The Wedding Saga: My Dilemma

October 14, 2009 at 1:29 am 81 comments

Hold onto your pants, boys and girls, the following sick and humorous story is true…

A couple months ago, an elder at my family church was reprimanded and kicked out for having an “improper hermeneutic”. Apparently he was beginning to question the doctrine of Lordship salvation as he saw that it was being used by the church as an element of control. Basically Lordship salvation holds that a person is not actually saved unless they make Jesus their Lord. This means that a church can, at their discretion, determine whether a member is “making Christ their Lord” based upon the members assessed behavior. Ultimately, this elder was concerned the church was becoming extremely legalistic and un-Christlike in their love towards those attending. Basically, they were using doctrine to be assholes.

Now, step back a few months before. This elder was sitting in an elders meeting in which nearly every elder, except for the pastor, admitted they did not know what “hermeneutics” was. My father is the elder who explicitly said this. They immediately all agreed that they needed to study hermeneutics.

So imagine this elder’s surprise when he is told that he is in a form of rebellion against the church and was being kicked out for having an improper hermeneutic. Obviously, the pastor had a strongarm in this decision. To make a long story short, he was basically told to write his resignation letter or else he would be dismissed that Sunday. He was not allowed to defend himself, his position, or get a clear answer as to what he had done wrong. The most obvious conclusion given the circumstances was that he was the most educated elder besides the pastor and the pastor was beginning to be jealous of the amount of influence he had. The kicked out elder was becoming interested in allowing my brother’s fiance to lead a Bible study and the pastor was basically like “we don’t know who this girl is or what she will teach.” During this time, the pastor was also using one of the elders in training, a weak-minded fellow, to spy on the elder who would soon be kicked out of the church. We know this because this young man admitted it.

So, while I would normally not consider this any of my explicit business, it has now come to a head of sorts. I am to be in my brother’s wedding. Ironic, is it not? Apparently everyone has been talking about me and how “sad it is” that I was never saved even though they all thought I was. So, since I was never saved, I can be in the wedding. But the elder, who is saved, cannot because he is under some form of discipline. Ironic, since the elder really is not quite sure what he did wrong.

Now, normally I would think that given the circumstances – I mean, it is a wedding – that maybe this elder would be allowed to attend out of a sense of grace. After all, my family and most of the people in the church have known this elder for years and years. Heck, he helped out teaching classes, preaching ,etc. Goodness, he taught in the church for eight years and they just now found out he is not qualified? He’s been a good friend for a very long time.

Well, now I find out my entire family is not speaking to them at all. Apparently they are on lock-down. Things have gone so far that members in the church have begun reaching out to third-party individuals to tell them not to speak with this elder. The poor elder – whom I have spoken to on several occassions -is completely flabbergasted. His description of the entire situation was “it is weird” and “sick” and he is finally reaching the point where it is all very funny.

Now, I am atheist. An atheist is allowed to be in the wedding party. However, this elder is refused. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can support this complete mockery of all things moral. I was recently informed at least one other individual is thinking of boycotting the wedding unless this elder is invited. Alas, I know not what to do. My brother already asked me once how I felt about being in a Christian wedding, and I said I did not mind, but this…

Any advice? I’ve thought about just telling my brother “look dude, you are being an asshole. Invite this guy or I’m not attending.” I could either do that, and show him what it feels like to have fellowship denied for something really stupid or I could take a more graceful route, be friends with everyone and not say anything. I mean, on the one hand it is technically none of my business anymore… but is is my business! I mean, I keep hearing the rumors and things that are spreading about me – the lies that are spreading – and I do feel a sort of kinship for this elder who is experiencing similar things now at the hands of the people I will be attending the wedding with. So should I stand for justice or mercy in this situation?

Btw, normally I would not post something like this on the de-conversion site but I think my situation represents, in so many ways, the trouble we de-converts go through dealing with family and friends who are still Christian – regardless of their shade or hue. I cannot escape this. When you suddenly step outside the fold, the hypocritical behavior becomes so much more intense. I have no desire to defend anyone anymore, but want to judge everyone fairly and equally. I would also not normally post something involving individuals that are obvious to anyone who reads this post and knows me well, but, well, their complete asinine behavior has me seeking justice more than attempting to keep things private. I hope everyone understands. This has gone on long enough and has got to stop. I may remove this once I get the advice I need, but until then I’d really like some input.

Advice?

