My Evangelical Friend, Why Don’t You Just Be Honest?

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My Evangelical friend.

I’ve been where you are, walked the same journey. I know the Evangelical faith, system, and way of life. Twenty-two years as a pastor within it. Lived it. Breathed it. Gave my life to it.

Until I was honest, about the person I had become. Selfish, judgemental, manipulative, and deceived. Nothing like Jesus. Evangelicalism stole everything holy within me and poured gasoline on my vulnerabilities.

I know deep down inside, you feel it too. But quickly cover it over, lecture yourself with talking points, and frantically summon your heart back to going through the motions. Doing your best to convince yourself and those around you that you’re “sold out” to the “one true faith.”

Can we just be honest?

It’s not working, is it? Any of it. The only thing that gets better is our ability to fake it. Our best efforts at sin management eventually and always break down, sinning more not less. You know it’s true. We play the part and put on the appearances, but deep down we’re living a secret, hollow hell. Running ragged on a religious treadmill that goes nowhere, pretending it’s the best way, the highest truth, and the ultimate life.

Why don’t you just be honest?

It’s ok. Unwrap from the Evangelical burial clothes that mummify your soul. Listen to the cries of your heart to be free. There’s no shame or condemnation.

Deep down you know God is bigger than a Bible, more loving than a hell, and your understanding of truth is just as fallible and limited as the rest of us. You know you’re just as broken and fragile as any other. The Evangelical faith is but sinking sand disguised as a rock solid path. It’s a white-washed tomb that microwaves our lives—appearing done on the outside yet remaining frozen within.

Why don’t you just be honest?

You kinda enjoy the Evangelical feeling that you’re better than others, more favored, and uniquely in step with God. You like the rush of the “us” versus “them” battle. You find security and self-worth in having a spiritual justification to set yourself above and apart from others. It’s all a bit intoxicating, isn’t it? It’s ok to admit it. Been there, done that. It’s hard to resist.

So, why don’t you just be honest?

Deep down, there’s a question mark, a check in your spirit as to why you have to keep pre-qualifying people for love, put limits on compassion, be against so many good things, and do so much to appease and keep the gleam of what is supposed to be an all-loving and gracious God.

You wonder why you have to constantly turn off your brain to make sense of the teachings of your faith. You wonder what could possibly be so dangerous about giving value to science, critical thinking, equality, and education. You wonder how truthful and secure a faith can be if it needs to ban books, gain political power, and condemn those it deems to be the enemy in order to preserve and prosper its beliefs.

Why don’t you just be honest?

You look into the mirror. It’s hard to gaze at your reflection. You know your best efforts never seem to be enough. You do all the steps, prayer formulas, and spiritual disciplines, and it never adds up. You live with one eye open wondering if God sees through to the real you. If you could mess up too far. If your faith is strong enough, if you’re doing enough, if you’re genuine enough, if your good will ever be good enough.

Underneath your religious posturing and appearances of strength, you wonder if God really supports your gatekeeping, people condemning, and power grabbing. You wonder if you and your Christian friends would still be excited about being a Christian if you didn’t have anything to be against, and love was the only thing you were commanded and allowed to pursue. Deep down it’s all unraveling, isn’t it?

Why don’t you just be honest?

Because, if in doing so you fall away, most certainly the Spirit will draw you back and convict you of your waywardness.

But, if in doing so, you find yourself following Jesus out of Evangelicalism into freedom and life, you’ll be truly free and truly living… at last.

Either way, God’s got your back.

So, why don’t you just be honest?

.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

Check out Chris’ latest book, Stupid Shit Heard In Church available on Amazon (link below)…

What people are saying:

“After reading just a few chapters, I had to schedule an appointment with my therapist, it’s that good.”

“This book is changing  the world.”

“Profound, life-changing; that says it all!”

 

 

 

22 Comments

  1. Dan

    Since leaving the Evangelical Church, I have found other survivors who have done the same. In all actuality, we don’t know why God allowed the scales to be removed from our eyes, but we are so thankful for having the truth revealed to us. Chris, you are the first (to my knowledge) to have a national platform speaking to this. If I had read your writings earlier in my life, I probably would not have wasted decades pursuing the impossible. Thank you for your well written, well thought-out posts that reveal and give clarity to the truth.

    • ckratzer

      Dan, thanks so much for your comment and encouragement! So glad to be on this journey with you!

  2. Riley B Case

    Chris,
    I am sorry because you had a bad experience as an evangelical. But I am amazed that you have such little knowledge of the wider evangelical community. Keep in mind that evangelicals represent perhaps as much as 25% of the American population (the world population is an entirely different story). I have been a pastor for ove 50 years. The people of my extended family, of the families I have served and others I have known, are giving, trusting and happy (as least in comparison with others). The divorce rate my own extended family for 100 marriages is 4% compared with whatever the divorce rate is in society in general. The non-profits in my community are dominated by evangelical Christians. Keep in mind that the word “evangelical” includes a lot of mainline denominaion Christians as well as Amish, Pentecostals and lots of different groups. I do not deny there is some judementalism and prejudice and hypocrisy but this is a very small part of the whole. Evangelicals are your neighbors and the people you work with.

