Gerencser – Dear Dax, Words Have Meanings

Gerencser – Dear Dax, Words Have Meanings May 25, 2017

Editor’s Note: Here’s a chance to vicariously enjoy the schooling an evangelical pastor-turned-atheist gives to practicing pastor he has clearly has minimal respect for. This is an excerpt from a lengthy blog post (reposted with permission) in which the pastor is thoroughly chastised for his portrayal of people who have not accepted Christ.

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By Bruce Gerencser

More than few loudmouth Assholes for Jesus® have found out that hate speech can and does have consequences. In your case, Dax, you now have to live with the fact that when someone goes a Google search for Dax Hughes, the fifth search result is my post, According to Evangelical Dax Hughes, Life Without Jesus is Disastrous. And once this post goes live, it will also likely be first page. This is what happens when you back up your Jesus truck on an atheist’s doorstep and dump a load of shit. What do I do? I fire up my D9 bulldozer and easily push your Jesus excrement out of the way. And then I get out my power washer and clean my porch of your ill-advised, careless, offensive words. If you sincerely want to engage the six-and-one-half billion people in the world who are non-Evangelicals and who have different worldviews from your own, critique what they say and write, do not throw up straw men or stereotypes of their viewpoints.

If your goal in writing your blog post was to reach non-Christians, you failed miserably. I suspect, however, that that was not your intent; that your Ten Reasons post was meant for the choir; for those who already embrace your worldview.

Evensong choir

You are used to preaching to groups where ninety-nine percent of people in attendance are already Christians. Whoo Hoo! You tell them, Brother Dax! Way to preach the Word, pastor! Little did you know that there were atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers metaphorically sitting in the audience. And now these unbelievers are holding you accountable for what you said about their lives, and the lives of their spouses, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends. Remember Dax, words have meanings.

On the nineteenth of June, I will turn sixty years old. During my lifetime, I have preached thousands of sermons, taught countless Sunday school lessons, preached revivals, spoke at conferences, preached on street corners, and written thousands of blog posts. I have on more than a few occasions stepped in shit with my words, resulting in misunderstanding and conflict. On more than a few occasions I have had to apologize for things I said or explain what I meant when I said what I did. Ten years ago, I wrote an apology letter to the readers of the Bryan Times, apologizing for the bigoted, Fundamentalist letters to the editor I had written over the past decade. The editor was surprised by my apology, but it was important for me to let local residents know that my past words were ill-advised, and that I now repudiated them.

There have also been times when people objected to something I have said or written, and I have stood my ground — I said what I meant to say. Years ago, when I first embraced Calvinistic soteriology, I preached a sermon on limited atonement. After the service, I had a church member give me a note that said, Did you say what I think you said? This man was not a Calvinist, so he strenuously objected to the narrow scope of my view of the atonement. He had, in fact, heard me correctly. I said exactly what I intended to say.

While the target audience of this blog is former Evangelicals and people who are having doubts about Christianity or are trying to extricate themselves from Evangelicalism, I do have a fair number of Evangelical readers. Many of them are one and done readers. They read one post, object, and move one. Some of these offended Evangelicals object to me characterizing Evangelicalism as a Fundamentalist religious belief. I AM NOT A FUNDAMENTALIST, they say, thinking that their anecdotal example will set me straight. However, I am not moved by such examples. Based on their beliefs and practices, most Evangelical sects, churches, pastors, and congregants are Fundamentalists. They might not like being called Fundamentalists, but if it walks, talks, and acts like a Fundamentalist, it is a Fundamentalist. If Evangelicals don’t want to be labeled Fundamentalists, then it is up to them to change their beliefs and practices. (Please read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) This is another example of me meaning what I say when I write, “Evangelicals are Fundamentalists.” I know that not every Evangelical is a Fundamentalist, but when taken as a whole, Evangelicalism is a Fundamentalist belief system.

