Why Ex-Christians Don’t Trust Evangelical Christians

Why Ex-Christians Don’t Trust Evangelical Christians January 27, 2014

by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Way Forward

Evangelical Christians get upset when ex-Christians like me question, deflect, or reject their “love” and “friendship.” Take for example, a few comments on my recent post, When Evangelical Christians Say God speaks to Them:

 

TW: @John Arthur & Erin, Hi. I also have a Pentecostal background (A/G to be exact), and was a youth pastor & worship pastor (not at the same time, youth for 13 years, worship for 10 years). I would very much love to talk to both of you and share experiences. I left the A/G at the end of 2011 (out 2 years now), and while I am still a believer, I completely denounced all of the BS nonsense that the A/G promotes, like speaking in tongues, faith healing, etc.

If you are both amenable to chatting further, Bruce (if he doesn’t mind doing this), can forward my email address to you both and you can contact me, just let him know. And Erin, I know exactly what you mean when you say you can still “speak in tongues on demand”, haha!

Erin: TW: I appreciate the offer, and respect that you’ve left the AG, but because you are still a believer, I would want to know a little more what you’d like to “chat” about. :) As a former-christian-now-atheist, I’ve run into these “chats” a few times before that really only have one ulterior motive. I’m not assuming this is true of you, but I’d like to know more what you’re thinking first. Thanks!

John Arthur: I am glad that you have managed to escape the Pentecostal movement.

You say that you are still ‘a believer’. Does this mean that you are a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical or have you moved to some form of non-Evangelical Christianity? If the latter, I am open to the idea of chatting with you further about the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements.

I have informed Bruce that he can pass me email address onto you and you can contact me. Even if you are some kind of open evangelical, I am willing to discuss the ‘tongues movement’ with you further.

What I am not open to is any subtle or direct attempt to try and reconvert me to Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism. If you do try to attempt this, I will close off further discussion. I consider both Fundamentalism and most of Evangelicalism to be religions of psychological, emotional and intellectual oppression and don’t wish to be sucked back into those camps, ever again.

So, if you are willing to stick to topics related to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements and their problems, i am open to further discussion with you.

 

Why are Erin and John Arthur so hesitant to correspond with TW? The answer is this; they have had many of these kind of conversations already, and rarely, if ever, do they turn out well.  Now let me explain why they don’t turn out well.

 

Evangelical Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. They believe a person must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to go to heaven when they die. Anyone who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus will go to hell when they die. Evangelicals believe the Bible/God/Jesus has commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature whether they want to hear it or not. They believe all other Gods are false Gods and all other religions are false religions. In their mind, Jesus is THE WAY, not a way, THE TRUTH, not a truth, and THE LIFE, not a life. Simply put, it is Jesus or hell, choose!

 

People like Erin, John Arthur, and myself know that Evangelicals have a pathological need to evangelize. While they may say they just want to be friends or get to know us better, what they really want to do is win the non-Christian, ex-Christian to Jesus. How could it be otherwise? If Evangelicals really believe the Bible is what they say it is, Jesus really is the only way, truth, and life, and hell awaits those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, how can they not attempt to evangelize everyone they come in contact with?  In fact, I would say if they DON’T evangelize they are being disobedient to the clear teachings of the Bible. (as read through the eyes of an Evangelical)

 

When an Evangelical wants to be my friend, get to know me, correspond with me, etc. , I immediately wonder what their motive is. When I ask them about their motive, they almost always assure me that their motives are pure, that they really just want to be my friend. However, after six years of having Evangelicals sincerely  tell me that they just want to be my friend, in EVERY case, over time, their true motives became known.  While I am sure there are Evangelicals who can  be friends with an ex-Christian without trying to evangelize them or win them back to Jesus, I just haven’t met any.

 

One man, a preacher and the brother-in-law of a dear friend of mine, friended me on Facebook a few years ago. While he was quite disturbed by my deconversion, he told me he just wanted to be my friend. When his sister-in-law found out about it, she warned him to NOT try to evangelize me or be preachy.  Our friendship didn’t last two weeks. I wrote something that infuriated him, he double-barrel blasted me, told me I was a bad influence on people, and unfriended me. He later told his sister-in-law and brother-in-law that they should avoid me and not be friends with me because I was a tool of Satan and a bad influence. Fortunately, they ignored his advice and they remain my friends. (They are my only Christian friends)

 

Another man, a local Evangelical preacher, tried a few years ago to befriend me. He and I corresponded a bit and he would comment from time to time on this blog. (in one of its previous iterations) He friended me on Facebook and we began having more serious discussions in private. But, like all such friendships, it quickly came to an end when he began having doubts about his call to the ministry and even his faith. My discussions with him were quite unsettling to him, so instead of honestly dealing with the questions and doubts I raised, he determined I was the problem and unfriended me, stopped answering my emails, and stopped commenting on this blog.

