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Category: Guest Posts

My Life with Bill Gothard Part One

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This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

Awhile back, Bruce requested someone who had been reared in the Bill Gothard movement write a post concerning their experience. I volunteered. After many frustrating nights of re-typing, editing and scrapping most of my rough-drafts, I think I finally hit on a post I hope will work. I thought I had re-hashed, dealt with and de-programmed myself far enough away from that experience…

But here it is again, staring me in the face; reality hits and I find myself crying in the shower. I enjoy a beautiful life-a wonderful husband, three beautiful children and a place I love in the mountains. By the world’s standards, we don’t have much but, in my opinion we have everything. Our home is full of love and good times. I’m a lucky girl! Why is it then that some days I feel so screwed?

As a child, I possessed many interests and dreamed big; there were so many things I wanted for my life. Somewhere along the way, I was presented the lie and accepted the lie that I wasn’t good enough unless I was wearing someone else’s shoes, that I couldn’t just say “yes” to what I wanted because all I heard around me were “no’s.” My world was so small, created by a know it all, religious neurotic (IMO) with alarming stories, defining my childhood with fear, obligation and guilt and given the nod by my parents who lost any sense of judgment they may have possessed and, sadly, began closing themselves off from other persuasions. Confusion and dread permeated my young adult life as I contemplated where to go and what to be, the achievable dreams of a little girl lost in an environment too good for traditional education, occupations, livelihood and culture.

I don’t remember when exactly my parents became involved in Bill Gothard and The Institute in Basic Life Principles Seminar, but if memory serves me correctly, I was probably around five or six when they attended The Basic Seminar for the first time. My parents, both children of alcoholics (COA’s), were seemingly enraptured with Gothard’s teachings from the beginning. I’ll never forget the day my mother told me she and my father did not agree with ‘everything’ Gothard taught. At eighteen, this was debilitating news. I grew up observing my parent’s devotion to the seminar and their dedication to serve in various capacities – utilizing the home education curriculum (Advanced Training Institute International) and investing our precious time, energy and finances into practicing and infiltrating our lives with Gothard’s propaganda. Never once did we sit down and discuss the seminar, nor was I ever left with the impression that my parents questioned his teachings. Why? This question haunts me still. Both of my parents are educated people. In almost every other aspect of their lives they are deliberate. It took me years to realize the smidgen of truth and common sense in Gothard’s teachings hooked them – two harshly abused and rejected adults, now with four little children, looking for answers, just wanting to ‘get it right.’ My father was a meek, kind, passive, quiet man with little to no confidence who, in his desire to feel acceptance, was driven by the approval and acknowledgement of others, simultaneously building walls around himself and our family so that we were pulled into his everlasting eager to please, becoming as a family what he never saw in himself – something to be proud of and displayed. Then, there was my mother – a child inside who was forced by circumstance to be the adult most of her life, caring for her siblings at a young age, feeling overly responsible for everyone and everything and being caught in the middle of a fantastical life that would never be realized and the cold reality of independence. Both of them, so preoccupied with separating themselves from their own dysfunctional familial experiences and the assurance that perfection was attainable, seemingly didn’t stop to consider the cost; to realize the extremism of The Institute and the futility of embracing a life of mindless rules and regulations, walls, narrow-mindedness & pain.

Finished with my cry fest for the evening, here I sit – a computer on my lap and a college catalog lying next to me on the coffee table. Friday, I have an appointment with a career counselor. I’m desperate. I want her to tell me what ‘I want to do when I grow up’. I’m 36. I should have some idea of what makes me happy, what makes me tick, what I can do, where I can go…but I don’t. I thought I knew myself. The first 23-years of my life were spent listening to what I was ‘supposed’ to be, marry & love; what not to wear, to listen to, to dream or imagine and what not to believe or read or think. I lived in a surface level world where looking the part and acting the part was everything and allowing people close enough to see your warts non-acceptable. The false confidence I assumed as a result, not wanting my weaknesses to hang for the world to see, lost its grip on me four years ago when I became a mother – the one task, pleasure, challenge and gift that is unequivocally mine and I’m left wondering if anything else I’ve experienced thus far is completely genuine – some relationships, conversations, ideas & intentions. For 13-years I have been sorting through the good and bad of my childhood; the childhood of my parents and what triggered their seemingly unfeigned attentiveness to Gothard – an articulate, crafty peddler who insulted their intelligence with a product of unrealistic hopes and twisted truths he himself had never even sampled.