Dax, you are a younger man. I hope you will let an old curmudgeon like me give you some advice. First, always remember words have meanings. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Second, when engaging people in the public sphere — any place outside of the safety of the Christian box — keep in mind that people are paying attention to what you write and say. Choose your words carefully. It is okay to be pointed, direct, and passionate, but passion can quickly turn into bigotry and hate. Third, religion and politics are hot button topics, so be aware how easily your words can be misconstrued. If your intent is to write a rant or a polemic or preach to the choir, make that clear so people won’t waste their time on your post. When I responded to your post, I thought I was engaging someone who sincerely believed what he was saying. You made no attempt to respond to my critique of your post, nor did you make any effort to learn anything about my site or me as a person. This told me that you didn’t care how your words were received. Your behavior, by the way, is typical of Evangelical preachers. I can count on one hand the number of Evangelical preachers I have interacted with on my blog who proved to be decent, thoughtful, honest human beings. More often than not, these so-called “men of God,” had ulterior motives and were not the least bit interested in what I had to say. Armed with certainty and an inspired, inerrant, infallible religious text, all that mattered to them is slaying the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist named Bruce Gerencser. By failing to understand that thousands of people are reading their words, these men did incalculable damage to their cause. If your goal as an Evangelical preacher is to proclaim the gospel and share the love of Christ, what you say and how you say it is vitally important. Your Ten Reasons post failed spectacularly in this regard. In the future, when you want to write about the miserable unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, I hope you will pause for a moment and consider how your words will be received by unbelievers. Every blog post you write is a sermon preached by you to the world.

I wish you well, Dax.

Bruce Gerencser, a sinner saved by reason

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bruce gerencser 2015-002Bio: Bruce Gerencser lives in rural NW Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have 6 grown children and 10 grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He left the ministry in 2005 and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. He is also one of the original members of The Clergy Project, which began in 2011. He blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, where the above post originally appears.  It is reposted with permission.

>>>> Photo Credits: By Allan Engelhardt – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2146401

 


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  • Matthew Hullinger

    Bruce, this reminds me of the responses I received, telling me that I am biased against Christianity because I wasn’t raised in a Christian church, but a fundamentalist one. I’m told constantly that fundamentalist churches are bad and that their church isn’t fundamentalist, but when I engage them in conversation about their particular churches beliefs, they generally don’t waver from the ones I was raised with. These folks like to believe they aren’t fundamentalist since they are not one and the same with the Westboro Baptist Church, but that isn’t what I equate to fundamentalism. Sure the WBC is fundamentalist, but they not the church to compare oneself to in order to figure out if you too are fundamentalist.

    I get very tired of those folks that believe I wasn’t actually a christian, or that if I had only switched my doctrine a bit that I would still be a Christian today.

    Thanks for writing this post.

  • Jim Jones

    Oh dear. I thought this Dax guy might have a good argument that needed rebutting, but instead he just presupposes that he can divine the ‘good’ verses from the bible and resorts to those?

    Not even close to interesting.

  • See Noevo

    Bruce,
    Given your hostility against fundamentalists, should I assume you’re equally hostile against just about everyone else, including yourself?
    Because virtually all people – religious or not – are fundamentalists, in the sense that they hold to certain bedrock beliefs. They all hold to fundamentals, they just differ on what their fundamentals are.

  • mason

    See Noevo, How could you actually read the article and conclude Bruce is using the term fundamentalist in the way my basketball coach talked about fundamentals? The primary definition of the word fundamentalist is : 1. noun “a person who believes in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture in a religion, “religious fundamentalists”

    Words not only have meaning, but context: noun …
    the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.
    “word processing is affected by the context in which words appear”

    And while I’m kindly doing wordsmith labor on your behalf I’ll point out you wrote: “Given your hostility against fundamentalists, should I assume you’re equally hostile against just about everyone else, including yourself?” No See Noevo, you should not possibly consider such an assumption as that would be a non sequitur fallacy.

    It appears to be a requirement today for Christian apologists to take advanced training in the use of false equivalency, circle reasoning, confirmation bias, and non sequitur fallacy.

  • mason

    Bruce, thanks for trucking loudmouth Dax’s load of waste back and dumping it on his front porch where it belongs. 🙂 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/48c12542f053d8aec0b47e41784a565130e0bd8e1ccd3448eb7c11e5d6b96050.jpg

  • Otto

    Conflation for the win…

  • Mark in Ohio

    Note to self: Don’t poke the bear with a stick. Even worse, a twig.
    The bear will show you what happens when you do…

  • mason

    yes, … thanks for the reminder Otto

  • mason

    “Sure the WBC is fundamentalist, but they’re not the church to compare oneself to in order to figure out if you too are fundamentalist.” LOL, great line Matt. Kinda like Charlie Manson’s family pleading, “Hey, we’re not like Hitler’s gang.”

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Fundamentalists want to foist their idiocy on the rest of us, the rational people, and are willing to lie, cheat, steal, hurt, harm, and kill to do so, in direct violation of the big 10 stated rules of the religion.

    That makes them eminently hate-able, as they’re reprehensible human beings who barely deserve the title of ‘person’.

