Dear Christian Friend and Former Parishioner, am I a Good Person?

Dear Christian Friend and Former Parishioner, am I a Good Person? October 31, 2015
Image by Bruce Gerencser
Image by Bruce Gerencser

by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

(Editor’s note: Bruce Gerencser is speaking from the perspective of a former pastor. Please do not attack him for not lining up with your own personal faith beliefs. His writings examine the beliefs and actions of Evangelical Christianity. )

A good friend of mine, and a former parishioner, wrote on Facebook an update that asked: can anyone be good without God? He then answered his own question with a No and quoted some Bible verses.

I replied:

Am I good? I am your friend. Does that make me a good person?

Evidently, my words cut to the heart of the matter because the update and my comment were deleted.

Christians are really good at spouting what they believe, what the Bible says, blah, blah, blah. On Facebook, Twitter, blogs,and in the safety of their houses of worship, the rhetoric and judgment flows, but when confronted with the reality of their words Christians often backtrack, reverse course, apologize, or say they didn’t mean what they said.

Why is this? The short answer is that they realize their words are hateful, bigoted, arrogant, or judgmental, and since they care about what others think of them, Christians are quick to distance themselves from what they previously said. Perhaps they realize that words posted to Twitter, Facebook, on a blog, or in an email are not likely to convert a person to Christianity, especially when the words are  hateful, bigoted, arrogant,  judgmental.

Of course, there are other people who say, I just let the chips fall where they may. It is GOD you have a problem with. I am just speaking God’s words. They are so blind that they don’t see how arrogant and filled with self they have become. My friend knows, despite what his Bible and theology tell him, that I am a good person. He knows how good I was to him when I was his pastor.  And he knows how well I treat him now, even when his theological pronouncements irritate the heaven out of me.

Reality almost always trumps theology, and this why only a rocks-in-their-head Bible thumping, Bible-verse-regurgitating, robot of a Christian will say that someone like me is not a good person. Unable to see beyond their theology, they are forced to judge and condemn good people who haven’t joined their Christian club. In their mind, all the good works in the world can’t erase the stain of sin, and the non-Christians’ unwillingness to confess Jesus as Lord makes them the enemy of God, headed for hell unless they repent of their sin.

Back in the real world, good is defined by what you do. If Christians like my friends would look a little closer at their Bibles they would find that this is how God defines good as well. Salvation by right belief  has turned millions of Christians into hateful, bigoted, arrogant, and judgmental people. There is no hope for them until they come to see that their theology doesn’t match reality.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Don’t quote the Bible to me. Show me what you believe by doing disinterested, no-strings-attached good works. Works like homeschooling, pastoring, teaching Sunday school, inviting people to church, reading the Bible, praying, evangelizing, reading theology books, and tithing don’t count.  These works are the price of admission to your Christian club, feel good stuff that benefits the member and does little or nothing for anyone else. I’m interested in how you treat those the Bible calls, the least of these. I’m interested in how you treat and help your atheist, Muslim, or Buddhist neighbor. I’m interested in how you treat and help those who have a skin color or sexual orientation different from your own,

Evangelicals are so obsessed with right beliefs, building big churches, and laying up treasures in heaven, that they wall themselves off from the rest of the human race.  Evangelicals make periodical forays into the land of the Philistines and Canaanites, hoping to gain members for their club, but then return to the safety of the clubhouse in time to hear the church band riff on the latest praise and worship song. Most of their time is focused on self-improvement and building the most awesome church in town. Lost on them is the fact that most of the new people joining their club are just transfers from other clubs.

If Evangelical Christians truly want to make a mark in this world, then must leave the sage confines of the clubhouse and join hands with those whom their theology says are broken, wicked, vile sinners. Let’s leave matters of salvation and heaven and hell to another day. War, violence, starvation, poverty, and global climate change threaten our collective future. Are not these matters more important than winning the village atheist to Jesus?

When I see Evangelicals knee-deep in the refuse of this world helping others with NO expectation of return, I might, at the very least, believe Christianity has something to offer to the world. While it is unlikely that I would ever return to Christianity, I could be persuaded to admire a religion that values others and invests their believers’ time and money in helping the least of these. (Matthew 25)

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Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser He writes from the unique perspective of having been a pastor for many years and having seen it all in churches. His journey out of being a true believer and pastor has been an interesting and informative one.

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 Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have six children, and ten grandchildren.

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  • Evelyn

    Aaargh! One of my biggest pet peeves and probably the #1 thing that got me moving out of Evangelicalism was the idea that people (including babies) are inherently evil, so nobody can be trusted, even our own inner selves, and the least of these deserve to be where they are. Did God really do that sh*tty a job of creating people *in His own image*?

  • Mel

    Bruce hits the Catch-22 of Evangelicalism on the nose again!

    Prong one: If I go outside of my comfort zone, I will question my beliefs. Since questioning my beliefs leads to sin, I should stay in my comfort zone.

    Prong two: If I stay in my comfort zone, I can’t help the poor, the marginalized, the lost or anyone not exactly like me. To be a Christian, I need to go outside of my comfort zone.