- Josh

BTW, feel free to laugh out loud. Quite frankly, this whole thing is so fundamentally stupid and easy to see through that it is funny. Honestly, it is hysterical. I cannot imagine how any of these people have brains or a Holy Spirit.:D Humans are a funny lot. I’m so glad nobody is going to hell for any of this. I have a sly grin right now…  ironically I am having a lot of fun with this…. every time something like this happens it makes me so happy I left the church :) I feel like I’ve GROWN UP.

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WWJD Series: Jesus and Anger Management My surgery: A test of my non-faith

81 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brandt  |  October 14, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Well, since your own family is involved, it’s really your decision, not anyone else’s … but good God, this is so fucked up!

    I say stand for justice, not mercy. If I was in your situation, I would immediately inform my family members that I wanted nothing to do with their wedding – even if I had already made a commitment to attend. That’s how wrong I think this whole situation really is.

    Seriously. The church really knows how to fuck people over. I say stand for justice, my friend… but it’s your decision, of course.

  • 2. orDover  |  October 14, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Josh,

    If this was a cousin’s wedding or a friend’s wedding, I’d give you different advice, but I think the right thing to do is to attend, to be there in support of your brother and in celebration of the love being expressed. Your brother is way more important than any of this drama. Church politics aside, this is a special day for your brother and his fiance, and you should all do your best to keep the focus on them. I don’t know your brother’s personality, and I’m not sure how close you two are, but regardless, I know I would have be so hurt if my sister chose not to come to my wedding, even if it was for a justified reason.

    Don’t let this storm of bullshit mire one of the most important days in your brothers life. Just be there. Be there for him. He’s obviously caught up in the middle of this, and I’m sure it’s giving him lots of stress on top of the already great pile of stress that comes with planning a wedding. Don’t add to that by making him pick sides. It seems to me he’s pretty much a victim in this whole ordeal as well, and having his wedding turned into a disgraceful spectacle. I don’t know the full story, but it seems to me that he’s just trying to keep the peace by respecting the pastor’s decision to discipline the elder. I’m sure he just wants his wedding to be a lovely day, free from this petty strife.

    One thing you could do that might help you feel better is to mention, if you plan on giving a toast at the reception, how sad you are that the elder, a close family friend, was unable to attend because of circumstances that you find deplorable. I’m not saying to use this as a soap box moment, but if you take a few seconds to say your peace, while remembering to keep the toast focused on your brother, then maybe you’ll feel like you took a stand without hurting your family. And I’m sure the elder would appreciate knowing that his absence was noted and regretted.

    It might be a hard thing to do, to be a part of a religious wedding that you disagree with, but just try to always keep your focus on your brother. I really think you need to be there for him, regardless of your personal emotions. I think that if you decide not to go, not to participate in such an important event in your brother’s life, that you will regret it severely.

  • 3. Quester  |  October 14, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Allow me to present two premises for your consideration, Josh:

    1) The only person’s actions you can control are your own.

    2) A wedding is a lousy context in which to try to make a point.

    If you would like to challenge either premise, I’m quite willing to debate them. Otherwise, go to the wedding because you love your brother. At any other time, feel free to contact the abused elder and, if he is willing to fellowship with an atheist, invite him out for a drink, or a game of checkers, or something. I mean, you know the guy, I don’t– but do you think he’d prefer you to make a scene on his behalf, or to spend time with him, talk with him, and listen to him?

  • 4. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Excellent advice.

    So I can’t sleep this is bothering me so much. Here are my current thoughts.

    I really want to use this as an opportunity to apply all the crap I have been saying about morals. Basically a moral person always does that which will cause the least amount of harm.

    So, from that standpoint, I realize I need to figure out whether it causes more harm to ignore the fact that I may be standing across from a pastor who is marrying my brother and sister-in-law and is one of the biggest assholes I know. That coupled with the fact that I feel nothing is just about the segregation taking place at the wedding.

    Or

    The harm that will come from trying to make any point and in the process hurt some people and ruin my brother and sister-in-laws memory of their wedding.

    orDover, I think you are correct – my brother is probably being manipulated in some way.

    So, as I was sitting here thinking about all this, a thought came to me. Why not flip this on its head, and rather than do harm, do good?

    Since I’m in the wedding party, I am in a unique position to either say or not say anything. My initial thought was like Brandt: take a stand, be a man, make a point, stand for justice. But I’m not sure that would be something my brother or sister-in-law want to remember about their wedding.

