Warning! Snark and cursing ahead. You have been warned.
Yesterday, an Evangelical woman by the name of Margo left several comments on Facebook detailing why I never was a Christian. I responded to her several times, but to no avail. I tried to get her to read the posts on the WHY? page and read several of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books, but she would have none of that either. Her mind was made up: Bruce Gerencser, the one-time Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist is not now nor ever has been a Christian. At this point, I told her to fuck off. If someone can’t at least give me a hearing or make any attempt to understand my story, I have no time for them.
What follows are two of Margo’s comments/messages. My response is indented. All spelling and grammar in the original. Enjoy!
One who professes Faith in Jesus Christ.. becomes a preacher of the Living Word of God… only to become an atheist and secular-humanist. //// Heres what I believe—- one who does this was never saved.
I have written many times about the absurdity of the “you were never saved” argument. First, it flies in the face of all objective evidence from the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. Everything about my life said that I was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. My doctrine was orthodox as was my practice. I devoted virtually every waking hour to Jesus, studying the Bible and praying every day. I genuinely cared about my congregation. I made sure their spiritual and material needs were met. I evangelized the lost and attempted to restore backsliders. Ask anyone who knew me at the time, and they will without hesitation testify that I was a Christian. Nothing in my conduct and habits said to those who knew me best — family, congregants, colleagues — that I was anything but a man who took his faith seriously. To suggest, then, that I was never a Christian is absurd.
Think for a moment about the level of deception that I would have had to use to convince thousands of people I was a Christian. The same can be said for my relationships with colleagues in the ministry. These men heard me preach, prayed with and for me, broke bread with me, and knew my secrets, yet not one of them ever had doubts about my faith.
“Why does this matter to you?” you might ask. “You don’t believe in God, so who cares, right?” Sure, but the issue here is her attempt to invalidate my story. Each of us has a right to his or her own story. I refuse to let Evangelical zealots control my storyline. I refuse to let them use their peculiar theology to define who/what I am and who/what I was in the past.
Why? Because truly born-again believing Christians.. no matter what, remain so.
This is a classic example of allowing theology to trump personal observation and knowledge; of faith trumping reason. And I get it. When you believe the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, it colors your thinking and how you view others. In Margo’s mind, I can’t be a born-again Christian because I no longer believe; and if I now am an atheist that means I never truly believed in Jesus.
I explain the absurdity of this argument this way: there was a day/time when Jesus and I were married. Our marriage lasted almost 50 years. But, there came a time when I no longer loved Jesus or followed his commands and teachings. Not wanting to be in a loveless relationship, I divorced Jesus. Lots of Christians lose their faith and walk away. Granted, it’s not common for someone of my age and ministerial experience to do so, but it does happen. I know of numerous men who labored in God’s coal mine for decades, only to lose their faith. Christians can pretend all they want that we don’t exist — but we do, and we are not going away.
If in the “real” world a man and woman can get married and later divorce, so it is with those of us who were once the Brides of the Bridegroom — Jesus. Does a divorce negate the past? Of course not. I once was married to Jesus and now we are divorced. Nothing I can do now will erase the memories/experiences Jesus and I shared — even if he was a figment of my imagination.
“But, Bruce, THE BIBLE SAYS!” I don’t care what a critic “thinks” the Bible says. The Bible can be made to say anything; to prove anything; to justify anything. What matters is how a person lives, and my life as an Evangelical pastor measures up to the lives of holy and zealous Christians such as Margo. Even now, as an atheist I do my best to live a moral and ethical life. I’m not perfect, but I do want to treat others well. Is that not the essence of Christianity: to do good to other people? Did not Jesus say that the second tablet of the Law was summed up thusly: to love your neighbor as yourself? I am not bragging here as much as I am saying that I am a decent, kind, loving human being, one who does his best to make the world a better place. Sadly, far too many Christians are focused on eternity, so much so that they ignore what is going on right in front of them.
No matter how tough life may become.. one still knows God is at the helm.//// However, there are true Christians who get down in their boots via the toils of life.. and claim to no longer believe.. and/or have lost their faith. Those types are still saved. ///// What you have done is not that.
When Christ saves the believer,.. he then, SEALS the believer for the day of redemption. In His own ways.. He knows who is whom.. from the instant one hears the Word and truly believes or not. You are no different than those of whom “make a profession of faith in Christ”.. but, sometime down the line.. convert to Islam or Judaism or Hinduism. Those who do such things were never saved.
Margo subtly alleges that something happened in my life — “the toils of life” — to cause me to walk away from Christianity. Instead of “enduring,” I gave up, or so she thinks, anyway. Never mind that my deconversion story has many levels of complexity. Never mind the anguishing tear-filled hours I spent studying the Bible, praying, reading books, and talking to my spouse, hoping that I could somehow, some way hang on to my faith. None of this matters. Margo’s interpretation of the Bible says that I never was a Christian, end of story. E.F. Hutton has spoken.