    It’s a never-ending loop unless you decouple “questioning beliefs” with sin.

  • Julia Childress

    I would like to see these words published in evangelical church bulletins this Sunday: “When I see Evangelicals knee-deep in the refuse of this world helping others with NO expectation of return, I might, at the very least, believe Christianity has something to offer to the world. While it is unlikely that I would ever return to Christianity, I could be persuaded to admire a religion that values others and invests their believers’ time and money in helping the least of these.” Instead, we are mostly going to get “Welcome to our private salvation club. Cost of membership: believing what we tell you to believe and following the rules we will set for you.”

  • Bellanova

    It appears that for many Christians, and religious people in general, their faith is just a convenient cover for their fears and prejudices.

  • adams12

    This describes a family member perfectly. She became ‘born again’ about 15 years ago and ever since then the family joke is ” Oh Liz won’t be here to help, but she’ll be praying for us.”

  • Tyrone Jones

    Dannnng, you all grew up in really weird, or, extreme religions. God declared that all humans are not just good but VERY good. As to being inherently evil, not trustworthy, etc., it has nothing to do with that in order to be “saved”. The definition of sin means to miss the mark. The mark was to be IN Christ, not out side of Christ or apart from Christ. Many non Christians are far more beautiful & productive then Christians are. Many people call themselves Christians but delight in being & doing evil; God calls those Christians “white washed” tombs. I’ll bet there are many people who others call pagan or evil or who wouldn’t think of themselves as Christians but whom God considers as real, true children of God. Abraham was neither Jew or Christian. We were genetically made in God’s image but it is His spirit that He gives to anyone who wants it. Look at the dude on the cross or Lazarus the bigger man. God sees them both as His but what dd they do on earth for God? Nothing but accept Him. ALL babies and in fact, every one under the age of accountability go to heaven. But you all here have it right about (too) many Christians being just hateful, bigoted, awful, frighteningly so in their narrow-minded arrogance & hatefulness towards others. It’s not about being moral or right but being IN Christ, and hopefully humble.

  • Friend

    Two problems. Extremist churches often seem fairly normal until whole families are sucked in and unable to leave without being shunned and consigned to hell. And in many healthier churches, extremists are hiding in plain sight.

    Extremism has tainted Christianity. Those who want to remain active in churches should choose their congregation with great care, and vigorously oppose any changes to the rules or beliefs that will lead to oppression. Example: “Oh, we’re only demoting one woman from elder to deacon because Jesus had no female elders–it’s no big deal. But please come to our conference on fatherhood.” Example: “You should sign our new membership covenant.” Example: “We would like to meet with you about your attendance and your tithe.”

  • Tyrone Jones

    I gave up. Have joined the unchurched, or, the post-churched. Will never go back. Hate how they hate on others and insist they are among the “TINY” CHOSEN, ELECT. You are braver then I. We tried that to no luck, saw the things you mentioned. I think they all look normal because this is what we grew up with. We were taught to give over to anyone in “authority” to be shamed publicly or punished if we questioned. To never open up about dirty laundry, to never rock the boat. Don’t appear to be different then those around you. ……I think the focus of churches are all wrong. I think they should help people how to cultivate a private, personal friendship with God, give them “tools” to start to learn to read the bible and how to practice NOT being judgmental of others(except for where sex abuse or other real crimes, like scamming or stealing) and how to be respectful to others.

  • Tyrone Jones

    And worse. It isn’t just for the religious but they sure add a twist to it all. Just self righteous, arrogant, hateful. Smug that others don’t have.

  • Tyrone Jones

    What I hate most, well, on the list anyways, lol is how they insist that Christ died to allow men to take over the role Satan had, along with God to subjugate, degrade, devalue women and be hateful towards everyone else. Women ought to be allowed to preach. They insist women aren’t equal & that help mate means she is to clean up after him. God though called her Adam, never Eve. She was made in Eden and represents all those who are saved in Christ; her husband was not. He sinned knowingly and threw her under the bus. He represents those who are of the earth. He failed her miserably. He ALSO sinned first, Paul was wrong in that; he was to have protected her and commanded the enemy to leave.

  • Bellanova

    Yep. That’s because nothing sanctifies one’s hatreds and prejudices like the word of God — or what small and hateful people imagine it to be.

  • Bellanova

    Tyrone, I believe if people understood that the myth of Adam and Eve is comparable to that of, say, Athena springing forth from Zeus’ head, their thinking would be clearer and their lives possibly easier. Possibly.

  • Bellanova

    Yeah, but there is no money or sense of power and control in that (= can’t have it).

  • Poster Girl

    How old is the age of accountability?

  • Friend

    “Post-churched.” I like it.

