3/06/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Jedi Master of non-divinity ~
In 2000 I was ordained by the Christian Reformed Church in North America as a Minister of the Word, having endured six years of seminary while working full time to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and complete additional requisites for ordination at Calvin Seminary.
By the time I finished my schooling, internship, and residency I was already burned out and my family was stretched thin. My two children were toddlers when we started the whole process, and I regret that I sacrificed precious time that could have been spent with them to parse biblical Greek and Hebrew - time that we will never get back. Over the course of these trying years my wife and I grew in separate directions; she became extremely fundamentalist whereas I remained evangelical but became much more open-minded.
For several years I served as a Church Planter through the Home Missions Board of my denomination, working with new and developing churches to attract the unchurched. Then came the perfect storm. The parent church that I was attempting to daughter a new church out of went through a nasty church split, ousting the Senior Pastor who had brought me in and leaving me with dwindling support. The traditional camp triumphed in a coo over the contemporary folk, of which I was the worst sort. I found myself opposed by those who were supposed to be my benefactors, and with funding running out was forced to seek secular employment. At the same time all these church politics were coming to a head, my marriage was on the verge of failing. And then came cancer!
The summer of 2003 I underwent surgery and aggressive chemotherapy for an unusual case of testicular cancer. (I was actually a case study where my doctor taught classes.) My prognosis was hopeful yet uncertain. I tried to maintain my faith through the failed ministry, a failing marriage, and ailing health, but eventually I became so disillusioned that I gave up on God. Once I had reached that determinate point I never went back. Come autumn I was cancer free, and I remain so nine years later. I don't give credit to God, because he didn't do anything.
Two years later my wife and I separated, and it took two more years of secular employment just for me to be able to afford a divorce. Presently I work as a machinist in a factory, clocking 55 to 60 hours per week simply to afford a meager lifestyle. Unfortunately, changes at the corporate level are threatening to replace all us skilled laborers with cheap temps, and if that doesn't work, to close our division. As a 50-year-old factory worker with too many career changes on his resume I am having a difficult time finding suitable employment. I still dream of writing along the lines of Dan Barker, John Loftus, and other former evangelicals, but working the hours that I do I can't seem to find the time or the energy. Given the opportunity I would also like to prove my mettle in some local debates. Having been trained in the opposing camp I possess an insider's knowledge that I believe gives me a decided edge. And all the awards I won during my involvement with Toastmasters International testify to my effectiveness as a public speaker. Yet, here I am floundering in a menial factory job that will likely not exist much longer.
In short, the ministry - and Christianity in general - has destroyed my career, my financial stability, and my family. Now my kids are grown, and I am trying to make up for lost time. I do find some measure of satisfaction in the fact that my 21 y.o. daughter is an agnostic free spirit, and my 20 y.o. son who I will soon be sharing an apartment with is a staunch, outspoken atheist! I do believe that good can and will come out of my tragic story, and at this point in my life I am looking hard for that silver lining. I want to draw upon my experience to accomplish something meaningful, and make sense of all I have gone through.
Recently I vowed to get more involved in secular humanist causes, and to help others who are recovering from religion and hurts inflicted by dogmatic churches. Just two days ago I started a group on meetup.com for those who have left or are considering leaving the church and Christianity. Hopefully I can build some face to face relationships that will help people ask the tough questions, explore, and transition into a happier, more fulfilling life without God. Yesterday I created a blog entitled Holes In the Evangelist's Boat at http://sinkingfaith.blogspot.com and posted my first entry concerning the joy of de-conversion. I know that for myself personally, even though I am in such a tough place in terms of my career, I am infinitely more content as an atheist than I ever was as a believer. I can't even begin to count all of the miserable Christians I have encountered over the years. And yet they continue to peddle the notion that the soul without God is always wretched. I have witnessed a lot of evidence to the contrary, and I look forward to advancing THIS truth. There is a better way to live than under the vaunted lordship of Jesus Christ. Go tell it on the mountain!
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