I think I’m beginning to understand why I’ve felt so screwed.

Read Part Two

My Son Thinks I’m Going to Hell by August Stine

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Guest post by August Stine

August Stine is the author of the book  The Modern Confessions of Saint August Stine

In spite of the fact I am a former fundamentalist Christian and ex-pastor, my minister son and his family think I am headed for Hell. This is my response to him. I use the pen name of August Stine to protect my son.

Different Family Beliefs

Your faith is important to you.

My beliefs are important to me.

We pray to the same God every day

For me, He is the Caring Creator;

Who cares about my well being

To you, He is the fearful God

Who demands obedience.

I believe Jesus was a spiritual man but not God.

I believe Jesus said some great words of wisdom

And I am sorry he had to die on the cross.

You believe Jesus died for the sins of man

And his salvation is a gift from God.

I do not believe this, but let’s suppose I did.

Didn’t you say salvation was a gift?

If it is a gift, why do I need to do anything?

You say I am going to hell unless . . .

You even give me the words I should say—

“Jesus, forgive my sins.”

Do people go to hell for not saying these words?

What if I wait until just before dying and then ask?

What if I meant to ask Him for years but didn’t?

You say “Too late—you missed your chance!”

This is God we are talking about isn’t it?

Is God limited by time or death?

On the other hand, if salvation is a “gift,”

Do I really need to ask Him for forgiveness?

The Bible says God freely gives this gift.

Where did all these attached strings come from?

Why conditions on God’s unconditional love?

New converts are told their Christian duties.

Tithing is one—not too bad—it is do-able

Unless you are unemployed or on minimum wage.

But the heaviest of all these burdens is . . .

People go to hell unless we show them Jesus.

So their salvation is in our hands . . .

I thought salvation was a gift.

Why is this huge ugly rope attached to this gift?

Am I responsible for my neighbor’s salvation?

Why am I involved with another man’s salvation?

Why does God need Me?

Suppose I want to play golf on a nice day,

But my neighbor dies and goes to hell . . .

And it is my fault . . .

Because I did not tell him about Jesus.

Please don’t tell me

God is so awful and demanding.

Why am I involved in someone’s eternal choice?

I thought God loved me and my neighbor.

Because of His heavy guilt trip,

I can’t even play golf without God on my back

I cannot believe God dearly loves me . . .

But loads me down with guilt trips

About darn near everything I do.

If I truly am a child of God,

Why do I have to be afraid of Him?

Why can’t I enjoy God

And let Him fix the world?

I thought that was His job.

Scripture says God is with us always;

If so, “Come on God, let’s go play some golf.”

Did I Hide the Buddha?

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A guest post by Peter Fischer.  Peter was a Lutheran Minister for over a decade before leaving ministry to become an Employment Counsellor.  He lives in Vancouver, Canada and is the writer/producer.

The Buddha in question is a statue that sits under our living room window.  It was a present from my wife—a welcomed gift.  It’s a symbol of serenity, mindfulness, and non-attachment—meaningful values for us and our boys.  For some in our extended family however, we fear our Buddha may signify a fall from grace with a not-so-soft landing in H. E. Double-Hockey-Stick.  As such, our seated Siddhartha has become a symbol, a test, of our own differentiation vis-à-vis our (mostly) conservative Christian family of origin.  How open and honest will we be about our progressive, inclusive, multi-faith-honouring views when they pay us a visit?