  • Tyrone Jones

    You are greatly right. Although I believe God is real I agree with you that they need to clear their thinking to live easier. For some or many, that certainly would mean to get rid of the God they were taught about. I’m NOT saying I’m great. I am not a person to model after. I am not a christian to model after. I have met more people who said they weren’t Christian who put me to shame. –Not that I was so arrogant or judgmental to others, but, believe me I have my own list of faults & sins. I do think most christians are either lousy thinkers or incapable of thinking at all. I think religion screws more then 99% of followers. It screwed me & my life up. I know if I had had kids that I would have screwed them up for life. I chose not to have any because of how religious nutters screwed me up. I refuse to go to churches or associate with most people who say they are christians. The Fundies are the worst. “Street” people & those who were not into religion were far kinder to me then those were were religious. They were more real, more honest, more patient.

  • Tyrone Jones

    Up to the last day of your 20th year. Mind you, God isn’t saying young people don’t do evil or aren’t aware of what they do. They will still be held responsible for what evil they have done, IF any. I’m not talking stealing cookies, but like committing a rape or murdering. But, they will not be held accountable in the sense that they will lose out on Salvation. This is based on the age of those who were allowed to enter the Promised Land in the book of Exodus. Everyone older then 20 -21 & up were not able to enter. God stated those 20 & under would not be held accountable for their sins. The “Promised Land” was symbolic of Salvation.

  • Tyrone Jones

    The non christian author Alice Miller, a therapist or psychologist wrote a series of books on stuff like this. Thou shalt not be aware. Hum, the Subtitle of another was The Hidden Cruelty of Childrearing practices in society, or something like that and you nailed it: People will blame the innocent(the victim) hiding behind God because it allows them free reign to continue to do wicked, evil things to the small & defenseless. A Father beats the wife who beats the children. A Parent or adult who sexually abuses the child then claims the child is lying, manipulating…….as long as person A blames anyone else then they never had to face their own ugliness and change or get help or face the consequences. So they blame God, & the victims……..How convenient. How pathetic. You might enjoy her. I never caught on like you did until almost 50.

  • Tyrone Jones

    I can’t claim credit for making up the term. Will you ever go back? I doubt that I ever will.

  • Tyrone Jones

    Yes, yes, yes. But they don’t see it. Especially anyone with Fundamentalist beliefs. They just make me want to vomit.

  • Bellanova

    I hear you.

    My husband, who was raised atheist, believes that religious indoctrination in childhood is a form of child abuse. I’m somewhat taken aback by this statement, but must agree with its truthfulness.

    If you fill a child’s mind with silly and oppressive myths about reality and our place in it, and reinforce those beliefs through various forms of ongoing cult-like manipulations, it is no wonder that you’ll end up with lousy and / incompetent thinkers.

    I was raised Catholic, but the religious teachings — that whole silly mythology and the bizarre rituals — made no sense to me already when I was little, even though I was a deeply spiritual child who wanted to believe in God. And maybe I would, if it weren’t for religion.

    I too find it impossible to communicate meaningfully with Christians. I think their faith makes it impossible — they are so withdrawn from common reality that they may as well be a different species. And that’s just the Catholics. Fundies are not even from the same planet, I’m afraid.

  • Bellanova

    Me too. And a whole bunch of other good people. We are in good company.

  • Bellanova

    You definitely should read “The Drama.” It may help you deal with your own past abuse, and will certainly enrich your perspective on the abusive parent-child dynamic, and its open acceptance in society, even more.

    Miller was actually a Polish Jew, but yes, she and her family experienced the Nazi persecution, living in the Jewish ghetto for most of the WWII (her dad died there).

    The fact that she couldn’t exorcise her own demons tells us how strong they were, but also that they were likely rooted in her own upbringing, and not just her wartime hardships. She then passed them on to her son (her daughter is developmentally disabled and was institutionalized early, IIRC).

    That’s the tragedy of intergenerational abuse / violence: it is very difficult to heal even when one has the awareness of it and the knowledge of healing ways, as Miller did. But it is impossible without it, and we see this everywhere around us, among the religious folk as well (and oftentimes especially among the religious).

    Ironically, the Bible teaches that “The sins of the fathers will be visited on their children” — a clear warning about dangers of intergenerational abuse — but not many are listening, it seems.

    And so it goes.

    It takes awakened individuals — like you — to break the vicious cycle of abuse and bring some positive change into the world. Little by little, it may spread.

    Have a good week away.

  • Bellanova

    Ha! Alice Miller is one of my most favorite psychologists / authors. I am so happy to come across another of her fans. 🙂 I believe her books should be a required reading in high schools around the world (yeah, I know). Her “Drama of the Gifted Child” had a profound effect on me when I was a young woman (I’m 50 now); and “The Hidden Cruelty” is even more powerful, and important, in its implications for humanity.

    An aside: curiously (or not), Miller was not a good mother. Her son describes her as a cold and punitive narcissist. He’s written a book about her and his childhood — haven’t read it yet. It is an ironic, but not totally unsurprising, tragedy that her keen insights into the pathology of narcissism and relational violence were not enough to heal her own inner damage, if only to spare her children (she also had a daughter).

    Anyway, YES to all you’ve said. And I’m pleased to meet you, Tyrone.

  • Bellanova

    Yes, I can see you rather don’t like the fundies (lol). Neither do I.

