“The Day my Father Died I Felt Such a Relief…” (How the ‘Gospel’ Wrecks Lives)

“Dear Frank, There are times when I wish Jesus had never come to earth and Christianity had never been born. I’m not sure exactly what Christ accomplished anyway given the sad state of Christianity! Yes, you can reprint my letter. Just use my name as ‘Ben W. Atlanta, GA.’”

From: Ben
To: Frank  Schaeffer
Sent: Wed, Nov 13, 2013 9:10 pm
Subject: Liberation Day

Hi Frank, I see non-religious families enjoying each other at restaurants – grandfather, father and sons sitting together, laughing and breaking bread at the same table. And I think to myself how religion poisoned my family! What pray tell Jesus have you wrought?

I’ve been reading your articles at Huffington Post this past year. I just read your incredibly powerful new book  And God Said, “Billy!” Like you, I came from an evangelical background. Pardon this email but I needed to unburden myself to someone I felt could understand. My secular friends would think I carried this burden unnecessarily; my Christian friends would either pity or criticize me.

A few weeks ago my father died and today I received a note from a lawyer that my father had disinherited me in his last will and testament. His death and disinheritance is my Liberation Day! I finally feel free of everything this man represented in my life while he was living amongst us: judgmental moralism, hell-fire condemnation, tribal exclusivism and divine wrath.

I grew up in the Baptist church - one which constantly reminded its members how evil the human self was and how righteous God was to condemn it for all eternity. At a certain age I began to have my doubts about hell and broke with the church. As soon as I started questioning the doctrine of hell, like a set of dominoes, all the other traditional concepts such as the Trinity, Jesus’ sacrifice as a penal substitution, Jesus as the sole Son of God, the distinction between the saved and the damned began tumbling down.

As an elder in the church my father could not stomach my exit from the church and thus began a thirty year war between us. All my evangelical friends left me because I could no longer communicate with them in the coded language of fundamentalism. But my father persisted in harassing me and my wife (though he never accepted her as a Christian because being Roman Catholic she was not properly “born again”).

The day my father died (two months ago) I felt such a relief. Then the lawyer’s notice came and I felt thoroughly liberated. All trace of my father’s influence and significance in my life has vanished. His body lies in the grave, his assets and resources dispersed, his memory now being erased from my brain. Liberation…I can now lead my life in peace and freedom.

I needed to record this somehow for this universe to know. Hence this letter to you as an open ear. I respect you because you have NOT done the one thing I thoroughly disrespect – the chain of father and son ministries (Jerry to Jonathan Falwell, Charles to Andy Stanley, Billy to Franklin Graham, John to Joel Osteen, etc). You have set out on your own apart from your father whereas these sons have learned how easy and how profitable the preaching scam is from their fathers.

I wish I could consign my father to hell but I don’t believe in hell. I wish I could consign all those ministers that led him to hell except that I don’t believe in hell. My father was not an educated man; he learned his judgmentalism and condemnation from theologically educated scumbags one of whom , Billy Graham, has his 95th birthday and final salute “graced” by Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Praise God for such an exit orchestrated through FOX News and their owner.

Billy Graham and Rupert Murdoch at the Omni Grove Park Inn, where dinner guests heard speeches from Graham admirers such as Sarah Palin.

BTW in case someone is thinking I’m angry because of the disinheritance, there wasn’t enough money in Dad’s account to last a year. Being a software developer, I out-earned my father 3 to 1. It was the indignity of this little man explicitly doing this that irritated me when all he had top do is pass quietly into the night and let the past die off. His judgementalism trailed him into the grave and I guess this letter was an attempt not to let him have the last word.

In any case, thus endeth my rant but this is a joyous occasion – my liberation. Today I feel as if my life has just begun in this body on this earth.

Ben W.

