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
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,
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