    As a Polish Catholic, I believed my version of Christianity was intolerably oppressive. But I didn’t know what oppressive really meant until I came in contact with the American fundies. Now these guys do oppression (and hatred, and hypocrisy, and arrogance) like the pros that they are.

    And they feel holy while at it.

    Amazing, that religion thing.

  • Tyrone Jones

    They, “funds” I think cause more people to hate God, go to hell & more harm to all people then the rest of any religions combined. They are the worst of those who say they are Christians. Small minded, arrogant, spiritually blind, hateful, judgmental, they cause SO much harm with their evilness. Even if God was a myth, they still would be the ones who hurt more people in horrible life long ways then any other christian person. Smh, not liking them at all. They’re the last ppl whose company I’d wish to be in, lol. Much rather here.

  • Tyrone Jones

    Same here in return Bellanova. How sad she either came into these insights too late for her own family or, she just didn’t see it? I hope her son can work through what he went through. Yes, The Hidden cruelty was my fist encounter with her and it was my eye-opener, gave me my life & sanity back. I too think every high-schooler should be required to read them. Haven’t read the Drama of the gifted child. Because of your assessment though, I will seek it out. If she was German that would explain so much. Her parents then might have been Nazis and she goes into depth over THEIR child rearing–quite like the Duggars, almost exactly, if not far, far worse in ways. That blanket training approach where they start beating the child at around 7 or 8 months of age. This is forever until they break the child completely in it’s mind, it’s identity & psyche. It never stops. She would have at least herself been put through that. My family was raised like that in NYC in the 30’s through my generation in the late 60’s. None of us had been to Germany. So, she had to have also gone through that. It can produce what her son says.—I will be away for a week. Just in case you post to me again. I like most everyone here. Seems we’ve all been through hell.

  • guest

    There are church congregations out there who are interested in social matters and want to get knee-deep in the refuse of this world to help people. I’m in Europe. Germany to be precise. There’s not a Sunday where we don’t hear about the refugees and how we can help. I’m hearing about it from local Lutheran churches, and smaller and larger Evangelical churches. Our church offers free German lessons to asylum seekers and they are working with the local organizations. No, the social involvement didn’t begin with the current refugee crisis (as it is referred to), there’s a long-standing soup kitchen and several of those who eat there regularly show up at other church events where food is provided. We know several by name and more than one church member has been involved in their lives, trying to help them get out of whatever is keeping them on the street. Not everyone in a difficult situation wants out of it, by the way, so just accepting them as they come is showing them love, as we love anyone else who walks through the door. We aren’t all that disgustingly self-centered. There is compassion to be found in the church too.

  • guest

    This post is very difficult to answer, Bruce. You raise valid points, but you don’t hold back in your palpable disgust at anyone who wants to believe what the Bible says about Jesus. I feel personally attacked and lumped in with the hypocrites by your blanket statements.

    People claim to leave church because it’s full of hypocrites, but are those people getting out there in the mire of the world and helping people? Are they welcoming the hurting into their home? ALL hurting? Regardless of their beliefs?
    Christians are people, with challenges that are hard to deal with, too. Just this week I had an awful evening wrestling with my beliefs in the context of our current situation when I was asked, at 11:30 pm, if I could take in a homeless woman I can’t recall having met. I have three children under 12, by the way. My Christian belief kept nagging at me that I ought to open my heart and home to a person in need. Our circumstances as a family who can’t offer much help (that I can think of), the time of the night, and the spontaneity of it all, finally gave me peace to say no. Not complete peace, but I finally did go to sleep.

    We’ve had people off the streets in our home. I don’t feel comfortable or safe letting them spend the night. In my opinion, it’s not the right time for us to do that. I grew up finding random people sleeping in our living room, and we offered a place for a battered wife to stay several times. I didn’t like it when I was a kid. I wanted to feel at home, protected, cared for, when I was a child. Is that selfish? Is it wrong of me as a mother to want to keep possible danger outside of our home?

    On the other hand, should the church, the people who are in a position to help, not be more willing to open their doors (of the church building, for example), to people in need? Should more of the money be used to help the needy? Absolutely! And is it that wrong to want to share the hope we strongly believe in with those in need? From my perspective, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, along with showing compassion to people where they are in life, is not indoctrination. It is doing the work of Jesus.

  • Evelyn

    We were taught about 7yo. So it was very weird that kids had to have the discipline of the Lord beat into them and their crying ignored so that they would learn to be servants, and 2yos were such a handful because of their sin nature. . . but at the same time they couldn’t go to hell until they were at least seven.

  • Evelyn

    I used to work in international business, and have met people who were interested in Christianity but would never convert because a fundie had so thoroughly convinced them that to be a Real Christian you had to be a young earth creationist. ::rolls eyes::

  • Julia Childress

    That sounds like a church that follows the words and model of Jesus. One of the reasons that I became a United Methodist is because of the Methodist doctrine of serving the least and the lost. One of the problems of evangelical Christian churches in the US has been the shift in emphasis from serving the way Jesus did, to making one’s personal righteousness the focus of the faith. At the same time, so many churches have moved from seeing all people as worthy of God’s love, to seeing the poor and marginalized as being worthy of scorn and blame for what has gone wrong in their lives. The very fact that they are in need of aid indicates that they are not worthy of aid. I’m lucky to be part of a church that has great compassion.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I’m sorry you feel personally attacked, but I feel Bruce raised some valid enough points that I decided to share this here. Bruce is speaking of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists in his community, not you personally.