Atlanta, GA.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Owen Vine

    Ben this is an incredibly powerful and personal letter that you have written. It is tragic that unfortunately your father made the choice to cut you out of his family – way before his death even. Such is the state of the bizarre fundamentalism that Christian allow themselves to be become ensnared by. I’m a father of four, now adult children. I’m 50 something and have been a ‘believer’ for most of my life…. (my peers revered Francis Schaeffer and I call them my Schaefferite mates … they just worship L’Abri and all that they say…. but that’s another story). Now in the last four to five years I’m at a place of great uncertainty. My own journey has taken me to cast off the spurious tales of young earth creationism, I no longer believe in eternal punishment in hell, once a strong Calvinist, but no longer and now more open theist. I’m sympathetic to abortion and euthanasia. Haven’t quite got my head around the gay lesbian story but am less judgemental than I used to be…. BUT – all this I keep in my closet. I truly want to live with grace to my own children. I want to show true love to them… BUT when my son who is in his late teens wanted to date a non Christian my hackles went up…. No explosions or anything like that – just a view that he shouldn’t be dating a non Christian. ……. Oh how fathers can destroy relationships…… I’ve got to let my son make his own decisions in life, love and faith….. ((If I’m true at all to being ‘Reformed’ and thereby to scripture – if he is meant to be one of God’s children – His grace is irresistible……))

    Anyway – what a selfish ramble.

    Not sure what to say Ben – released from the stanglehold that your father had on you must be very liberating. He made his decisions, and lived by them – he lost in the end. Tragic for him…. We who are alive must live with garce and love to others (as much as we can)…

    • Steven Waling

      You know one of the things that pisses me off about fundamentalism is just how much it makes things that ought not to be problems into problems. I’m glad you’re open enough to allow your son his freedom and to at least hang back on the judgementalism re: the lgbtq thing. Even though I was only in a fundamentalist environment for a few years, it still pings back at me at times. Here’s to you and your journey.

    • Tiny Tim

      Why the hell would you be sympathetic to abortion and euthanasia?

      Of course we have to get rid of defectives and useless eaters, but we should be nice about it.
      When the atheists actually get political control, THEN they can start killing Christians…as they have Every DAMN TIME.

      • Oswald Carnes

        I hope you’re first against the wall. You really are disgusting filth.

      • Owen Vine

        Sorry – only caught your post today. Have been out of office so to speak. Re: abortion – when is a foetus human? The life is in the breath… I’m sure if one of my daughters were raped by a serial murderer, that resulted in a pregnancy, that I’d be quite happy for them to abort that foetus. As far as euthanasia – quite happy to allow someone with terminal disease to be give the option for medical intervention which hastens their death.

        I’m not sure where you’re coming from with your last statement about atheists killing Christians…… If they took the life of Jesus – am I greater than my master? (Or if you wear a Calvinistic hat – so it was meant to be in God’s providence and predetermined foreordained will – In today’s language – get over it…)

  • zola98

    It’s sad that these fundamentalists have taken LOVE out of God/Jesus and created their own ideal or ideology from the Bible. I have always thought they succeed because they preach fear, damnation and hell instead of forgivenesss, tolerance and love which I what Jesus Christ was about. I have come to think of these people as false prophets who are in the business of making money, well most of them anyway and it’s much easier to have people feeling guilty and fearful.

    Thankfully I was raised a Catholic and left the Church for over 3 decades and returned 2 years ago and haven’t regretted it. My Priests have accepted me back into the Church and have been helping me along the way to the spiritual path with no condemnation.

    I find reading my Bible and learning about Jesus Christ on my own terms and in my own time is the most rewarding goal. Totally different perspective of what this great and beautiful God/Man was and is about. Good luck to finding you way back to sanity and peace and love.

  • stoneyage

    I am quite convinced that Abraham, the patriarch, was insane. Look at the incredible madness in the religions he spawned and all the crazy people trudging mindlessly in his wake.

    • Tiny Tim

      And those darn Jews wrote the Old Testament….like the New Atheists, you Jew hatred is showing, sport.

      Moderate that, Franky.

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t Danton, Lenin, Sanger, Than Shwe, Stalin, Mengele, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Ceausescu, Honecker, Castro, Pol Pot, Broz Tito, Milosevic, Bonaparte and Mussolini oppressive, sadistic, democidal atheists who, collectively, butchered ***hundreds of millions*** of innocent men, women and children?

      What is your professional diagnoses of these?

  • Tiny Tim

    The fundies are jerks, but Ben is a prick.

  • Raymond Watchman

    Ben, from what you have shared, I can see your father was a victim. Victims are often blind to their own plight and ensnare others in their victimhood, usually those they love and who love them. If you don’t mind my saying, I sense a profound grief underlying your words. Maybe you need to grieve for your father and for the relationship you were unable to have with him; forgive him, bless his memory with compassionate understanding, and continue to move on. In my own experience, I found that liberation was but the beginning of a healing process.