    The rules are simple: Don’t try to make me live by your hateful, f**ked up superstitious nonsense, and I’ll let you believe it all you like.

  • Otto

    You reminded me what the issue was…lol

    I am sure you experienced this too on some level. Growing up in the Christian culture we were taught and told all kinds of things, and many did not sit right, I knew something seemed off but I couldn’t really put my finger on it most of the time so I shoved those intuitions away and just tried to accept that I was probably wrong. Only later did I see what the problem was after letting go of it all. Conflation was a big part of that.

  • See Noevo

    I’m sorry to hear the Fundamentalists made you live by their… stuff,
    and that they didn’t let you believe what you like.

    Are you considering suing them?

  • I am a lifelong baseball fan. When it comes to the rules I tend to be a purist. It is for this reason I hate the designated hitter rule. Thus I am a “fundamentalist” when it comes to baseball.

    Does my baseball “fundamentalism” hurt anyone? Of course not. Now consider the great harm done by religious fundamentalism, particularly big F Fundamentalism in the United States. So, yes, when it comes to baseball I am a fundamentalist. My being so affects no one. On the other hand, religious fundamentalism harms countless people, impedes progress, and is decidedly anti-science and anti-human.

    I still watch baseball on TV and go to games even though American League teams use the DH. I don’t lose sleep over it. However, when it comes to American Fundamentalism, not only do I lose sleep, I also want to do everything I can to destroy the influence and control it has over far too many people — including those who are our elected officials.

  • mason

    March on Secular Soldier of Reason!

  • mason

    Poking the Secular Bear IMHO hit critical mass, I think primarily due to the Internet, within the last ten years. The environment with atheists, agnostics, free thinkers, rationalists, materialists, is now like it was with the gays when they finally were able recognize the size and strength of their population, and then begin to network, mobilize, politicize, blog, Facebook, legislate, and be the powerful bear who’s had enough, was mad as hell, and wasn’t going to take it anymore.

  • See Noevo

    “Does my baseball “fundamentalism” hurt anyone? Of course not.”

    Couldn’t it possibly hurt some peoples’ feelings? Namely, American Leaguers?

  • Sure, anything is possible. Is that all ya got?

  • See Noevo

    Do you think saying

    “… religious fundamentalism harms countless people, impedes progress, and is decidedly anti-science and anti-human… I
    also want to do everything I can to destroy the influence and control [of Fundamentalism]”

    could hurt the feelings of Fundamentalists?

    Words matter, you know.

  • guerillasurgeon

    TBH, that’s pretty good for See. Normally it’s pretty much irrelevant. Or trying to be clever but not succeeding. Which I think this might be.

  • It is a statement of fact, unlike the statements I addressed in my post.

    While I am cognizant of the feelings of others, in public discussions about things that affect all of us, facts are what matter.

  • See Noevo

    “It is a statement of fact, unlike the statements I addressed in my post.
    While I am cognizant of the feelings of others, in public discussions about things that affect all of us, facts are what matter.”

    Then, *putting hurt or happy feelings aside*, what would be an example of a fact of Fundamentalists harming people?
    And of impeding progress?

  • guerillasurgeon

    Well, you could consider their ongoing effort to insert their beliefs into the laws of the land, and overturn the Constitution. Would that do?

  • Correct. 82% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Trump has appointed numerous Evangelicals to high level government positions. Their goal is to dismantle the social progress of the past one hundred years and recapture America for God. That some of these zealots are military leaders is even more worrisome, especially when their eschatology drives how they view the actions of God’s chosen people, Israel.

    I would also add that it is Evangelicals, along with Mormons and Conservative Catholics who drive the culture war. Anti-homosexual, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights, anti-, anti-, anti.

    And on the local level, these are the same people who demand prayer and Bible reading in public schools and demand that creationism be taught in science classes. They also demand just-say-no, abstinence only sex education.

    Evangelicals want to return America to the good old days of the 1950s — you know women in the kitchen and pregnant, gays in the closet, Joseph McCarthy hunting Communists, and blacks minding their masters.

    Shall I go on? 🙂

  • Thanks Matthew. I have to constantly remind my critics that, yes I was raised a Fundamentalist, but I did not remain one. I spent a lot of years in the church, and over time my theology and political views drifted leftward.

    I wrote a post several years ago about the fact that Fred Phelps and Al Mohler belief-wise are (were) quite similar. Both are Calvinists, both hold to typical Evangelical/Baptist doctrines. The difference, of course, is how those beliefs are prosecuted in the public sphere. Mohler may be nicer than Phelps, but his theology is every bit as harmful.

