take that begging tone to try to get us to believe those things? Because they’re not true. You know it, and I know it.

You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

That’s why these memes and false teachers have to try so hard to convince us of how terrific we are- deep down we know we’re not. It’s a lie. And putting all our eggs in the basket of that lie of greatness sets us up for disappointment and self-loathing every time we sin.

Ladies, stop listening to this hearts and flowers, cotton candy, pump up your ego so you’ll feel better about yourself dreck, and put your faith and hope in the One who will never let you down. The One who looked at all your nasty thoughts and evil deeds and said, “I’m going to the cross for her anyway.” The One who sees all your daily faults and failures and is still willing to forgive when you repent. The One who’s faithful to you even when you’re not faithful to Him.

Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – and put your focus on Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is. Because if you’re feeling bad about yourself, it’s not because you don’t have a high enough self esteem. It’s because you don’t have a high enough Christ esteem.

We’re not worthy. He is. Let’s get over ourselves and give Him the glory, and honor, and attention, and focus, and praise He so richly deserves.

….

— Michelle Lesley, Michelle Lesley: Give me church ladies, or I die, You’re Not Awesome…and You Know it, September 19,2017

The Psychological Cost of Dying to Self and Deflecting the Praise of Others

self denial

While I have been able to shake off much of the psychological damage done to me by my Evangelical upbringing, Bible college training, and the 25 years I spent in the ministry, several pernicious, frustrating problems remain — my inability to see myself as someone capable of doing good things and my inability to accept the praise of others.

This inability stems from Evangelical teachings on the nature of man, pride, and self-denial. I started out in life being told that I was a vile worm of a boy, who if left to his own devices, would turn out to be a sin-filled, lustful, degenerate man; that the only hope for me was to repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior; that if I would do so Jesus would miraculously change me from a hell bound sinner to a heaven bound saint. Like most saved, sanctified, bought-by-the-blood, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Christians, I spent most of my life trying to live according to the impossible teachings of the Bible and the church. No matter how “good” I was, there was always unmortified sin lying deep within my soul, ready to come to the surface if I but for one moment thought that I could live my life in my own strength.

I heard and preached that the Bible says, “without me [Jesus] ye can do nothing,” that in and of ourselves “dwelleth no good thing,” and that our ability to walk and breathe was dependent on God. Those who dared to go it alone were sure to find themselves shipwrecked on the rocky shore of sin and destruction.

Evangelicals are taught that any good they do is because of God, and that any bad they do is because of Satan and/or the flesh. This is why so many Christian athletes thank God for their athletic prowess, thinking that they never would have scored the winning touchdown or crossed the finish line first if it had not been for Jesus. Never mind all the training, practice, and single-minded devotion to their sport; all that is nothing when compared to what God does in and through them.

By the account of others, I’m a pretty good public speaker. I say others because I have never thought of myself as a very good speaker. When people would praise me over my sermons, I always felt uncomfortable, not wanting the praise that only belonged to Jesus. Of course, I now see things in a different light. You are damn right, Skippy. I did preach a lot of good sermons, even a few oratory gems. You know why? While my preacher friends were busy golfing with their buddies, I was diligently honing my craft. While I was a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, I rarely preached thus. Instead, I meticulously developed outlines for my sermons, making sure that they were not only engaging but supported by the biblical text. Putting together several sermons a week required a significant amount of time, time I gladly gave, believing that the people who called me preacher deserved to hear sermons that they would remember. Far too many preachers are lazy, giving little time to their most important task — teaching the Bible. I can’t tell you the number of sermons I’ve heard where the pastor just got up in the pulpit and winged it, thinking that nobody would notice or care. Well, I did. Maybe my thinking here is due to the fact that I’m a perfectionist and I am plagued with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Regardless, I am of the opinion that if you are going to do something, do it well. So, as I look back at the things I did well in the ministry, I can see that I did so because I felt them to be important. It’s too bad that Jesus got all the credit.

I am a firm believer now in giving credit to whom credit is due. When the Gerencsers gathered together last Thanksgiving Day for dinner, I didn’t bow my head and thank the good Lord above for the food we were about to eat. Why? The Lord had nothing to do with it. Polly did the work to earn the wages for which the food was purchased. She, along with our daughter and daughters-in-law, prepped and cooked the food. The only people deserving of my vittle praise are they, not God.

I am frequently given praise over something I’ve written or said. I often receive complimentary comments about my photography work. Deep down — wherever “deep down” is — I appreciate the kind words of others, but I often have feelings of guilt when I do so. I have similar feelings when I experience good things in my life; you know like coming into some money, being able to put on my shoes, finding that one of my children didn’t eat the last piece of pizza, or getting laid. When life is good, I far too often either think it won’t last or that I don’t deserve it. When “shit happens,” I tend to think it’s what I deserve. These screwed-up feelings about life trace squarely back to my immersion in Evangelicalism and its teachings. I suspect that I am not alone when it comes to thinking like this. Evangelicalism, especially if people embrace it totally, can and does cause great psychological harm. I hope some readers will share in the comment section their own experiences with the Evangelical teachings I have mentioned this post.

Groveling at the Feet of God to Whom All Praise, Honor, and Glory is Due

tim tebow

Tim Tebow, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory.

Dear Human Worms,

You are NOTHING! It’s all about me. I am your King, Lord, Sovereign, and master. Nothing happens that escapes my eye. I hear, see, and know everything. I am the one who gives you the ability to breathe and move your legs. I am the one who is in control of every aspect of your lives. I am the puppet master of the universe. I spoke the universe into existence and I alone have the power to give and take life. Get it into your head, worm — it’s all about me, me, me!