 

Who can forget Evangelical Baptist preacher Marty? Marty was a regular reader of this blog and commented quite frequently. He had me questioning whether I was wrong about Evangelicals being able to be friends with people like me. I thought maybe Marty was “the one!”  Marty’s friendliness went on for several months until I began to notice an increased level of hostility in his comments. And sure enough…one day…the shit hit the fan and Marty went full-bore fundamentalist on me. He told me, well told everyone since it was in a blog comment, that he knew the REAL reason I was not a Christian. When pressed to disclose this reason he refused to do so. The discussions became more shrill, Marty became more defensive and preachy, and eventually I had to ban Marty from commenting. In one of his last comments Marty whined and complained over being persecuted by me and other atheists who responded to his comments.

 

I could share dozens of similar stories that illustrate why many ex-Christians rebuff attempts by Evangelicals to befriend them.  Here are a few things I have learned from all of these failed friendships:

 

  • They  are certain they are right and I am wrong
  • They are certain there is some “secret” reason I am no longer a Christian
  • They are certain I have been hurt or abused and that is why I am no longer a pastor or a Christian
  • They are certain that they are the one that can bring me back into the fold, thus gaining a notch on their gospel gun for doing so
  • They are certain my intellectual reasons for deconverting are a façade for the real reason (s) I am no longer a Christian

 

In other words, they can never be my friend because they are unable to love me and accept me as I am. They love Jesus too much to leave me in the state I am in. I am like a beautiful woman who is constantly chased by suitors. As soon as a potential suitor comes sniffing around I ask them, so do really want to love me and marry me or, pardon the bluntness, do you just want to fuck me?

 

Perhaps today will be the day that an Evangelical will be friends enough with me to let me go to hell. I doubt it, but like my lack of belief in God, it is possible that there really is an Evangelical somewhere that values personal relationships more than right beliefs. I just haven’t met one yet.

 

Notes

 

I am not implying TW is an Evangelical. I don’t know what his beliefs are, and some of the things he says in his comment make me think he is not an Evangelical.  I hope he answers Erin and John’s concerns.

[Editorial Note: This article is written from the premise that the Bible is not the authoritative last word for faith and practice. If you are not one of those readers, please be understanding of the intended audience and refrain from commenting on whether the Bible should be taken as such. Please show some respect for the writer and others of their faith or own belief/nonbelief by discussing the topic, rather than questioning whether the topic is one that even should be discussed or attacking the author. We try to be supportive of everyone coming out of abusive theology and Religious Trauma Syndrome. For more info on the site please visit – Is NLQ an Atheist Website?]

Comments open below

Read everything by Bruce Gerencser!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 


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  • Nightshade

    It almost always comes down to the evangelical trying to win us back. It’s like their identity is so tightly wrapped in their belief that it’s impossible to separate them. They would consider that a compliment for the most part, but it makes friendship tricky at best, if not downright unmanageable.

  • I can understand why you do not want to be friends with evangelicals. But just understand, it is completely ridiculous to say/ think: “I love you, I want to be your friend. And I don’t care a rat’s ass about (what the speaker percieves to be) your biggest problem. I don’t care at all that a horrible fate awaits you (as far as this speaker knows) . I will be superficially nice, but your problem don’t matter.”

    As such: You are speaking the truth about this: An evangelical will get around to that topic. Is (s)he lying when desiring friendship? No, because friendship indeed involves sharing those things you find good.

    As for the list of things you learned from these friendships, yes to the first one: Evangelicals – like everyone else – choose their world view because they believe that is the right one. Evangelicals believe they are right, but that is hardly a rare sentiment. The second, third and fifth seems to be the same reason to me. I don’t know about you, but I know most people who claim to leave the faith for intellectual reasons have, if you really question them, some significant holes in their reasoning. But in many cases, the way of thinking that they mention on their blog is pretty much why they left the faith. However, they can be dishonest too: One of them mentioned to us, on a blog, that contradictions in the Bible is why he cannot believe any more, and mentioned 3 “contradictions”. (Things like Jesus being God’s only begotten son, and God having many children because he adopts us, then the blogger asked if God has one child or many. God has one biological and many adopted children, not a contradiction.) The Christians on the blog explained them, and that same atheist added another explanation for one of the 3 alleged contradictions. In that case, I knew the atheist has ulterior motives: He don’t even believe these verses are contradictions, how could he leave the faith because of them, as he claimed? I don’t know why any evangelical would believe your fourth point.

  • JaneSmith100

    Preachy bs is disgusting. TG I was born Jewish.

