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.
glad to hear y'all are safe!
Allow me to try and steer the conversation along a more particular line. Are any of you familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan? It is found in Luke 10. If you are, I wanted to know if you have had any personal experiences along similar lines. In other words: do you identify with the traveler who was beaten in the ditch? Do have any experiences where a priest or "Levite" (an official of the church like a deacon, parishioner, or senior member) completely left you along side the "road" in life to "die", when compassion and care was the most thing you needed? Do you identify with the Samaritan, and if so, what was your experience and how did you help someone in need? I ask because I identify with the man in the ditch as in regards to my experience. Forget about the theological importance of it, I am focused more on the personal experiences which define your positions, and I am focused on that in particular because I feel that I can identify with it - having gone through what I did.
By the way, I only brought up the scripture reference as means to highlight a very prominent problem occurring in the institutional church at large. They behave more like the priest and Levite in the parable than the Samaritan - who the parable praises.
Are you familar with Mathew Fox, a catholic preist that was defrocted early 80's for promoting the 'creation as original blessing' and appearing with a pagan woman Star Hawk at many presentations?
It might be hard to find, but Fox wrote a paper concerning his assertion that the 'catholic church is a dysfunctional family'. Might be a good read for you. Twenty some years latter, it seems rather sad that he was right, or more right...
no wonder he was defrocked...the whole church of cards collapses without original sin!
Yes! A whole population of people that stop listening to the church. For some a blessing for Satan, the rest, 'damn we can finally get a life'.
Good to hear about your experience, sad that some/many churches 'talk the talk, but don't walk the walk'.
I have had my falling outs with a few fellowships over the years. A UU fellowship I was with mid-80's, I found to be mostly made up of closet theists, that did not like their props blown.
At a meditation fellowship (early 80's), an attempt to build a newage church, I found that there was a core of folks that used the 'fellowship' as a money making operation to sell massage, music therapy, and meditation classes, and not above using emotional manipulation. During one of these weekend classes, I challenged a presentor that was leading a discussion about 'reality creation and responsibility'. My last question, before the shit happened, 'so if we create our own reality, then were the Jews during the Holocaust, responsible for their own deaths?' The presentor said 'Yes'. This unhinged the group of about 100 people, making this poor woman(presentor) look like a wanabe guru in rages. Sadly we never finished that conversation, I expect that a deeper understanding of conscience and virtue could have been had.
Oh, my dear Heather! I am truly heart broken by your experience. My heart falls to the floor for you and the pain you endured from such heartlessness. I can relate to your experience through the pain, the abandonment, and the betrayal you must have felt - not to mention the years you had to endure of wondering if there was something wrong with you. I am truly sorry for what happened to you. It is unjustifiable!
Sh-T, they could have given you atleast another 8 years, to get your legs under you!
I started asking rather embarrassing questions concerning religion at about 13, and never stopped really, but got more concerned about my audience. Being asked to leave from a UU fellowship could be telling...
The term 'chicken sh-t' comes up in reference to what you experienced. The churches being only interested in producing good little 'yes persons', as a horrible indication of the betrayal of they responsibility to help create functional human beings, not just cogs.
Heather - yep, that's frigging dreadful, and sad, and frightening. I hate that judgmental attitude. What happened to "grace"?
Barry, as a theist have you lost your faith in doG?
If Barry, you have faith in doG, why are you asking a bunch of heathens for help?
Barry, aren't all the answers in the biBle? Why not just pray to the doG and allow the doG to guide you?
Barry, asking non-theists for help is showing your disbelief in doG isn't it?
But I digress.
Barry, it sounds to me, like you're all bent out of shape because your kid got picked on and nobody in authority is willing to change the system to accommodate your hurt feelings.
Barry, I think you're confused about how the real world works, if you are going to make your living by being associated with the religious business, you had better learn not to piss off those higher up the 'stairway to heaven' then you.
Barry, your children will have to learn to deal with the real world to make their way in it, a Martial Arts class will be much more beneficial to them then ALL the sunday school meetings they could go to in several lifetimes.
Barry you said:
His famous last words to me were "Barry, this church is dysfunctional; it's not going to change." This was my cue to exit.
You almost got it! Barry, religion is dysfunctional. And not to put too fine a point on it, so are most systems designed and run by humans, welcome to the real world.
Greg, I'll answer:
No I haven't lost my faith in doG, as you have put it.
Why do you define yourself as a heathen? Why do you assume I am a typical theist?
No, not all answers are in the bible, to believe so is foolish. I do pray, I also meditate, and I also find value in diversity of opinion. How can one be free if not allowed to have freedom of thought? I am not defined by a system of rigid beliefs; I define my own system and not the other way around like most people.
No, asking non-theists for help is not showing disbelief in doG. It is having faith in humanity, regardless of their belief or non-belief. As I have said, and have found through conversation with non-theists: you offer some of the healthiest critiques.
As for being bent out of shape, if were that simple, I would not be here nor had the experiences I had following. I spent many a night wondering and worrying if there was something more going on in terms of abuse than I initially uncovered and I feared for the well-being of other children as well. Thankfully, that was not the case. My concern rested squarely on the shoulders of the staff members involved, and whose inaction led to continued bullying. I was not solely focused on just the bully. I set out to make changes for the benefit of all children - not just my own.
Also, by your question, do you justify bullying behavior towards others as just "how the real world works," so just just suck it up and deal with it? Would you like to share that with all those who have been bullied and suffered mental and emotional harm because of it? Justifying poor and unethical behavior as "how the real world works" just doesn't cut it. Apathy is not an admirable human quality. It is inexcusable.
I've seen public school systems and corporations more functional than churches. If a system becomes dysfunctional - change the system. After all, that is what I was asked to do there.