  • Mel

    There is a wide amount of options for helping someone who is homeless between having them crash in your living room and trying to convert them while ignoring the actual problems in their lives. It sounds like you grew up with the first bad option and Bruce is talking more about the opposite extreme.

    I’ve never had someone I don’t know spend the night in my house and I don’t plan to do that ever for safety reasons.

    We do have local domestic abuse and homeless shelters that are open 24/7 and professionally staffed and we have those numbers easily accessible. We’ve offered transport to one of those options – but not crashing at someone’s house.

  • Abigail Smith

    Exactly! Describes my parents to a T. But they have their “doctrine” right (or so they think) and that’s all that matters

  • Abigail Smith

    I know, right? I often think if Jesus Himself walked into one of those churches, they’d tell Him what He was wrong about!

  • Abigail Smith

    Amen! I was raised Catholic, and I didn’t know Catholics were “evil” until the fundies told me I was…I went back to the Catholic church because they I don’t ever hear them saying “protestants are evil”

  • Poster Girl

    So in other words, the phrase “age of accountability” isn’t anywhere to be found in scripture, and you’ve come to your own conclusion based on your interpretation of a small passage in Exodus. Okay, at least you’re being honest about that.

  • Abigail Smith

    You raise some excellent points, here. We have to use our common sense too… and I would have done the same thing.
    We had a neighbor who I was extremely kind to, they had so many problems and I tried to help them as I could…I even gave the single mom daughter our old van so she would have a vehicle…the final straw that broke the camel’s back was one day when she came over in the middle of winter high on drugs, standing outside in shorts and no shoes on a cold day. I did let her in and gave her a cup of tea, but called the police. They told me in no uncertain terms to never let her in again because she was on meth.
    My kids were all home and she scared them (and me).
    Thank God they moved shortly after that.

  • Tyrone Jones

    I will be away for a week and not too often near any computer or such device. I will not have need of them this week, so…. I agree with both you & your husband. I’ve never understood why religious people think that things like critical thinking, level headedness or Science are incompatible with a Loving God that can actually exist. I too was raised Catholic. I believe religion totally hurts, harms and screws up people sometimes for life. But, it isn’t like not being a believer guarantees anyone of being all the wonderful things christians aren’t but should be either. Non religious people can be just as twisted, wicked, evil, harmful, hateful as those who are Religious. I’m afraid the Fundie virus, that sick, evilness has infected many more reasonable Protestant denominations. Now, a question for you, or, a few q’s: Are you still searching to see if God could be real? I toss out to you to throw away religion altogether. I can show you where religion started in Scriptures, and that God offered humanity something entirely different. Not to convert you. In fact trying to convert anyone is also unscriptural & unGodly. No, just to show you the place and then it is 100% up to you what you come away with. Remember when Adam & eve covered themselves with a fig leaf? That is considered to be the start of religion. Remember in Genesis in the garden of Eden where it reads that God would come there in the cool of the day to simply walk with them? Pastors don’t point out to you what God did NOT require from us verses what He did. He never required of us any worship of Him or service to Him, no church buildings or programs. No inequality or subservience to Him. Just walking with Him, in intimate, personal, fellowship on which to develop a friendship, companionship with Him. In Luke, look at what that woman had to do in order for God, Christ to make her perfect again. Perfection, by the way is to become whole, fully healed & restored to Completion. It isn’t trying to be God as is taught. This woman, who represents all women had to breakaway from where Religion & society demanded she be. She faced injuring the wrath of those who hate her gender & blamed her gender for sining when it was Adam who sinned first, threw her under the bus instead of protecting her. Woman alone, not Adam was the only creature made in the Garden of Eden. This woman was old, without a man, bent over, no children I think. All things religious people deem as proof of less then of men & judgement by God. This woman had to go past her place, past the mens place, past the Rabbis or Pastors/Priests place and stand in the place where only the Teaching Rabbi or the High Priest was allowed to stand and what did Christ who is God do? Christ, who says He only does what He sees His Father o, raised her up to be equal to Him, healed, whole complete, Perfect. Free. To once again have a Friendship with Him. How easy then would it be for you to do the same. No church needed even though it happened in one, a temple. Probable to show them how wrong they all were. —–Sorry I rant. But Jesus was showing you can have Him & His Father without churches or Religion. If I have angered or offended you I apologize, please let me know as I do not mean to.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    Bruce, you would have gotten along pretty well with the Social Justice Warrior nuns who taught me in first through twelfth grades. They were going to raise us, as best they could, to understand that it’s our job to care for The Least Of These, and that racism and classism were evil — we are all God’s children.

