Oh Lordy, where to begin?
I have to admit I have nothing new under the sun to write about. While my experiences have been quite the roller coaster ride in my own life, in the greater scheme of human experience they're so predictable and common that they're almost boring.
I posted a long time ago on this site a letter I sent to my fundamentalist evangelical father, 'coming out' to him as a non believer. After a period of family peace and mutual respect the dust has been kicked up again.
Here is the background:
There are several preachers and missionaries in my family, but my Uncle has been a fire and brimstone southern baptist preacher for my entire life. It has been at least a decade but I can remember hearing him from time to time, pacing up and down the altar, pounding the bible, hollering about sin and salvation until he was red in the face and his suits would be soaked with sweat. Every Sunday was like a revival, every altar call had folks walking the aisle- the graphic description of hell's eternal torment and god's fury and my sinfulness were enough to make me walk the aisle one more time or pray to be saved again, just in case.
He also performed most of our weddings, and led an annual mission trip to Kenya that my parents participate in, for at least a decade. My family all consider him a spiritual giant, and have listened to his sermons on Cd or online for years. My uncle's family, while the majority have been called to some kind of ministry, suffer very publicly from all kinds of issues ranging from anorexia, mental instability, pornography addiction, abuse issues, and now most recently it has come to light, marital infidelity. They air their struggles to the family in uncomfortable detail, I assume so they can be prayed for, held accountable, and be transparent. It would almost be tempting to feel schadenfreude (see? Christians have no special advantage over non Christians in these areas!) if there weren't real family pain and suffering going on with my loved ones.
This uncle has been a preacher, maybe 30-40 years? He has been married to my sweet aunt for the same amount of time- and recently threw his only career, marriage, respect and admiration of his congregation and family down the toilet this last month for an affair with the church secretary. What is particularly disgusting to me since he has had to step down from his church, and probably will not return to ministry, is the financial burden he has willfully put on his family members. Due to his age and lack of any other skills, he has thrown himself and my aunt on the mercy of family and their children for financial support.
Shocking right? Not really. We've seen many famous and powerful church leaders and other public figures fall from grace in spectacular fashion during our lifetimes. Us non-believers have alternative explanations for this phenomenon, since all of us have or know someone that struggles with marital problems, mental health, bad judgment, etc. but due to an ingredient that is missing in the lives of the fundamentally faithful, humility, the hubris and hypocrisy is magnified exponentially.
Sadly, the realization is lost on Christians. When you think in black and white, when the saved are a privileged brotherhood, and the bible is inerrant, these failures are called spiritual warfare, a successful attack on the righteous by Satan himself. The fact that my uncle was so viciously attacked by the devil himself is evidence of his righteousness. That is why I guess my porn addict preacher cousin (his son) gets sent for romantic vacations with his wife to rekindle their connection when he gets caught indulging himself online. That is why their hapless spouses are obliged to reconcile and forgive.
My family is suffering right now from this deception and disappointment. The offender has been sent to Christian counseling. But rest assured no one has reexamined their faith, or doubted any of the words my uncle shouted from the pulpit all those years. Is it just me, or is it obvious that even the most staunch 'inerrantist' doesn't really believe what the bible says. If my uncle really believed in a real hell, really believed in the wrath of god, would a little sex even be tempting?
The concept of 'grace' is the best thing these people ever thought of. Very convenient little catch all, a get of jail free card. These people are so unaware that the moral relativity that they preach against and are threatened by from us secularists, they freely employ themselves. We see it in politics all the time. Mormonism is a cult, false prophets, evil! But Mitt Romney will lower my taxes, so I don't remember ever saying Mormons weren't 'real' Christians! Abortion is murder! But neither is it right to provide education, health care, food assistance to young single mothers and their babies. Geez, we already saved their souls by making them have the little parasite, for goodness sake!
Now it comes down to my own dilemma. I consider myself a good person. I have strong convictions, and more compassion for others in this world than is sometimes comfortable. I send money to Oxfam, and Red Cross when I can. I work hard and am raising a great daughter. I don't have any enemies that I know of, and great friends. I have no debt and have never been sued. My friends know they can count on me when they're in a jam. Even my ex husband and I are the best of friends, I never cheated on him or betrayed him. But am I a moral person? No, that is not possible. You see, I'm lost. Unregenerate. Unapologetic. The flames of gods wrath are licking at my heels. What is my sin? I'm pregnant. Not 17 and pregnant. 37 and pregnant. Oh, and engaged. And in love, with a wonderful man. Now, THIS is a disappointment that no one can bear. It might even put my grandparents into their grave.
I told my dad recently that I was sure I could be a moral person, in a true sense of the word, and be a non-Christian, and he said 'good luck with that.' I read somewhere the sarcastic comment that a covenant with god is little guarantee of health or happiness, of which we have daily proof. Another quote from Sam Harris is that the link between Christianity and morality is often proclaimed and rarely seen. John Loftus has a chapter discussing the illusion of moral superiority in his book, 'Why I became an Atheist'. He explains how Christians appeal to an objective standard of morality when proclaiming the goodness of god and his commands, and that standard could be called the real god and one that Christians do not have special access to- I think that is irrefutable. But it will be refuted, and continue to be explained away, with the same pathetic obliviousness and irrelevancy that Karl Rove recently displayed on Fox News on election night.
Like so many other tenets of Christianity, special claims to a higher morality die a thousand deaths by qualification and general evidence to the contrary. But they have hope, grace, and promise of redemption, and I guess I don't. You can have it- whatever helps you sleep at night.
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