We have fun with this.  Depending on who happens to drop in, the other spouse watches with a keen eye to keep score.  We’re devils alright.  Not too long ago, it was my turn to play judge and jury.  “Should I get the Mr. Potato Head box?” I joked, as we chased dust balls out of corners and Windexed the mirrors before Linda’s sister’s arrival.  “No, I’m good,” she laughed.  “Really?  No hiding?”  “Yup,” she said with such a beatific smile, I’d swear she spent the day under the Bodhi tree.  Sure, we’ll see, I doubted.  I fully expected a last second avoidance of the third kind:

Buddha Differentiation Levels:

  • Level One: Buddha in plain view of visitors.  Full disclosure—“Buddha boom, Buddha bing!”
  • Level Two: Buddha under window but pushed back behind the Christmas cactus.  Moderate disclosure—“Yes we have a Buddha statue, but look at how much bigger our icon of Jesus is!”
  • Level Three: Buddha in Mr. Potato Head box.  Avoidance. No disclosure—“Buddha?  What Buddha?”

To my surprise, and Linda’s credit, the Buddha remained seated by the window.  It wasn’t pushed back at all, though I did note a couple of branches of the Christmas cactus draped over his shoulders.  Not bad.  Incredible actually.  I was jealous.  I recalled my parents visit a few years back when I surreptitiously put the Buddha to sleep in a box of arms, lips, and a naked spud.

I’m writing this because I’m making strides.  Two of my brothers are in town, and while they don’t carry the same psycho-social-religious weight as my parents, the thought “did I hide the Buddha?” hasn’t even cross my mind (until now).  It’s a small, but significant victory for me.  Introverted and reticent about my core beliefs that I am—even as I was paid to preach them for over a decade—it’s good to stretch my self-disclosure muscles; to say “this is the real me!”

Hey, I’ve even turned the spine of my copy of the Qur’an title-side out on our bookshelf.  Can’t say the same for my Dan Brown novels.  Some things, after all, just shouldn’t be revealed. ;)

From Christianity to Atheism by Canadian Atheist

 

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Guest post by Canadian Atheist

Thanks to Bruce for welcoming this guest post on his blog. I always enjoy reading Bruce’s blog, and I hope this guest post will fit. This post is a response to a request by Bruce for posts that address conversion from religion to atheism, in particular from those who may be a few years into the process, and how it feels to live without religion. I have written about my deconversion from Christianity elsewhere on my own blog,  so you can read the details there if you wish. I may repeat myself a bit here just to make this post complete, but the point here is to describe my perspective since becoming an atheist. I hope that this post may help anyone who is going through a similar process or who is questioning their faith but afraid to give up their religion.

I have been an atheist for about eight years now. At least, 2007 is when I technically stopped believing in God, though the process was a gradual one that probably progressed throughout my adult life. The actual time point at which I stopped believing in God was surprisingly sudden and distinct. I would say that in early 2007 (as late as March) I still believed that God existed and that I wanted to relate to him although my view of God had shifted significantly since my coming of age two decades earlier. But, by May of 2007 I no longer believed that God existed. The final step was that sudden for me. In late 2006 and early 2007 I read a few books that looked at the character of God in a new light, including If Grace is True and If God is Love both by Phillip Gulley and James Muholland. More importantly for my conversion process I also read a book called Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. The book basically follows two stories: a general history of Mormonism and a specific case of murder in the 1980s by two Mormons who believed they were instructed by God to perform the murders. I knew virtually nothing of Mormonism prior to reading the book, but it served as a striking example of how religion can cause people to believe the unbelievable. The religion is clearly a fabrication from 19th century America, with roots that are distinctly American in culture. Yet, there are millions of followers around the world, in what I can only understand as blind faith. The book illustrated the strength of religious influence, and how humans clearly yearn for some meaning to their life, which often seems to be filled by instructions and commands by a person in power – or a religion. I had met a few Mormons, and they seemed as convinced that their religion was true as any other religious person, including the Christians I had grown up with. Yet there was no doubt in my mind that the entire religion was a fabrication. If a religion could essentially be constructed by one man in the relatively modern times of the 19th Century to a point that millions of people worldwide were followers, how much more possible was it that a religion could have developed 2,000 years ago in a time when the availability of information was incomparably lower than in the modern era? (Literacy was lower, formal education was rare, books [at least as we know them now] and newspapers were non-existent).