  • By all means, question away, but please do it on my blog. I will gladly disabuse you of your ideas about atheists and why they deconverted. I won’t do it here because I don’t have the energy to maintain discussions on several fronts. The fine folks who run this blog have the freedom to use anything I write, knowing that I will not likely respond to comments. (Unless it is something I wrote specifically for No Longer Qivering) I wanted you to know this so you don’t think I am ignoring your objections.

    Bruce

  • I don’t know about you, but I know most people who claim to leave the faith for intellectual reasons have, if you really question them, some significant holes in their reasoning. But in many cases, the way of thinking that they mention on their blog is pretty much why they left the faith. However, they can be dishonest too: One of them mentioned to us, on a blog, that contradictions in the Bible is why he cannot believe any more, and mentioned 3 “contradictions”. (Things like Jesus being God’s only begotten son, and God having many children because he adopts us, then the blogger asked if God has one child or many. God has one biological and many adopted children, not a contradiction.)

    Sometimes people just don’t want to get into the same protracted argument over and over again. Where you see holes in other people’s reasoning, they see reasoning. I wish I could remember who coined the term “Christian midrash” (I think it was David Klinghoffer), but of course the church has come up with ways of harmonizing contradictions, like your begotten/adopted example. The thing is, many of us see that as special pleading. Just because someone doesn’t continue to try to refute your arguments doesn’t mean your arguments are convincing, just that they have no reason to continue to engage with you. So it is entirely possible that the atheist of whom you speak did deconvert for the reasons he gave, and remains deconverted for the reasons he gave, and just doesn’t want to get into a protracted round of is too/is not/is too/is not with you.

    If you are going to question someone’s reasons for believing what they believe, have you ever considered, if only as an intellectual exercise, questioning your own? Because the way people think is the way people think, and it’s unlikely you are the one person in the world who is free of the intellectual traps the rest of us fall into.

  • I’ve been thinking about this lately, and actually, I’m not sure all evangelicals really do believe I’m going to hell. When they tell me I’m going to hell, it seems more like they are points scoring, trying to put me down, than actually worried about the fate of my eternal soul.

    I’m like, “Look, you just told me I am going to hell. You should be doing everything in your power to save me and people like me. Literally nothing else should matter. You should be constantly engaged in trying to rescue me from hell, doing everything you can about it, pleading with me to reconsider for my own good.

    You’re not doing that.

    So either:
    1) You’re not really all that convinced I am going to hell,
    or
    2) You don’t really care that much if I do go to hell.”

  • Trollface McGee

    Whatever faith I had, was destroyed by evangelicals. They would take over one of the squares on the quad of my campus and basically preach hate, misogyny, etc. so I got mad, I yelled back and I started researching the Bible. Also the televangelists and “Christian” politicians who seem to be stuck on three to four topics…
    I know other people who remain Christians having faced the evangelical onslaught and I respect them but I personally, just stopped with the whole faith and spirituality… and nothing bad happened, my life got a bit simpler. All was well.

  • texcee

    A friend doesn’t have an agenda to convert you to their narrow view of religion … and then moves on to their next “conquest”. A friend accepts that you have different beliefs from them, but are still a good person and worthy in your own right. A friend loves you. He/she doesn’t judge you.

  • Nightshade

    Which makes it more like trying to get us back into their way of life than a true attempt to keep us out of hell.

  • “You should be constantly engaged in trying to rescue me from hell, doing everything you can about it, pleading with me to reconsider for my own good.”

    Except what would that do but drive you further away? Hypothetically, of course.

  • mjbrin

    i need to ask this question…. do you find this, for lack of a better word, behavior only with evangelicals? i was raised roman catholic and haven’t found a problem being friends with atheists. in fact two of my sons are atheist.

  • Since I have been blogging, I have had a couple of Catholics and one Muslim try to evangelize me. They were quite belligerent and fundamentalist. Everyone else? Evangelical. I have never had a liberal/progressive Christian try to evangelize me. They accept me as I am and as a result we are able to be friends. They understand that my atheism is a choice I made and they know this choice was an informed one. We mutually respect each other. This does not keep us from writing about atheism or liberal Christianity. We can disagree and then go to the bar and have a beer together. It is too bad most Evangelicals can’t do the same.

  • mjbrin

    i see, i have only experienced evangelicals try to convert me. I was always taken aback that they didn’t think I was a “Christian”. I found that to be the start of my questioning of all religions. But I never knew a fellow RC to try to convert someone or “bring them back” they just worried for them….. but I figured there had to be some. thanks for your answer

  • Heck, I’m a devout Christian and I don’t trust Evangelicals!