    • Steve the Searcher

      Riley, millions of us have had bad experiences as evangelicals, not just Chris. The picture you paint of your congregation sounds wonderful, if it’s true. I’m curious about the judgementalism, prejudice, and hypocrisy you admitted to and how deep that goes.

      • Dan

        Steve, you hit the nail on the head!

      • Riley B Case

        I have lived inside the evangelical subculture for over 80 years. I have served 10 different churches and have been a district superintendent. My extended family is almost all Christian of every conceivable type: Methodist, Mennonite, Anglican, American Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Baptists and lots of independents and in everything from house churches to meg-churches. Among the relatives are dispensationalists, fundamentalists (same as dispensationalists really), charismaics. I have served on a number of para-church ministries including (presently) 26 years with our local Rescue Mission. The ugliness I have seen includes a cousin thrown out of a church because the deacons believed a relationship she had with a friend was inappropriate; a cousin who was asked to stop teaching S.S. because she was a woman and the church did not approve of women teaching adults or even older children. But those persons simply changed churches and did not become angry and hostile. The people I have worked with at the Rescue Mission almost always come from broken homes, have no church background (evangelical or otherwise). Many (obviously not all) have been changed because of a born-again experience. Judgmentalism? Any strong convictions will be seen as some others as judgmental. Any adherence to a moral code will be seen as judgmental. My Mennonite relatives often referred to “Yankies,” which always intrigued me since I didn’t know who they were referring to. Then I realized that meant all non-Mennnonites including Methodists (which I was). I thought it was funny since I was not aware they loved me any less.

        • Lenore Chernenko

          Riley . . . When I see your name, I am interested . . . My brother speaks of you and gave me a story you had written about yourself . . . We recently met your daughter at The Hostess House. . . and . . . We are alumni of the same university. All this to say that we respect you, and I respect the comments that make here. I am now a happy mainliner and I do have one question: Does a homosexual person , in churches you have lately attended, have the same privileges and opportunities as a heterosexual person ?

    • Meliton C. Arriola

      Yet I bet you support a man that has been divorced twice, married 3 times and from time to time frequents porn stars and brags about grabbing women by the pussy, don’t you?

      • Riley B Case

        I have been retired for over 30 years. When I was a pastor I never (or at least very seldom) preached or discussed homosexual practice from the pulpit. I have had some friends who were gay but most of them were celebate or seeking to change. The persons I strongly believed were practicing homosexualsin my churches never made a big thing out of it and got along well. I did have several who left the church when they found out I was associated with the Confessing Movement. I also had a woman leave the church when her daughter, based on some discussions in Sunday School, told her mother that living with her boyfriend without marriage was a sin. I am sure things would be different today if I were actively preaching.

    • LM

      As good as your intentions may be, your words aren’t helpful. You say only a small part of evangelicals are judgmental, but it comes off as superiority to say compared to other people, your congregation is happy! And you have a low divorce rate! And you attribute these things to your faith apparently, which sends the message that to be a Christian is to be happy and satisfied in marriage. So if you aren’t happy your options are to either fake happiness and marital satisfaction or admit to failure as a Christian. And as for trusting, unfortunately there are many instances where evangelicals don’t trust non Christians and fail to use discernment with people who claim to be Christians.

    • Lawrence Kreh

      Chris is right on some of his critique. Yet you are so right. It is easy to rage and mischaracterize much of the evangelical movement as a whole. It is quite diverse. I am neither Republican nor hateful nor afraid or self-righteous . Chris’ criticisms are more characteristic of SOME fundamentalists. But the vitriol arrogance of some from the theological left is just as extreme and hurtful to the millions that do not match the stereotype. I am certainly glad for my Evangelical church that focuses on faith, love, and service, politically divergent. And we are not unique! I am sorry some have been hurt, but mischaracterizations should be avoided.

  3. Dan C

    I am curious how far you are willing to go to call out the judgementalism, prejudice and hypocrisy. How well does it work? Do you correct the misuse of scriptures used to condemn our LGBTQI Brothers and sisters in the faith? Or do you continue to let those false teachings stand… allowing you to minimalize the harm that judgemental aditudes, hypocrisy, and prejudice you speak cause so many directly, and indirectly the witness and testimony of all Christians… ?

    Please remember, that a few bad apples really do spoil the whole bunch… how are you – as a pastor – pruning your orchard?

    • ckratzer

      I think you should read my articles on this site, my books, and posts on social media and find out for yourself.

      • Dan C

        I am sorry Chris, that pondering was actually in response to Riley. Your work is clear, and profound. My ability to get a comment in the correct place on a thread leaves much to be desired.

        Please forgive my error.

    • Tom

      Misuse of scriptures to condemn LGBT people?