  • guerillasurgeon

    Shall I go on?

    Not on my account. 🙂

  • 🙂

  • mason

    1. traumatizing credulous children with threats of hell fire mental abuse (it should be against the law)
    2. stunting children with absurd teaching of bible creating myth as valid science. (there typical practice of false equivalency)
    3. subjugation of women with the teaching of women are to be submissive.
    4. creating hatred of gays with ancient homophobic ignorant belief about why a person is a homosexual
    5. preaching anti-separation of church and state in the US which is a country of completely Secular Law
    6. encouraging blind faith where there’s no evidence, and squelching critical thinking and the scientific method
    7. withholding medical attention from a child while prayers are made to a nonexistent deity, and the child dies (yes this happens)
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/105d80fcaeab6def667a1d671f73143e0ec122b1c09a01a774e7f16bd735d953.jpg
    …. it’s a long list,… if this isn’t enough …oh well

  • Jim Jones

    Nonsense.

    During the “Creation Debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham the Question of the Night was “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?”

    The answers to the question show you exactly who is honestly searching for knowledge and who is blinded by faith.

    In short, Ken Ham’s response was “Nothing” and Bill Nye’s response was “Just one piece of evidence.”

  • Jim Jones

    More like the dirty 30’s – before there was any social safety net and pre-FDR.

  • I hope my Clergy Project friends will read the entire post on my site. Linda used an excerpt here. Some of you might find interesting Dax’s lying about his academic credentials. My original interaction with Dax was a critique of a stupid post he wrote about atheists. Dax definitely got more than he bargained for.

  • Thanks, Mason.

  • Let me add the almost daily news reports of Evangelical pastors molesting children, sleeping with congregants, and using their places of authority to use, manipulate, and control people. I detail these stories on my blog in a series titled Black Collar Crime. Just today, I published three stories. One man set his church on fire, not for God, but for the $1.6 million insurance payout.

  • Keulan

    Look, it’s an example of the equivocation fallacy, where someone uses two different definitions of a word in the same argument.

  • Mark in Ohio

    Don’t take me wrong, I read the above article, as well as all of the linked originals, and was LAUGHING MY @$$ OFF. I’m still chuckling to myself thinking about it this morning. Dax certainly got more than he bargained for. I love a meticulous, accurate dissection of a poor set of arguments.

  • Kevin K

    You rock. Seriously.

  • Kevin K

    Second Child Of Philadelphia Faith-Healing Couple Dies

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/04/23/178593383/religious-parents-lose-second-child-after-refusing-medical-care

    Here you go. Are two dead babies enough for you?

  • Kevin K

    Here’s another one. Hana Williams left her Ethiopian orphanage for a new life in America. In 3 years, she was dead.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/11/hana_williams_the_tragic_death_of_an_ethiopian_adoptee_and_how_it_could.html

  • Kevin K
  • Kevin K

    In fact, a Google search of “child dies fundamentalist family” garnered 780,000 hits in 0.68 seconds. Now, a lot of those are repeats…but do you want to sift through all of those DEAD FUCKING CHILDREN one by one?

  • Thanks, Kevin.

  • I will readily admit that Dax’s original post about the lives of atheists (and all non-Evangelicals) pissed me off. I thought, here’s a guy lives in an insulated world where he is never required to account for his words. Dax wrongly thought that he could write a public blog post and still have his words treated as if he were in the safe confines of the Evangelical bubble. He now knows that is not the case.

  • carolyntclark

    Bruce, It’s a great article. please post it on TCP. We’d love to read it there, and it encourages participation.

  • Aegis

    But, see, you’re disagereing with Dax, and so Dax sees you as wrong and flawed on so deep a level that you might even believe what you’re saying but it can’t be trusted as information goes. Although I feel I’m preaching to the choir on that.

  • ElizabetB.

    Your explanations are so needed! The other day my sister mentioned to a cousin that she guesses she’s an atheist. He is pretty much a freethinker, but he insisted, “O no! I know you’re not an atheist!” — I couldn’t ask him what he meant without sidetracking the conversation with a very ill relative — but as my sister & I talked afterward, we figured that he must think being an atheist means you’re sort of a warped character. Thanks for the detailed responses you give!!!

  • DannyC

    Bruce, you are a treasure to our cause! Of all the atheist blogs out there, few if any are written by someone with your experience base. Keep up the great work!

  • Thanks, Danny.

  • rabbit

    oh, that’s okay–they weren’t fetuses anymore (rolls eyes)