My name is Barry. Not too long ago I was on here after having suffered a crushing blow at an SBC church as a former associate pastor. I actually came across this site looking for people who had been scorned by the church in their past. My scorn was in regards to child safety. There were serious safety issues in the children's program run by a very prominent family in that church and when I went to address them under the direction of the senior pastor, I was quickly threatened and intimidated to keep my mouth shut if I valued my job. They also tried to force me to make my children part of their program even though I was not confident in it at all. This left me with a choice: either tow the church political line and act as if nothing happened, or stand up for children whose safety and well-being was put at risk. The experience left me so emotionally bruised that I wound up resigning in disgust of the church - especially since the senior pastor quickly betrayed me and sold me down the river the moment things got to politically hot for him. His famous last words to me were "Barry, this church is dysfunctional; it's not going to change." This was my cue to exit.
Any way, what I wanted to ask was for a few good atheists to give me their take on the institution we all know as church. If you have roots specifically in the SBC, that is a plus. The reason why I am asking for you to do this is that I intend to start writing about it. There are many problems within the church - starting with the fact that it is an aging, irrelevant, and corrupt institution that is more concerned with power and control than it is with providing freedom, salvation, and enlightenment to humanity.
Oh, and if you are wondering as to whether or not I am a theist? The answer is yes - just not the same one I was several months ago or even years ago, and I am not a pastor anymore. I am not here to debate whether there is a God or not; nor do I wish to convert anyone - the reason why this site exists is because many of you on here have already made up your mind definitively and I would rather respect your position than attack it. You are welcome to ask any question you may have of me if you are skeptical.
Hi Barry and Welcome. I don’t distinguish too many differences between the various Christian denominations when it comes to the indoctrination of children. I have no time for it. However it seems that you are talking about their physical well-being in this case. I admire your courage to stand up against the powers in change. Without knowing the exact problem I would suggest that it might be worth considering involving a children’s welfare officer in this case. At least get their opinion to start with and keep monitoring it yourself before any legal involvement. Most modern churches are political. Promotion is based on ones history of towing the conservative line without rocking the boat. For your Church to change the old guard will need to go and this won’t happen as they have the power.
Don’t leave it too long in case something “bad” happens. I hope things work out ok for you and especially the children.
Here is a link to a site you might like to checkout.
Reg, since I severed my ties with the church back in June, and the fact that this particular church is very abusive in its powers to keep members quiet, it would not be worth pursuing a child welfare officer at this point. Besides, the incident of child safety at the church directly involved the well being of my own children - specifically in regards to bullying and the inaction of the prominent family's unwillingness to stop it - saying it was just kids being kids (though at what point does "just kids being kids" involve one child being terrified of another because of poor behavior?). I have a background in education, and specifically crisis management, so I already knew what signs to look for in case there was anything more serious going on. Luckily, there wasn't, but I still took issue with things. And when dealing by direct means didn't work, the indirect method of changing the child safety policy didn't help either (even though no one knew what the child safety policy was, and the fact that the policy they had on file hadn't been changed in over 30 years).
Long story short, the most effective means I found to deal with the issue was simply pull my children from the program, which already was suffering from a dry spell of absentee kids anyway. This of course didn't go over well with the church, as they were adamant that my children needed to be in Sunday School to be taught the Word, and I was directly interfering with that. Hello? Since when does the church's authority override mine as the parent? But I digress.
The good news is that my children are safe, and are not part of that poor environment anymore.
It doesn't really matter to me what denomination you've had experience with. I was referencing the SBC because of my history with them, and the fact that they appear to one of the most restrictive and prejudiced main protestant denominations when it comes to race, gender, and sexual orientation. I've come here because the criticism of the church as an institution by atheism is far more informed than in most other parts of society.
That is the plan.
Hi Barry, and welcome to TA.
At first, when you mentioned child safety, I was afraid you were talking about pedophilia, because that is so topical with church-related problems. On further reflection it seems you mean bullying. Do I have that correct? I'm certainly not trying to insinuate bullying is not a vile activity, just working out where you are coming from.
What kind of book are you going to work on? I do a lot of internet shuffling, and if I had a better idea of the structure or purpose or intended audience for your book, I might be able to find some relevant material for resource.
Well, I have a few book ideas up my sleeve. One of my first ideas is to take the teachings of Jesus, who I do believe is a historical figure, and then comparing them to how church members and clergy actually behave in following them. For instance, how the church proclaims God's love to be unconditional through Christ, yet, in the same breath places conditions on receiving God's love (i.e the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage). I already have a few resources (friends in the homosexual community) that can help me with that. After all, if the church proclaims freedom through Jesus, then why is the shackling of thought necessary?
I'm a woman married to a woman here in Vermont, although a Brit by nationality and upbringing. I am always open about this, and have never found it necessary to defend my lifestyle. I gather from work colleagues that is is much easier to be accepted as a lesbian than it is as a gay man, which I find fascinating. Homophobia has been discussed on these boards as well as other boards, and the general consensus seems to be that it is a fear-driven issue.
I found a talk given by a Christian gay lad that discusses this, and I'm desperately rummaging to find it because I think that it has absolutely direct bearing on the matter, and that you would be the perfect audience for it.
The link is here. It is a young christian man addressing a Kansas church, and I think you might find it helpful.
Thank you! And my hat is off to you and your wife! I had the pleasure of presiding over my first same-sex marriage a month ago in Maryland. They are dear friends of mine, who won my friendship an loyalty because it was they, and others like them, who helped me and my family pick up the pieces of my broken self. The whole experience had made me become very ill, and they were many among the few that came to my aid. They were my (and my family's) Good Samaritan. They stood by me when not a single, "good church going folk" ever did.
Do you think religious snobbery plays a part in discrimination? Exaggerated example, "I may be poor or uneducated (or not) but I am going to heaven and you will not be allowed in so I have a pass to the First class lounge and you don't, so I am better than you". I have heard the term "holier than thou", maybe that's a shorter way to put it - a 'them and us' situation where 'us' has a special top rank on the social scale.
Without a doubt, yes! Exclusionary is another term that could be used for it - as in "exclusive club." Let's not also forget that even the exclusive churches have "exclusive" cliques. There is also a "hierarchy of sin" that churches seem to often apply and a double standard regarding sin.
Another resource you might find interesting is the Anglican retired Bishop, John Spong. Here is a video of an interview with him that may add some content for your book. I picked one of his interviews, but I'm sure you can watch more if you want to. I think he's also written a book or two.
I like him, I like the way he talks.
A few years ago, I found out that a close friend in both college and HS had died. He had been in a wheel chair for some time due to a birth defect and had been a deeply religious person that I respected. I had a little time and visited my friend's church in my home town, and talked with his father that was a minister there. I mentioned my respect for his son, and also that I was not a believer. The minister told me that he was not concerned about his son, and that they will meet again in heaven, but that I was somehow disabled by not having a similar belief. He could have just shown appreciation for my candor, and sadness over my friend, his son's loss, but he needed a 'dig' also. It seemed like a terrible thing at the time, I wonder if this was the reason that my friend was a literature major?