I then came across a number of the so-called “new atheists” including the most famous, Richard Dawkins. I had previously read a few critiques of Dawkins by Christians, but never read any of his own books or articles. In early May 2007 I was watching TV late one evening and saw Dawkins interviewed on the Canadian television show The Hour:

Video Link

Contrary to the way he was viewed by Christian apologetics, he seemed down to earth, very rational and well-spoken, and what he said rang true. He was not the pompous arrogant and bull-headed demon that many Christian writers had made him out to be. I read his famous book The God Delusion. The house of cards came tumbling down.

Now, a few books and a television interview in early 2007 were not, of course, solely responsible for my loss of faith. I had occasionally asked myself the hypothetical question: “What if God doesn’t exist?” I sometimes wondered what kind of person I would be if I didn’t have God looking over my shoulder. But, up until that point it was simply a mental exercise I went through, I never for a moment actually doubted his existence. I had always known that God was there watching me, reading my thoughts. I find it hard to pinpoint why it was at this time that my doubts about God’s existence suddenly became more focused. Suddenly, instead of simply theorizing what it would be like if God didn’t exist, I started to realize that it is very likely that he does not exist. I think that Spring of 2007 was the culmination of a very slow march towards rationalism that had begun two decades earlier when I left home in my late teens. I had studied science extensively, and always accepted the science I learned, but also always somehow fit whatever I learned around the model of God that I had been steeped in while a child. This is an important point because I think it is very, very difficult for people who have been raised in religion to give it up. For me, there was always the nagging fear of my impending death and the threat of eternal punishment in hell if I doubted God’s existence.

In any case, at that time I finally realized that I no longer believed God exists. The final step was not really a conscious decision for me. It was more of a realization that the notion of a god was no longer a reasonable belief. It was as though I looked around and realized I still secretly believed in Santa Claus as an adult while everything I had experienced in the world around me screamed that he could not possibly exist.

So, like a child taking the butterfly wings off for the first time in the deep end of the swimming pool and realizing that it can indeed float without them, I considered that the world might work just fine without a god.Julia Sweeney has described a similar experience in her book Letting Go of God:

…as I was walking from my office in my backyard into my house, I realized there was this little teeny-weenie voice whispering in my head. I’m not sure how long it had been there, but it suddenly got just one decibel louder. It whispered, ‘There is no god.’

And I tried to ignore it. But it got a teeny bit louder. ‘There is no god. There is no god. Oh my god, there is no god.’…

And I shuddered. I felt I was slipping off the raft.

And then I thought, ‘But I can’t. I don’t know if I can not believe in God. I need God. I mean, we have a history’…

‘But I don’t know how to not believe in God. I don’t know how you do it. How do you get up, how do you get through the day?’ I felt unbalanced…

I thought, ‘Okay, calm down. Let’s just try on not-believing-in-God glasses for a moment, just for a second. Just put on the no-God glasses and take a quick look around and then immediately throw them off.’ And I put them on and looked around.
I’m embarrassed to report that I initially felt dizzy. I actually had the thought, ‘Well, how does the Earth stay up in the sky? You mean, we’re just hurtling through space? That’s so vulnerable!’ I wanted to run out and catch the Earth as it fell out of space into my hands.

And then I remembered, ‘Oh yeah, gravity and angular momentum is gonna keep us revolving around the sun for probably a long, long time.’

I can relate to some of this description quite well. In addition to what she describes, my situation was complicated by the fear that I might die while I had the not-believing-in-God glasses on and go to hell for eternity just because I happened to die while I was trying out atheism for 30 minutes. It was a bit like coming up to a train track and thinking, ‘I need to cross the tracks, but what if the train comes along out of nowhere and mows me down just at the moment that I step across?’ When I finally overcame my fear of being annihilated in a moment of fury like an Efrafan rabbit (from Richard Adams wonderful novel Watership Down), and stepped gingerly on the tracks, my whole perspective changed. Instead of looking up the track in fear of an oncoming train, I looked down at the tracks in detail for the first time and realized they were decrepit and could not possibly bear a train. No train would ever be coming along those tracks and I could linger as long as I like quite safely. Once that was established, the opportunity to really open up my mind to some serious questions availed itself and it was not long before the whole house of cards came tumbling down. Indeed, once I had my Julia Sweeney moment, the whole ordeal was over in a matter of minutes. I was through with God instantly as I realized that the whole game was a farce. There was no desire at all to cling to a false god for comfort. I simply set god aside and moved on.