Now, grovel before me, worm. 

God

Millions of Christians believe that what I have written above accurately portrays God and their subservience to him. Simply put, with one voice these worms cry, You are everything, oh Lord, and I am n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Each and every day countless Christians do good works, yet, if they are true to the teachings of the Bible, these do-gooders never take credit for their acts of love, kindness, and compassion (or touchdowns, winning baskets, or walk-off home runs). No matter how much effort  and time Christians put into helping others, they must never, ever take the credit. If they do, they are reminded of the fact that the Bible says, without me [God] ye can do nothing. God is everything, everything, everything. Christians are nothing, nothing, nothing.

Why then, do Christians do things such as tell their pastors, great sermon, applaud when singing groups or soloists finish their songs, clap when church children perform, and thank others for doing a good job? Why then, do churches advertise the name of their pastors? Why do churches praise the hard work of Sunday school teachers, missionaries, youth leaders and junior church workers? Why do churches put “IN MEMORY OF . . . ” plates/labels on things, reminding everyone of who gave the money for this or that item/project.  Shouldn’t imprints of human effort be stripped away, and God alone be given all the praise, honor, and glory?

The truth is, Christians love receiving the approbation of others as much as the rest of us. I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I appreciate it when people thank me for the work I do on this blog. Their support helps spur me on, be it financial support or a short email that lets me know they appreciate my writing. When people do well, we should praise them. I know I don’t do it enough.

My children have turned out to be good people. They aren’t perfect, but neither is their father. My oldest son was recently promoted to a management position with a large manufacturing concern. My youngest son was recently promoted to team leader at the same company. Son number two is a network administrator for a local wireless internet provider and phone company. Son number three is an expert automobile mechanic. My youngest daughter continues to sharpen her seamstress and furniture restoration skills.

Eighteen years ago, Polly started working in the auxiliary services department for a large manufacturing business. We moved away from Northwest Ohio several times, yet each time we returned, Polly’s previous employer immediately offered her a job. Last year, Polly was promoted to the position of shift coordinator. She is responsible for second and third shift auxiliary services employees. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether Polly was supervisor material, I would have said no. Yet, here she is, supervising two shifts, and, by all accounts, doing a great job.

My children and wife have one trait in common: they are all hard workers. When Polly and I first married, our meals consisted of whatever came from boxes or cans. Today, Polly is an excellent — dare I say superb — scratch chef. Unbeknownst to Polly, I ordered her an immersion mixer. It arrived today. Her glee was a sight to behold. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I bought her a vibrator with a lifetime supply of batteries.

As many of you know, I have someone who edits my writing. While I am a better writer than I was a year ago, there are days when my writing, due to fatigue, pain, or entrenched bad habits, can still be a pain in the ass to edit. While she tells me it is not necessary, I thank my editor from time to time. Why? Because I appreciate her hard work.

Yes, many people are lazy slackers whose goal in life is to do as little work as possible. These workers tend to be the people whom we complain about on social media. Sadly, some people just don’t care. But, others do. When cashiers, waitresses, restaurant workers, and customer service representatives — to name a few — do a great job I try my best to say thanks. If they are wearing a name tag, I address them by their name. It takes all of two seconds for me to do this, yet it reminds those serving me that I appreciate their efforts.

And that’s the point of this post. Why should a narcissistic, demanding employer — God — receive praise for that which he did not do?  Everything you and I do today, tomorrow, and until we end up ashes in urns is because of our own hard work and effort. Granted, none of us got to where we are today without the help of others (Thanks, Mom!). Hillary Clinton is right; it takes a village to raise a child. My life is the sum of all those who have touched and helped me in some way. It is important that I recognize this lest I turn into Donald Trump. I would not be where I am today without the help of others. When I write the acknowledgement pages for my book, I will rightly thank all those who helped me along the way. But, none of them will expect me to grovel at their feet, giving all the praise, honor, and glory to them. Only in the Christian world are people expected to die to self and give God the praise that should be theirs.

deny self

Is it any surprise, then, that many Christians have poor/no self-esteem? I know it has taken Polly and I many years to regain any sort of respect for self. Hammered by a lifetime of preaching meant to destroy self-worth, is it any wonder that, to this day, we have a hard time accepting praise from others. Our lives were swallowed whole by God’s absolute claim on our lives. We were called on to be bond servants (slaves) of the most high God. We worked seven days a week, from early morning hours to late at night — never once expecting the praise of others. We do it for you, Jesus, we said to the ceiling, believing that none of our good works would have been possible without God. Even when people broke with protocol and threw some praise our way, we quickly deflected it, throwing it back to God. We are just his humble servants, we told those who thanked us. Without him, we are nothing.

If I have learned anything post-Jesus, it is that without him I have come to understand that I am someone who is deserving of the approbation of others. I have worth and value. I matter to my my wife, children, and grandchildren. I matter to my friends and extended family. And yes, I matter to many of the readers of this blog. And I can say the same about those who have positively touched my life. We matter, not because of God, but because we are fellow travelers on the road of life. While we are all headed for the same destination — a soylent green factory — how much better and fulfilling is our journey having people by our side.

How about you? Were you taught that all praise, glory, and honor belonged to God? How did these teaches affect your view of self? What have you done to regain a healthy view of self? Do you still have a hard time accepting praise from others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.