    Most of the adult Catholics I knew well were generous people to those in need, but mostly in informal ways. My mother was not unique or even particularly special in distributing our family’s mountain of garden produce to people she knew were poor and unable to garden themselves. Boxes of food and presents were created at Christmas and distributed to people we didn’t know. The poor neighbor kids who didn’t have a chance to get out much got outings as my companions, even when they weren’t necessarily close friends. My parents owned a rental, and they kept the rent depressed for fixed-income renters. Dad made a deal with a local farmer for seasoned manure, and hauled pickup-truck loads for fixed-income gardeners who didn’t have the resources to get their own. In my parents’ social circle, these were not unusual behaviors, There was no big “we are doing this for THEM”. There was no othering of people in need. There were just needs, and ways of filling them that came to hand; what reasonable person wouldn’t go a bit out of their way to fulfill the need?

    I gave up on religion because I simply don’t see any compelling evidence for the existence of any deity. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on The Least Of These; we may not all be God’s children, but we are all unique humans with unique gifts to give the world; most of us need help of one sort or another, and there’s nobody to provide it but other people. We’re all in this together.

  • Astrin Ymris

    That’s why evangelicals love international adoption. They can tell themselves they’re imitating Christ, while only “helping” malleable children whom they believe they can mold to their liking.* They close their eyes to the reality that they’re actually enabling child traffickers who are creating family dissolution for profit, while traumatizing kids in the process.

    *Many are severely disillusioned to discover that adoptees aren’t as moldable as they’ve been led to believe. This is why Rescue Adoption has such a high disruption rate.

  • guest

    Well, he didn’t clarify then. His sentences begin with “Christians” and “Evangelicals”. They read as blanket statements.
    It’s fine with me if he feels like that, and I still took the time to respond to his post because, as I also stated, I think he makes good points. I was not judging your decision to post his blog.

  • guest

    I agree, Mel. My dh has a soft spot for people in need and he would happily take in all sorts of people, but we can’t help them the way they need it, and our first responsibility is to our children. When I started understanding the difference between creating dependants and actually helping, and the need to establish boundaries around our family life to protect us and our children, I was able to say “no” and not feel like a horribly selfish hypocrite.

  • Friend

    I did go back after a couple of years’ rest. My current church is a fairly good one. Actual events caused my difficulty with church, but the deeper problem was that the events triggered old, old trauma from family, and from an early encounter with fundamentalism. I had to bind up ancient wounds.

    Returning was not a perfect answer, but I felt quite stubbornly that I had a right to participate. To keep my sanity, I limit my activities and give the church constant feedback.

    One group leader recently told me that she depends on me to anticipate problems. I can’t tell you how happy that made me.

  • I specifically write about the Evangelical church. If the shoe doesn’t fit then you shouldn’t be offended. I have no problem with anyone who believes in Jesus.But, I think that such belief lacks compelling evidence, so I’m not going to write favorably about it.

    I make no apology for my educated opinion about American Christianity. While I am sure there are a small number of churches that devote their time and money to ministering to the least of these, the vast majority of churches are social clubs. And since they are social clubs, they should not be tax subsidized, nor should their club presidents be given special tax breaks. Unless a church can show that most of their income goes towards charitable services and programs, they should be treated like any other membership club or business. They should have to pay real estate, sales tax, and business tax like the rest of us.

    I’ve issued a challenge numerous times over the years, and I will issue it again. Show me the church that devotes the majority of their time and money to ministering to the least of these. Make the church’s complete budget available so I can see where the money goes. Not the generic, bullshit budget meant to obfuscate where the money actually goes. Eight years now, and not one church/pastor has met my challenge. I’m sure there ARE churches who take the call of Jesus seriously, I just don’t know of any. And I am quite certain that when such a church is made known it will not be an Evangelical church.

  • Again, my writing is quite specific, as any regular reader of my writing should know.

    As far as Evangelicalism in particular. Any religion that says humans are born in sin, broken, wicked, in need of salvation, and headed for hell or annihilation if they refuse that particular religion’s beliefs, is worthy of ridicule and condemnation. Anyone who thinks atheists like me are sinners that will burn in hell forever or be annihilated after death is no friend of mine.

    By all means, believe what you will, but if you drag those beliefs into the public square you lose the right to feel offended when someone objects to your beliefs.(and blog posts and comments are certainly part of the public square) No belief, once made public, is safe from examination and critique, and if warranted, ridicule. If a Christian doesn’t like this then they are free to retire to the safety of the church or not read the writing of offensive writers like me.

    American Christians, in general, have a sense of entitlement, thinking their beliefs and practices should be given preferential treatment and not be critiqued by non-Christians, secularists, atheists, etal. While this was certainly so years ago, It is no longer case.

  • guest

    Thanks for your reply, Bruce. Surely, you can believe what you want and publish it wherever you want.
    I guess in your eyes, you have more rights than any person who honestly believes the claims Jesus made of himself in the Bible. Your posts are not to be “attacked”, yet you sit behind your screen making blanket statements against a group you hate. Why is this any better than those self-righteous rants against the groups some Evangelicals think are not worthy of their respect?