    So, priorities:

    1) Maintain order and beauty in the wedding.
    2) Recognize that justice is not being served toward the estranged elder.
    3) Not involve anyone who should not be involved.
    4) Not make a mistake in case I have misunderstood any information about the situation.

    So, maybe I could do this:

    Get the elder to write a toast. I will read it in the wedding and book-end it with whatever comments are appropriate given the mood, setting, and those in attendance. Also get this elder to buy a gift and I will bring it as well.

    This will, with all hope, shame those who are in attendance who know why this elder was unable to attend. His apology, and lack of recognition as to why he is absent should shame those responsible even more.

    All those in attendance who know nothing of the actual reason he was unable to attend will consider it a kind gesture.

    In addition, the gift will be a secondary token specifically to my brother and sister-in-law… a constant reminder that the elder did not have hard feelings against them for not being invited and understood the situation they were in.

    To top it off, I have a chance, in my own way, to stand up for the elder and make everyone who kept him from attending look like the complete assholes they are. In addition, those who know the situation will hopefully recognize the wisdom and kindness of my decision to offer to read the toast.

    Sure, some of them will think I and the elder and in cahootz, but hopefully it will drive them batty. Their consciences bothering them, they will wonder over and over and over what the elder has told me. After all, if he gave me the toast, he surely explained why he was not coming.

    AND

    Haha. People who do not know what happened may ask me why the elder was unable to attend. I will then have my platform to wisely, and discreetly, share only the information necessary for the moment depending on who I am talking to.

    Somehow, I feel uber-genius right now.

    That’s my working theory. We’ll see how I feel about it tomorrow.

  • 5. Quester  |  October 14, 2009 at 4:29 am

    Do take care you don’t force the elder into anything, Josh. Having no say in what is said in your name or done on your behalf can be horribly dehumanizing. He’s not a social justice issue or an object lesson in morality, he’s a person.

    If you both agree, however, that this is a good idea, that might be a good sign.

  • 6. HumanistDad  |  October 14, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Have you spoken to the elder to see what he thinks you should do? Likely he will tell you to attend and enjoy yourself.

    The wedding is for your brother (and his wife-to-be), not for you to make a religious stance. Remember you are the guest there and by going, you agree to not interfere with their rituals.

    Finally, talk to your brother and tell him what you think about having this elder excluded. The ceremony is HIS and he is free to invite whoever he wants. If he invites the elder and the elder chooses not to go, so be it. But, if your brother does not invite him under peer pressure, he will likely regret being controlled by others in the future.

  • 7. LeoPardus  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Josh:

    You are the only grown up involved. So now the question is how best to try to teach these children to behave properly.
    I think of all the lessons we teach:
    -Don’t take your sister’s toys.
    -Don’t hit your brother.
    -You will play with your younger brother.
    -You will be nice to your sister.
    -If you don’t do the proper things I’ve told you to do, you will lose privileges, toys, rights, etc.

    Of course at the same time, these people are unfortunately in adult bodies. And their in a church, not a nursery (where they belong). So it’s not as easy as putting them all in a corner for ‘time out’, or just giving them all their much-deserved spankings.

    I think HumanistDad has been best so far. Talk to the elder and talk to your brother.
    The elder can tell you (and I’ll bet he will) to be gracious and go. If he does, and he becomes a topic at the wedding, you can simply say, “I talked to him and said how upset I was about this travesty of hate in a church. He was totally gracious and said I should just go and be nice to all of you.”
    An important note here -and hard one. DO NOT take the opportunity to make a toast/speech/scene about the elder at the wedding. Why? Because that is just the sort of thing they will do. I’ll actually be surprised if someone (most likely the pastor) does not bring the elder up at the wedding and sermonize about how evil he is and how good and godly it is of them all to keep him from this blessed event.

    Now for talking to your brother. Tell him how evil this all is. Tell him how much you’d like to avoid his wedding because of his tacit or explicit participation in it. Tell him that he really should remove his wedding from the church (and his membership), have his wedding in another location, and invite whom he wishes. Tell him what a control-freak place it is and how evil. Remind him again why you are severely tempted not to condone it all by your attendance. Then tell him you will come because he has asked you to, because you love him enough to overlook all the crap, and because you are bigger than the Lilliputians of the church and can overlook childishness for your brother’s sake.

    And BTW, you are right. These people certainly have no brains. Obviously they have not HS, since that doesn’t exist. And they have no love.

