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Life After Jesus

life after jesusI pastored my last church in 2003. I left Christianity in November of 2008. This coming September, it will be ten years since I stood before a group of people and preached to them the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

For a time, life after Jesus and the ministry was hard. To this day, I miss being a teacher. I miss being looked up to as an authority. As a pastor, I was given a great deal of respect, far more than I deserved. I miss the elevated place I held in the Christian food chain.

Of course, there are a lot of things I DON’T miss. I don’t miss board meetings, church business meetings, and the constant, behind the scenes bickering and gossiping. I don’t miss having to contend with people who had just enough Bible knowledge to makes them arrogant. (and I feel the same away about atheists who have just enough Bible knowledge to make themselves look ignorant) I don’t miss living in a glass house and being put up on a pedestal.

The first months after deconverting were months of being on the mountaintop and in the valley. I loved the new freedom I had but it scared me. I had thoughts like, what if I am wrong and I had a lingering fear of hell.

Fifty years in the Christian church will do that to a person. I doubt I will ever completely banish Christianity and the Bible from my thoughts. I spent most of my life thinking a certain way about life and the afterlife, so thinking differently takes time. I do know every day farther away from it all is one day closer to a mind free of the dogma of the past.

As time goes on I find myself settling into the “new” me. I no longer fear not going to church on Sunday and I quite enjoy sleeping in on Sunday. No more marathon Sundays filled with classes, sermons, counseling sessions, and the like. Now I can just enjoy the day with Polly and my family. And then there’s Sunday football, basketball, and stock car racing. Jesus can’t compete with t-h-a-t. Smile

Most of us who are refugees from the Evangelical wasteland will testify to having to rethink most everything in our lives. For a time, it was not easy, but now, I find that life is much simpler. Instead of having to parse everything through the God and Bible filter, I am free to use my intellect and common sense. I no longer have to have a worldview where everything “fits.” I am free to be a libertarian, socialist, liberal.

Making friends is a lot easier now. (though it is harder in some respects due to that fact that there are very few atheists where I live) Instead of trying to decipher what brand of Christian a person is, I am free to befriend people because I like them. I don’t have to worry about being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 6:14)

Some days, making moral and ethical decisions is harder than it was as a Christian. As a Christian, all I had to do was consult the divine answer book and that was the end of it. Now I have to think about things. I have to consider the margins of an issue and consider how others look at the matter. I can’t just say, the BIBLE says…

I have two rules I use to judge things by:

* Does an action harm others?

* Does an action lessen liberty and freedom for myself and others?

If the answer is no to both of these questions, then I am most often indifferent to the action. This doesn’t mean I agree with or understand a particular action. I can respect someone who is gay without necessarily understanding same-sex attraction. I understand the biological aspects of it and I certainly understand love, but as a heterosexual man, I have no understanding of same-sex attraction. And I don’t need to. People are free to live their lives sexually as they wish. They don’t need my permission or approval to be who and what they are. (and I expect the same treatment in return)

I use this same approach when to comes to religion. I am quite indifferent to any religion that is pietistic and private. It is when a religion demands power and control in our secular society that I find myself motivated to oppose their beliefs. I know that history tells us that any time there is not a separation of church and state people die and liberty and freedom is diminished.

The only thing that keeps American Evangelicals from being the American Taliban is their lack absolute power and control. They want such power and control, but thanks to secularists and liberal/progressive Christians they are unable to get it. Every time they make a push to return prayer and Bible reading to the public schools or attempt to teach creationism as science, we must forcefully push back. Secularism and a strict separation of church and state is good for everyone, including Evangelicals.

Unless I am writing a blog post or reading a book, God rarely enters my mind. Christians will likely see this as a sign of a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) but I see it as life moving forward.

I don’t care about the things I used to. I am more interested in the journey than I am the destination. I am more interested in helping facilitate open, honest thinking than I am making sure everyone follows the same path. Since I think life ends at death, I have no interest in evangelizing people lest they burn in hell forever.

I no longer pray because there is no longer anyone to pray to. Not that I was a very good pray-er. I always felt guilty about not praying about the right things, not praying enough, or not setting a better praying example for my family. These days, it is much simpler to just thank the person doing good rather than thanking God for something he may or may not have done.

Instead of depreciating the work of others by giving God all the credit, I give credit to whom credit it due. And I give blame to whom blame is due. No longer do I have the schizophrenic thinking…of giving God all the credit when good things happen and giving humans all the credit when bad things happen.

In every way, life is better after Jesus. Every once in a while, I will say to Polly, do you want to go to church? I get the “no sex for you tonight” stare and an abrupt no. Smile Come what may, Jesus, the Bible, the Church, and all the trappings are in the rearview mirror. As the old Gospel song goes, We’ve come too far to turn back now.

- Bruce Gerencser