    SOME leaves the other SOME out of it. Some atheists hate Christians. But not all. Some feminists think they have more rights than people who were born male. Some Christian men think they have more rights than women. Some pastors think they should earn more money than other paid staff in their congregation. But some atheists are respectful of Christians and believers of other religions. Some feminists are only interested in equal rights for both sexes, and so on.

    You don’t have anything against a person who believes in Jesus, but in the next post you say that anyone who believes the claims Jesus made of himself is not a friend of yours and is worthy of critique, even ridicule and condemnation. But your hatred against evangelicals cannot be critiqued.

    But I will remove myself from the group you are writing against as I’m not a member of the American evangelical church. I don’t live in America. You might like to specify “the vast majority of American evangelicals” instead of simply writing “Christians” (many of which are more involved in helping people than anyone else in the countries they live in). The same goes for “evangelicals”.

    The evangelical churches I’ve attended have all been very involved in helping the people in need in their communities. Do we do enough? I don’t think so, but we are humans, like every other human around us, and we face the same challenges everyone else does. I have posted elsewhere on this thread about this already.

  • guest

    I posted a longer reply below, under your other comment.

    I can’t comment on American evangelical churches because I don’t live in the country and know little about how the churches function. My family and I have attended several small evangelical churches of different denominations, and most of them have been very involved in helping the communities around them.
    I don’t think small evangelical churches have any sort of tax exemption. Many don’t even own a building. Our current church rents a hall from the baptist church in town and the pastor rents his own apartment and doesn’t appear to feel entitled to a life of luxury. The churches meeting in the building where we meet are involved in social work with the local needy, especially the homeless, and with the growing population of refugees.

    The pastor of my church back at home regularly challenges the congregation to be more like a family to one-another, and to be involved in their social work in the community outside of their church. A lot of pastors are unpaid, and those that are paid, earn enough to live decently but not better than most of the members of the church.

    If you have the chance, come visit Europe and see for yourself what the churches here are doing to help those in need around them.

  • I have no problem with anyone critiquing my writing. As a public figure, my writing is fair game for anyone who wants to critique it or rant about me as a person, my morals, or anything else they feel inclined to say.

    I don’t hate anyone, and you continuing to assert this is a distortion of what I believe and how I view others. I may despise and ridicule certain beliefs, but I don’t hate the people who hold such beliefs. That said, one of the great things about being an atheist is that I get to choose who my friends are. I am no longer required to love , like, or respect certain people because God, Jesus, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, or the church tells me I must. I am now free to judge each person on their own merits. So, a person who thinks I am broken, wicked, sinful, in need of salvation, and headed for hell if I refuse to repent is no friend of mine. Anyone who thinks torturing people in hell because they are sinners or believed the wrong things is not a good person and I certainly have no interest in being their friend. Life is too short for me to spend time trying to play nice with those who think most of the human race will be tortured by God in the Lake of Fire for all eternity. Such a belief is abhorrent and should be roundly criticized by everyone.

    I’m confident that the overwhelming majority of people who read my writing understand who I am writing about. A large number of Progressive, liberal Christians read my writing and they seem to have no problem with my writing. They know when I use words like Christian, Evangelical, liberal, progressive, fundamentalist, Arminian, Calvinist, Egalitarian, Complementarian, Cessationist, Non-Cessationist, etc that I am not talking about everyone, everywhere. If my words don’t apply to them they don’t take offense if I didn’t modify a particular label to exclude them.

    You might be interested to know that I’ve been publicly criticized by some atheists for my accommodationist views. I’ve even been told I’m a traitor to the atheist cause or that I’m a secret Christian. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. All I can do is write. People are free to read or not read. Thousands of people read my writing and support what I’m trying to accomplish. Other people, like yourself, don’t. my friends at No Longer Quivering are free to use anything I write. I’m sure there are some things they disagree with me about. That’s fine. They choose to dig through the garbage can of my writing and find things they believe might be helpful to their readers. I’ll leave it to them to deal with how their readers respond to my writing. I generally don’t answer comments here. I prefer those who are upset over something I’ve written leave a comment on my blog.

    I don’t think there’s anything more that I can add to this discussion.

    I wish you well.

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  • gimpi1

    “The very fact that they are in need of aid indicates that they are not worthy of aid.”

    This often unspoken idea was made very clear to me by how my family was treated. My father was the survivor of a savage industrial accident that left him with traumatic brain-damage. My mother was a polio survivor. Clearly, neither of their disabilities had anything to do with “sin” yet both were at best treated like second-class people and at worst shunned by people in their church, a non-denominational Christian one in the 1970’s. The feeling seemed to be that, for them to be so handicapped, there must be some deep “unresolved sin,” otherwise things in their lives (and by extension, my sister and my lives) would be better.

  • Julia Childress

    Wow, how sad and shallow.

  • gimpi1

    Yes, it was. I’m sure many churches aren’t like that, but the one I saw as a child was.

  • Bellanova

    Where in Europe are you?