  4. LoieJ

    I got a small taste of some of this when I got invited to a dinner by some friends from another church in town. I was in a mixed denomination Bible study and I did really like that, and the church these friends were from had a women’s night in a restaurant. But before the meal began, I just happened to overhear one friend say to another, “I wonder how many we will reach tonight?” That struck me as odd, since I was assuming that nearly everyone there were from that church. But apparently they either thought that I and a couple of other non members hadn’t yet been “reached” or they had a hierarchy within their own group. Our maybe it is just a cultural/language usage thing. I got “caught” by that when I was 12, and in a group, we were asked Who needs Jesus in their life? Well, enthusiastically I raised my hand, because OF COURSE I need Jesus in my life! Why didn’t they all have their hands up? But THEY meant who doesn’t have Jesus in their heart but wants to ask Him in right now? So what can I learn from this? What words and actions do I and my church and denomination use in ways that are off putting to others, to outsiders, to non believers? Since we aren’t Rah Rah Jesus type of worshippers, do we come across as not really committed?

  5. Joyce

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for such a long time, feeling guilt because I left my church to worship God, free to minister without the judgement and gatekeeping. I had been in church ministry for decades and when I was diagnosed with cancer, there was no one who ministered to me. I was no longer of any use to the church. I left several years ago as God showed me the gatekeepers choosing who was worthy to be saved, who was worthy of compassion, and who was condemned. The “if you believe in science, you must not trust God”, the “you just need to trust God” comment when I was going through treatment, the “If you trust God, there is no need to wear a face mask or socially distance or get the vaccine, and if you do, there is something wrong with your faith.” , etc. All this while totally bypassing Scripture which commands us to love one another and not to judge lest we be judged and having to discuss whether or not to allow a gay couple to sit in worship. We are not saved by our membership in a particular church. Since we left, we worship at home as a family and our relationship with God and our love for Christ is more genuine, deeper, and more personal. I am a child of the Loving God, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    • ckratzer

      Well said!

  6. Tom

    “I know the Evangelical faith, system, and way of life. Twenty-two years as a pastor within it. Lived it. Breathed it. Gave my life to it. Until I was honest, about the person I had become. Selfish, judgemental, manipulative, and deceived. Nothing like Jesus.”

    You had become selfish? Why? I haven’t noticed the evangelical faith teaching selfishness? Deceived? How?

    “Deep down you know God is bigger than a Bible”

    Yes. But who is God? What is God? What does God want? The Bible is our only authoritative source for answering those questions.

    “Why don’t you just be honest? You kinda enjoy the Evangelical feeling that you’re better than others, more favored, and uniquely in step with God. You like the rush of the “us” versus “them” battle. You find security and self-worth in having a spiritual justification to set yourself above and apart from others. It’s all a bit intoxicating, isn’t it? It’s ok to admit it. Been there, done that. It’s hard to resist.”

    Well your experience is different from mine. Id there is an “us verses them” it’s mainly the Holy Spirit verses my own flesh. Who is ‘them’? It sounds like your church was more political than most.

    “Deep down, there’s a question mark, a check in your spirit as to why you have to keep pre-qualifying people for love, put limits on compassion”

    No? God taught us to love everyone. What limits on compassion? Your view of this seems quite foreign to me.

    “You wonder why you have to constantly turn off your brain to make sense of the teachings of your faith.”

    No I don’t. Sure there are bits in the Bible that don’t make sense to me yet. But I’m at peace with knowing that increasingly I understand more and more.

    “You wonder what could possibly be so dangerous about giving value to science, critical thinking, equality, and education.”

    No, I don’t. We do give value to those things. Bible verses such as 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Peter 3:15 seem to promote reason and education. Galatians 3:28 seems to promote equality. If your church opposed science and critical thinking, it’s quite a different church to mine.

    “You wonder how truthful and secure a faith can be if it needs to ban books, gain political power, and condemn those it deems to be the enemy in order to preserve and prosper its beliefs.”

    I’m not so sure. That just seems to be how politics works. Biden only recently condemned his enemies.

    “Underneath your religious posturing and appearances of strength, you wonder if God really supports your gatekeeping, people condemning, and power grabbing.”

    No, since I don’t think I am gatekeeping, people condemning of power grabbing.

    “You wonder if you and your Christian friends would still be excited about being a Christian if you didn’t have anything to be against”

    Of course we would. We are excited about various aspects; church growth, Christian music, the Holy Spirit and more. Again, your experience of evangelical faith sounds very political if the focus was what you were against. Maybe your church lost its way in politics rather than focusing on God?

    • LM

      If you can honestly say you don’t know how evangelicalism seems to have limits of compassion and has turned into a political venture then you don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear. I just finished Kristin Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne and I highly recommend it for people who don’t understand the ways evangelicals have been working in political circles for decades. The Family is also a good documentary on the subject. This issue is dear to my heart because I believe forced Christianity is an adulterated form of it and a poor witness.

  7. John

    You make some very good points. Sadly, if I share this with those who most need it, they will very quickly see the title of your new book, and the SH T will be all they need to totally reject everything else that you say.

  8. Kevin Ophoff

    We, too, have experienced the loss of our community being unable to change or correct from the inside. Here’s how we are dealing with the loss of our faith community: https://thechristianresistance.com/

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