Once I moved into atheism, there were of course many questions to tackle. I wondered about the afterlife. I accepted almost immediately that the whole thing was man-made and that when I die I will simply not exist anymore. For some time after my de-conversion, I felt quite sad that the prospect of an eternal heaven was gone, but my sadness was also tempered by the realization that I no longer had to fear hell. I realized that there was nothing to fear about being dead any more than there was to fear about before I was born. That thought was a reassuring one as I left behind the indoctrination of fear that Christianity brands its followers with, often without them realizing just how much fear is used to maintain the faith. Do I ever still fear death and hell? Yes, occasionally. Those fears instilled in childhood are difficult to overcome. Very occasionally I do have a very brief moment of panic as I ask myself that ridiculous question: “What if I’m wrong?” Then I always recognize that I’m about as likely to be wrong about the god of the Bible as I am likely to be wrong in believing that we are not all living in some computer matrix such as that in the popular Keanu Reeves movies. These days my biggest fears are something along the lines of Rene Descartes’ evil demon – occasionally I worry that there is in fact a deity, but one that is malicious and malevolent, waiting to torment us all for eternity regardless of our choices here on earth. But then I recognize the absurdity of such ideas and the complete lack of evidence to support them, and that such beliefs and fears and bordering on the schizophrenic.

As I recognized that my existence would end with my death (such an obvious concept now), I very quickly started to value my life much, much more deeply than when I had been a Christian. My view when I was a Christian was that this life was just the preamble to something much greater, that I had all eternity to look forward to. All of sudden I realized that was not the case, and I realized that I’d better make the most of every day that I have in this life.

Another issue that is perhaps of interest to those Christians who are doubting their faith, or those who are cynical about people such as me who have de-converted, is the question of morality. Where do your morals come from, if not from God? As a Christian I would have asked this very question myself, but as an atheist it seems patently absurd. I believe that morality is a human construct, and therefore it does not come through revelation with the divine. Humans created morality. Morality comes from human society. Some human behaviours are almost universally considered immoral, such as murder, rape, theft. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand why these things are immoral. Human societies wouldn’t survive if they were all acceptable behaviours. But there are a lot of human behaviours that are only considered immoral from a religious point of view, for example blasphemy and a host of sexually acts such as pre-marital sexual intercourse. But, usually these types of “immoral” behaviours vary depending on the religion. In any case, I have not found that I’ve plunged into any sort of immoral abyss now that I’m an atheist. If anything, I am probably a more moral person now than when I was a Christian. Certainly I am a more responsible person in terms of contributing positively to society because I now realize that human society is not some temporary situation on the way to eternity in heaven. Rather, I now realize that human society is all we’ve got. It is precious. Things like protecting the environment for future generations have become much more important for me now that I realize the earth doesn’t have to end in an apocalyptic disaster as Jesus comes to establish his kingdom.

Another interesting phenomenon that I’ve recognized in my years since becoming an atheist, is a bit of a role reversal in my point of view on the world and society. When I was a Christian, I sort of looked down on non-Christians. I pitied them for not understanding the truth, for not being saved. Now I have to admit that I sort of look down on Christians. I pity them for not understanding the truth, for not living life to its fullest. I’m not proud of feeling this way, and it is probably just a natural pride in my personality that causes it, but I’m also trying to describe that there is an irony in the thought that I still find most Christians look down on me for not having the truth. But now the difference is that I feel sorry for them. It’s sort of like being looked down up on by a child. In fact,

The world seems much more fragile to me now that I am an atheist. When you believe that there is a God watching over the world, and that he has a long-term plan for humanity, you assume that things can’t go dramatically wrong. Sure, bad things like earthquakes and floods do happen, but the ultimate plan must remain intact. God isn’t about to let a large meteor collided with the earth tomorrow and end all human life because it doesn’t fit with his plan. (There is too much other destruction described in the book of Revelation that has to happen first!). But, now that I don’t believe in God, I realize that we are indeed alone on this rock floating through space. We have to be so careful to take care of both ourselves and nature because the whole thing could come crashing down and no God would be there to step in and keep us on course.