    Evangelical Christianity is not very popular among Europeans.

  • Nightshade

    I have to say my experience has pretty much been the same as yours in that regard. I haven’t seen a lot of selfless love among the Christians I’ve known, what I have seen has been done in an attempt to ‘witness’ and show me just how different they are from me. Several years ago the house I called home burned to the ground, and many people chipped in and helped set up a place for me and my family to live. My husband at the time was a True Christian-actually a decent person whose life would have been better had he never been trapped in that particular variety of Christianity-so much of what they did was for him, and I understand that. I on the other hand was an evil apostate by then, and while no one seemed to object to my benefit from their help I could see the hope in their eyes, ‘hey, maybe this will bring her back to god!’ Well, it didn’t. The most freely given, expecting nothing at all in return, was from the local Mennonites, who I’m sure were fully aware that no conversion would be in the future, and who never even tried to proselytize. The only times they ever spoke of their beliefs was when specifically asked, and never in a ‘you have to believe it too’ way.

    To others posting here, feeling ‘attacked’ by what Bruce has posted…this is the experience of one person, pretty close to mine, may not be yours at all. Frankly I don’t understand how anyone coming out of the QF/P way of life can possibly believe in the god of the bible, at all, but that’s your decision to make for yourself, not mine. Choice-it’s what separates us from the fundies!

  • guest

    I’m in north Germany. The state church is Lutheran, generally referred to as Evangelical-Lutheran. The non-state church evangelicals are known as “free evangelicals”.

  • guest

    Nightshade,
    I’m sorry you felt the help was offered with an agenda. I don’t know your specific church. I’m assuming it was a fundamentalist one.
    For what it’s worth, I spent seven years outside of the church. When I left, I had people call me and tell me how “Jesus is coming soon! You need to prepare!” That felt awful because I just couldn’t deal with that plus all the stupid stuff that was happening in my life. All in the name of God.
    Had these people actually asked why I had left. If they had wanted to help us in our messy situation instead of making it worse, perhaps I would have been open to listen.
    The way I understand it, the church is meant to do what your ex-church did when their own or those who are close to them are in need. First take care of “your brother” or “your neighbor”, and then look beyond.

    What makes a society like Germany or the UK attractive to people who are fleeing their homeland? I’m thinking it’s the way German and Uk society provides for it’s own unemployed, supports families, and sees to it that all children have access to school. However imperfect our system may be, it looks very attractive to people coming from countries where the poor are ignored or oppressed, children may not have access to schooling if their parents can’t afford it, women don’t have equal rights, and the poor have no or very little access to health care.
    I’m thinking that as a country builds its own strength before it can reach out and offer help, so it should be with the church. A church that isn’t strong, united, caring for its own widows, orphans, poor, “least of these”, won’t be very good at serving those outside of it.
    Jesus’s new commandment was to “love one-another as I have loved you”, and that love is what makes us his disciples and tells those around us that we follow Jesus.

  • Bellanova

    Ah. I’m quite certain that German evangelicals have little in common, in practice, with their American counterparts who somehow believe that their religion is a permission to fully and proudly display the worst human traits, leading with ignorance, arrogance, and self-righteous judgmentalness.

  • Bellanova

    I’m thinking it’s the way German and Uk society provides for it’s own unemployed, supports families, and sees to it that all children have access to school.

    Most definitely. This very different socio-political climate may very well be responsible, at least in part, for the differences between German (European) and American evangelicals.

    It is not outlandish to speculate that any religious groups will be directly influenced by the economic and political forces in their respective countries. Perhaps it should not then be a surprise to see American evangelicals exhibit all the nasty characteristics bred by the capitalist cut-throat competition that shapes social mores and interpersonal relationships in this country. And it starts with substandard education, which is something, sadly, very American, particularly for those who are not rich and privileged.

    Christianity is only as good as the people who practice it. And people who practice it in America are subjected to many inhumane pressures not found in other First World countries.

    That’s not an excuse for the fundies’ stupidity and heartlessness, but part of an explanation, of sorts.

  • Bellanova

    Oh no, Tyrone, you have not angered or offended me, not at all. If anything, your comment has moved me. And I can tell you are passionate about the subject.

    There is great richness in religion, expressive of our universal human yearnings and the need to make our existence matter. Even if we don’t necessarily believe in god, religious myths may help us understand our lives and make them meaningful and bearable. This is probably their greatest value. The story of the old woman in your comment is touching — it shows what religion (faith) could be: an expression of our best natures, of love and compassion, and affirmation of our inherent dignity and freedom. But, as you know, in reality it is something else.

    I am agnostic on the matter of god’s existence. I cannot see any proof of it, or reason for it — other than our human need to find such in order to soothe our existential and other fears — but I can appreciate our spiritual longings. Sometimes they are the best part of us.

    If there is a god and it wants to manifest in my life in any way, I’m open to it, as much as that’s possible, I suppose. Till then, I will remain a sympathetic but critical observer.

    You’re a good egg, Tyrone. 🙂 Thank you very much for this conversation.