You’ve taken it a step or two further.. as you enjoy the secular-humanistic ‘doctrines of demons’… and claim to be an atheist. No true born-again believer would ever do such things.
Yet, according to my story, one did. And I know scores of other preachers who have followed similar paths. I may be following “doctrines of demons” now, but years ago I earnestly battled Satan. Filled with the Holy Ghost, I waged war against powers and principalities. This was, of course, a war against a pooka named Harvey, but I sincerely believed I was wrestling angels of darkness. A belief does not have to be grounded in reality for it to affect a person’s life. This is true of all sorts of beliefs, including religious ones.
I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me the future… my future in Jesus Christ. I’m a born-again believing Christian. Not perfect. Just perfect in Christ. Seems YOU Have taken passages of scripture out of context.. and using that as an “excuse” to ‘hate Jesus.’
What Scripture did I take out of context? Is it even possible to take Scripture out of context? The text can literally be made to say almost anything. The Bible teaches several different plans of salvation, yet Margo has determined her plan of salvation and her interpretation of Scripture is the standard by which ALL believers and unbelievers alike will be judged.
For the record, I don’t “hate” Jesus. Why would I waste my time hating a man who died 2,000 years ago? This would be like me hating Julius Caesar or any other historical figure. I am generally not a hater to start with, and I most certainly have never, ever hated an ancient religious figure who lived and died two millennia ago. If I was truly going to hate someone, I’d focus my hatred on the orange-haired toddler currently sucking the life out of our Republic. There’s a man worth hating. “But, Bruce, you wrote a post titled, Why I Hate Jesus. See, that PROVES you hate the Son of God.” “Did you read the post?” If you did, you know that what I hate is the Evangelical characterization of Jesus, not the actual man. My hatred is focused on the Jesus of Evangelicalism, not the flesh and blood man buried in an unknown grave in the Middle East.
Keep going down this path.. and you WILL end up in Hell. And yes…. Hell does exist. Christ taught on Hell plenty. Satan loves self-pity.. and “victims” of whatever he can use to take you to Hell. Hes not choosy. I hope you swallow your pride… and repent. ……..Sincerely, Margo
Ah yes, there’s nothing like being threatened with an imaginary Hell. I have been threatened with Hell more times than I can count. Margo says Hell exists, yet If I asked her for proof of this claim, all she would say is, THE BIBLE SAYS! Well, let’s stick with the Bible. It says Hell is in the bowels of the earth. Surely, we should be able to scientifically determine the existence of Hell. Yet, there’s no scientific evidence for its existence. None.
The only hell I believe in is the one created by and for humans. We make our own hell on earth, and the same goes for heaven. My goal in life is to minimize hell and maximize heaven for everyone. Well, almost everyone. I do have a short list of people I would love to banish to hell. Oh the delight of seeing them tortured day and night with looping video reruns of Donald Trump’s speeches.
Margo signs off with a sanctimonious “sincerely.” Sincerely? Really? Sincerely, my ass. There’s nothing sincere about Margo’s sermons. Sincerity demands decency and respect, none of which have been displayed by Margo. In her mind, I’m just another atheist she has set straight; another false prophet exposed; another notch on her gospel six-shooter.
I’m so sorry…. did you miss the part about Hell not being a threat but, one of God’s promises?
No, Hell is a threat; an idle threat, but a threat nonetheless. Without the threat of Hell and the promise of Heaven, Evangelical churches would empty out overnight. If there’s nothing to fear and nothing to gain, why bother, right? What else would motivate people such as Margo to seek out complete strangers on the Internet and attempt to deconstruct their lives? What has she gained by contacting me? What has she gained by commenting on my Facebook page? Did Margo really think that she could say anything that would cause me to change my ways? Perhaps, Margo just needs to hear herself talk; that her faith is bolstered by going after unbelievers. If God himself — he knows where I am, 345 E Main St, Ney, Ohio 43549 — can’t affect change in my life, what possibly could Margo do?
You are still an apostate and unrepentant atheist because YOU CHOOSE TO BE. In fact, satan owns your mind. And if you desire to press the matter, God can turn you over to a reprobate mind…. IF thats not already where you are.
Margo steps in it here. If I chose to be an atheist, can’t the same be said for me choosing Jesus/Christianity forty-seven years ago? Can’t the same be said for me voluntarily walking away from Christianity?
Margo, warns me that God could give me a reprobate mind if I keep rebelling against him. Too late. I am already a first-class reprobate. My God, I am a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Is there anything more reprobate than that?
I can fuck off better than the rest. The devil loves a pity-party. Good luck w that… and enjoy Hell. Or repent. Its your own immortal soul that you seem to give a single care about. You will go to Hell because you’ve chosen Hell.
I willingly choose Hell. If that means getting away for eternity from people such as Margo, sign me up, Mr. Devil. let’s party, Mr. Beelzebub. Who in their right mind would want to spend every waking minute genuflecting before Jesus? Not I!