  • KarenH

    I’m not Bruce, but I’ve found that Catholics tend to come in two flavors (and this is in no way hard and fast, either, but just a general observation). The Catholics I know who are cradle Catholics (all their lives, and probably for a generation or two back in their families) are much more likely to be a “take you as you come” Catholic.

    I have found–in general–that it is the new converts who tend to be the “shove Catholicism down your throat” Catholics.

    And again, while it’s a general observation of my experiences, it’s not a hard and fast rule, Because, obviously, I have not met every Catholic alive yet 🙂

  • Sure, a lot of evangelisation attempts are unsuccessful, but the evangelicals I know seem to give up easily enough. Why aren’t they constantly developing and trying new strategies?

    There are lots of “Bible Universities” in America. Normal universities are known for producing research as well as teaching. The research departments at these universities ought to be doing nothing but churning out research on how to save the lost. Massive studies of the effectiveness of evangelisation strategies should be undertaken.

    Of course, if they looked too closely at the evidence, they might see some things they don’t like. Looking closely at the evidence is something places like BJU only want to do selectively.

    I think at the very least they’d be forced to conclude that God has created a situation where most people are going to hell no matter what evangelisation efforts the church makes. I don’t think that puts God in a very good light.

  • “Why aren’t they constantly developing and trying new strategies?”

    Well, they are. Strategies that don’t involve verbally assaulting you at every opportunity, because not only does that not work, it’s counterproductive. Strategies such as social media presence of apologists, archbishops, and even the pope, there’s a rather slick catholicscomehome.org website, educating the converted so they become better representatives … in general, just getting it all out there in as many ways as possible so it’s available at your fingertips the moment you (or anyone else) become curious or open to rethinking your belief system.

    The bottom line – regardless of what strategies are employed, it’s all external to a person so there’s a limit to how far it will go anyway. For a conversion to take place, first the individual has to be open to conversion, and no amount of evangelization will flip that switch. Free will and all.

    Note: “They” as a monolith isn’t terribly accurate but it’s more efficient for discussion purposes. I’m thinking more of Catholic evangelization efforts that I’ve seen mainly because that’s what I’m more familiar with.

  • Hannah

    Me either! I’ve got lupus, and they’re the ones who say the most insanely offensive things I’ve ever heard about it when they find out. So many people on my old chronic illness forum left Christianity *because* of them. Conversion attempts just tell them they were right to run.

  • That is terrible. I have 2 friends who have lupus. It isn’t an easy disease to live with. People can be such jerks.

  • Hannah

    I was already on my way out with my fundie beliefs when I was diagnosed, but boy did that EVER cure me of wanting to evangelize anyone! Now I don’t even bring it up, if people ask me I’ll chat with em, but you won’t see me starting the conversation.

  • One of my friends is a member of the same parish I am. Everyone is terribly supportive, very kind. No one gets insanely religious, but we’re Episcopalian.

    I am so sorry how you are treated. People are such jerks.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Hannah, I don’t have lupus but I have an unknown immune disorder where one of the symptoms is asthma and reactions to things that don’t bother others. During my years at my old church I was told to deny the illness, ignore the symptoms and proclaim my healing. Not one person there acted like there was any reason to be compassionate towards me. It was all ‘claim it and proclaim it’ followed by listing all the things I might have done to let the devil bring this upon me.

  • Guest

    I was raised like this, too. The height of concern when I or my siblings felt sick was, ‘Take a poo’.
    And if we were really sick, then the ginger ale might make an appearance.
    Fortunately we weren’t overly prone to illness growing up, as I’m not sure how we would have fared if we’d actually gotten seriously sick.

  • lollardheretic

    I don’t disagree here, but this also keeps me away from evangelical atheists. Their desire to convert me, and to insult me as they convert me, is really problematic. I’ve also found (and this is probably less true with evangelical Christians) that they mellow over time. The older they get, the less likely they are to go after me. Though it might just be experience. I’m not particularly inclined to budge and become an atheist, I don’t fit the mold of easy to bait Christians, and so they eventually don’t bother anymore. Evangelicals of all types can be scary.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I’ve noticed the same thing in online discussion forums: Cradle Catholics can usually discuss even contentious issues with you civilly, even if the two of you disagree. Converts… well, it gets ugly fast.

    In my experience, converts often seem to come from fundgelical backgrounds. I have a sneaking suspicion that they “crossed the Tiber” because they see the Vatican as immovable to the cultural changes that are causing even Evangelical denominations to become increasingly gay-friendly.

    Pope Francis must have been an awful shock to such converts. Not because he’s even suggested changing Church doctrine on sexuality, but because he’s trying to separate the RCC from Pelvic Politics. Not that I’ve gone back to that Thread to find out, because it’s an energy-sucking maw of bad feels that I can’t afford right now.