So, I had often wondered what kind of person I would be if I were no longer a Christian. I had wondered if I would be more selfish, I would lie more easily. The reality has been the exact opposite. I hope that I am a much more pleasant and selfless person now that I’m an atheist. The world no longer revolves around me. I am but a speck of dust in vast universe. While my life has great significance to those around me while I am alive, I am completely insignificant in terms of nature and the universe. It is not about me. I am just a cog in the great machinery of nature.

One thing that seems pervasive in relating to Christians since my de-conversion is a complete lack of understanding that I don’t actually believe in God anymore. Most Christians seem to think that atheists are rebelling against God, that we hate him for some reason. Perhaps we’ve been so hurt by religion when we were younger that now we feel hate for God and for Christianity and are like a rebellious teenager who goes off on his own in a huff. But I don’t hate God. I just don’t believe he exists. My position is exactly the same as the position a Christian is in when they consider the existence of something they don’t believe in, like unicorns or Santa Claus. I’m not trying to belittle Christians’ beliefs by making that comparison, it really is that way for me. I don’t hate unicorns, I just don’t think they exist.

In a situation I experienced in which a few atheists were discussing religion with a few Christians, a Christian friend of mine summed up the differences like this: “Either you believe in God or you don’t. That’s about all there is to it.” I very much agree with this statement, and I would take it further and say that you can’t really choose whether you believe in God or not. Either you do or you don’t. If you are a Christian who is finding that you doubt God’s existence, then you may already feel that you don’t believe he exists. You might pretend that you still believe he does exist, but deep inside only you know whether you believe it or not. If you don’t believe in God, there isn’t much you can do to choose to believe in him. I could pretend to believe in God, but at the end of the day I just don’t. It would be a dishonest act for me to pretend I believe in God. It’s not a choice I am capable of making any longer. Ultimately, we all owe it to ourselves to ask the really difficult questions about our beliefs and see where the chips fall. Ultimately the only person who suffers if you don’t is yourself.

Oh Jesus Christ…Where Art Thou? (He Wasn’t There…I Know That Now) Part Two

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Read Part One

By AmiMental

Mom and Dad remained Pentecostal for a few years after I left home but Pastor Jesusjumper retired and my parents moved on.

Again.

So I guess the pastor was the point at that particular church.

Eventually my parents ran out of new churches to try.

But the vagaries of small-town godliness causes the leadership of those churches to change and change and change, and my folks finally went back to the church they’d attended when they first moved to their small town, First Christian. There had been at least four different pastors in the interim.

They were fairly happy there, my mom played the piano and organ for their worship services, and my dad helped with keeping books and was on the board.

They’ve always enjoyed being pillars of the church, my parents, and as a result, pastors are more than happy to take advantage of them.

Pastor Manna used to drive a bread delivery truck in our small town.

I guess he thought being paid to deliver the God message would be an easier job than delivering bread.

If you attended his church and they approved of you, you were asked to join the congregation after three  services. If you didn’t want to add your name to the church roster, then it was suggested that you might want to go to church somewhere else, as ‘God requires commitment and we believe it.’

They were pretty selective about their members.

A wealthy guy retired to their small town and had them flummoxed.

He was a very nice man, my mom said, and always put a twenty in the offering plate, but people just weren’t comfortable with the way he dressed for church.

He wore Hawaiian shirts. Board shorts and deck shoes. Had a graying ponytail. Worst of all, he wore a single earring.

Pastor Manna and a couple minions had a conference with him. They explained that he wasn’t showing the proper respect by dressing so casually.

He moved on.

Wouldn’t you?

So once a person decided to join the church, the next requirement was to fill out a “promise card”.

This was a serious contract with God.

The card asked how much money a household earned and gave a helpful little equation to let a person know how much of that he or she was expected to give to God.