I love good fucking, by the way.
I’M HARDLY A PASSIVE CHRISTIAN. You are not the golden standard by which all things are judged. My “brand” of Christianity is THE BRAND of Christianity. Gods brand. Biblical and sound.
It is refreshing to see a Christian actually admit that their religion is exclusionary; that his or her beliefs are the gold standard; that their life is the standard by which truth faith is measured. Usually Christian zealots try to hide their arrogance, but not Margo. She needs to write a book that details what is exactly required for someone to saved. The Bible is oh-so contradictory, so a concise statement as to the requirements for salvation would be greatly appreciated. Since Margo’s beliefs are TRUTH, no need to write theological books or fund Bible colleges. Just read her book and you will know all you’ll need to know! Think of all the money and time that will be saved. Think of all doctrinal fights that will be avoided. Finally, after 2,000 years of internecine warfare, Margo, the Christian has appeared on the scene to set the record straight.
Maybe as a preacher, you misused scriptures that you’ve taken out of context, yes? Maybe you’ve led many to Hell. I have no clue. Maybe you were a wolf in sheeps clothing. Maybe you “became a Christian” for all the wrong reasons? You’ve listened to demonic sermons about making money by charlatans selling blessings? And it didn’t work for you so, you’re flying the coop?
My theology was Evangelical and orthodox. I suspect Margo would have loved me back in my preaching days. I was a man of THE Book. I preached expositional sermons, making sure that I didn’t stray from the clear meaning of Scripture.
Did I lead many people to Hell? Of course not, since Hell doesn’t exist. And in the temporal realm, the here and now, I did all I could to lessen the hell on earth experienced by believers and unbelievers alike. I deeply cared about the welfare of others. I was not passive in putting my faith into action. My prayers had feet on them, not wings. I believed in putting into practice that which I said I believed. I wasn’t perfect, but I damn sure tried to be.
I became a Christian because preachers told me that I was a wicked, vile sinner in need of salvation. Isn’t that the point every Evangelical comes to? I saw myself as a sinner and Jesus as the solution to my sin problem. There’s nothing in my testimony that suggests I believed a false gospel.
The comment about listening to “demonic sermons about making money by charlatans selling blessings” makes no sense to me. I worked for and lived on poverty wages, yet I did so willingly. Why would anyone live the way I did if I didn’t truly believe?
Was I a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Of course not, but Margo has to believe I was for her delusional narrative of my life to be true. I was a deceiver, a liar, a false prophet deceiving the masses. For Margo, believing this is the only way my story fits in her theological box. Not my problem. Perhaps, she needs to get out more and experience the wonderful diversity life has to offer.
I don’t need to read a bunch of excuses as to why you’ve made such an asinine decision.
Translation: I’m not going to read the suggested posts/books. Yet, Margo wants me to listen to her and give her sermon careful thought. Why should I when she doesn’t respect me as a person and accept at face value my story?
I know the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am very much a human being. Done all my homework.
Margo hasn’t, of course, done ALL her homework. She didn’t read the posts I asked her to read, and in failing to do so, she judged me without sufficient knowledge. She made no attempt to “know” me, yet she rendered judgment anyway. And in doing so, she violated the clear teaching of Scripture: He [or she] that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Proverbs 18:13)
The devil has you by the nose. Hes your master. You were a false-“convert”.. never were a born-again Christian. Just a pawn for satan. Not a damn thing “irrational” about my thinking.
Bam! Bam! Bam! She loves giving it to me, doesn’t she?
There’s nothing irrational about believing virgins have babies and dead people come back to life? Even the Bible admits that the many of the stories of the Bible seem fantastical. That’s why believing them requires suspending rational, skeptical inquiry — also known as faith.
Atheists always want everyone to know how “smart” they are. You’ll not be hearing from me again.
Well, many atheists are quite smart, or at the very least quite educated about religion. In my case, I know what I know. I didn’t magically lose a lifetime of theological knowledge the moment I said I was an atheist. Has Margo not done the same here? “Look at everything I know,” she is saying. She knows who is saved and who isn’t. Margo knows all sorts of things about my life that she can’t possibly know. Why? She doesn’t know me. Margo read a couple of blog posts, and she thinks she now has sufficient evidence to render judgment. Granted, reading the posts on the WHY? page likely wouldn’t have changed Margo’s mind, but at the very least she would have a better, more nuanced understanding of Bruce Gerencser. And that’s all I ask any of my critics to do. Give my writing an honest reading before you pass judgment.
My favorite line in her comment was this: “You’ll not be hearing from me again.” All praise to Loki for such a wonderful blessing.
Saved by Reason,
After publishing this post, I intended to send Margo a link to the post in case she wanted to respond. Unfortunately, she deleted all her Facebook comments and blocked me from contacting her.
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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