It started at giving 10%, but there were some questions on there designed to determine whether a family could afford to give more.

I wish I’d thought to keep the copy I saw on Mom’s kitchen counter.

My parents were quite happy to fill out the card, and it was a point of pride for my dad to give more than the minimum.

And important to him that other people knew it.

Religion is such a spectacle, isn’t it?

Pastor Manna was big on tithing. If you didn’t give what you were supposed to, he called you into his office for a shaming.

Er, conference.

My brother Dick and his wife, Snatchie were having a hard time financially. They were very close to losing their property and their home and appealed to my dad for help.

My dad, who may be a little nutty in some ways, is always willing to help his family.

He maxed out his credit card to get them some cash. He also took the funds that were earmarked for his quarterly promise to Pastor Manna.. oh wait, I mean God.. and added it to the pot.

Dick and Snatchie were bailed out.

Pastor Manna called my parents into his office.

He was not a happy pastor. He told them that they’d made a promise to God and that they had LIED to him instead!!

That God was NOT happy with their disobedience, and he wanted to know how soon to expect the money they’d promised.

My parents didn’t tell him to get stuffed. They didn’t call him any names. They simply got up and walked out.

And after discussing it, they decided not to walk back in.

Of course everyone in town was curious. Mom was kind of excited about the whole thing, telling me on the phone that they were not going to be ‘unchristian’, so they’d merely told everyone that they had a “disagreement in doctrine” with Pastor Manna and had decided that God was going to use them somewhere else.

A few months later, I discussed the incident with Snatchie. I expressed my disgust with the pastor’s money-grubbing attitude and my anger over his treatment of my parents.

She turned to me and snapped, “Well Pastor Manna has been placed in authority over the church. That was BIBLICAL. He did no wrong.”

Considering that the money had been used to help her and my brother, I thought her attitude might have been a little different. Nope. Another demonstration of why Christianity and logic are mutually exclusive.

My dad was ‘called’ to the ministry about 10 years ago and took over (temporarily) for a pastor who needed some medical leave. Dad got some sort of internet certificate and started preaching.

The regular pastor was able to attend occasional services between medical treatments and one Sunday he stood and invited the congregation to rejoice with him because he was ‘completely free from all sin’.

That’s pretty funny coming from a guy who was the world’s second biggest asshole when I went to school with his kids, but hey, I suppose with God, all things are possible?

Pastor Sinfree and my father had a few disagreements, and Dad called it quits.

Dad wasn’t getting a salary or any type of monetary reward for his hard work. Add the distinct lack of appreciation into the equation… that’s probably why he decided that Pastor Sinfree could have his church back.

For awhile after that, my parents did a home church.

They gave that up a little over a year ago due to health reasons, and now attend church sporadically for those same health reasons.

I never have told them that I no longer believe in God.

I can think of no good reason to do so other than keeping it a secret offends my need to be straightforward with people. I don’t like dishonesty in myself or in others.

I have balanced that against what it would do to my mother if she found out.

And it’s not worth the anguish it would cause. It just isn’t. She would live the rest of her life in an utter panic over my immortal soul and it would significantly affect her health, I think. She’s in her late 70s and has lived her entire life as a Christian.

I can’t hurt my mom like that.

I’m out to some people, but I think the majority of people I encounter just assume that everyone is a Christian. Since I don’t have horns or a forked tail, I don’t fry cats or hurt small children and I’m just a regular person they assume I am a Christian.

Mostly, it never comes up as a conversational topic.

When the young people I work with bring up religion and want to know what I believe or have me settle an argument about God, I tell them that they’re called personal beliefs because that’s exactly what they are. Personal. And that each person has their own set, and that religious discussion is something that’s best left up to individual families.

I’ve finally decided after all these years that whatever elusive thing my parents and all their friends were looking for does not exist.
And that’s why they never found it.

Sort of sad when you think about it.

Notes

I didn’t use anyone’s real name.

Butthump, Oregon isn’t a real town, although I’m pretty sure there’s a bit of butthumping going on there.

Bruce Gerencser