  • 8. orDover  |  October 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Rethinking the issue, I think that Leo is right, and that my idea to mention the elder in your toast is a bad idea. It seems much better to be very frank with your brother about this all, and handle it on a one-on-one basis.

    As HumanistDad mentioned, you’ve got to find out what the elder wants. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t want to write a toast for the wedding or be included in an “under the table” sort of way. Most people do everything in their power to avoid confrontation and spectacle. You’re not one of those people, Josh, but the elder probably is. He probably won’t want you to rock the boat on his behalf.

    I keep trying to think of ways for you to channel your anger here in order to relieve it, and I was thinking maybe you could speak with the pastor directly, or even better, write him a letter, and say your peace. Tell him what Leo pointed out, that he is not displaying “the fruits of the spirit” and that, frankly, he’s made you glad that you left all of his crap behind you when you de-converted. Tell him he is being a poor example of a “man of Christ” and let him know how his silly actions have negatively affected your brother’s wedding and those involved.

  • 9. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Wow, thank you guys so much. Your advice is truly appreciated.

    Since writing this up last night, I think I should probably clarify a few more items:

    * The wedding is not being held at the church where this elder was in attendance. Which makes it even more bizarre the way they are treating him. Apparently the idea has been circulating that once the elder is under church discipline in one local body, he is under discipline in all of them. Therefore they are excluding all contact with him whatsoever – not even inviting him to an event at another church. Ironic, since this elder was kicked out for insinuating the church was being unloving, judgmental, and controlling.

    * I have already spoken with the elder about this – last night in fact. He mentioned to me how sick this all was and that he knows of at least one other person (a good friend of my brother) in my brother’s church who is considering boycotting the entire wedding because of this. So perhaps I should talk to this individual and clarify that I have all the pertinent information to make a decision.

    * I would never consider giving a toast unless it was verbatim from the elder who was kicked out. I might add a few items about how I regret that he was unable to attend, etc. but clearly from my own mouth, not his.

    * I do need to talk to my brother. Most likely, knowing him, he is under a lot of control right now. The pastor of that church has been systematically – for several years now – kicking out / disciplining or doing whatever it takes to stamp every individual and program under his iron feet. My family is firmly entrenched from what I have seen.

    * The final HUGE issue here is the issue of the pastor. I don’t know if he is performing the ceremony, but if he is, I do not know if I can stand up there with him. His disgusting, arrogant, vile behavior has gone on long enough and I do not think I can stand in front of that man marrying my brother and future sister-in-law without being sick to my stomach.

    So it sounds like I need to gather a little more information before making a decision.

  • 10. Mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Joshua,

    You need to back way off of this. This is not about you, what you believe, what this elder is going through.

    If you stick your nose into this, you will cause harm to the entire wedding party, family and mostly the bride and groom.

    If they want to cry foul, so be it, but not you. You will me meddling in a matter that does not concern your life. After, you could go to the elder, the pastor or whoever you choose, voice your opinion, state your case.

    You do have a right to cry foul, it seems there is a legitimate reason to do so.

    Also, let the elder do his own battle, if he chooses.

    Hope this smattering of wisdom makes sense to you.

  • 11. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Mel,

    Understood.

    However, this does affect me, in a way. Knowing that everyone is spreading lies about me and how sad it was that I was never really a Christian and yet they thought I was makes things a little different. I mean, that I think I can now handle, because I realize it is just silly childishness.

    What hits me the most is this:

    * They allow an outright, anti-Christian atheist to be in the wedding party.

    * They do not allow a close Christian family friend and elder of the church for eight plus years to even attend the wedding at all.

    It’s just twisted. It’s just fowl. I don’t know if I want to attend knowing these things. I mean, I do, but Jesus Christ. This is fucked up.

    I think Leo hit the nail on the head. These are children. They are acting like children, and now I have to figure out how to act like the grown up of the bunch.

    Maybe I will leave it alone.

    But at the same time, I do feel slightly responsible to let me brother know what I think… I mean, he is my brother. I do not want him made some pastor’s bitch! Shouldn’t he know I care about him and don’t want him in that situation?

    Maybe he doesn’t care. I think I’ll just have to talk to him. Not looking forward to this exchange…

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Josh:

    Thanks for the clarifications.

    SInce the wedding is at another church, and the pastor is not in control there, your brother should invite the elder and make it plain that he is wanted. Then, if the rest of the children want to act like children, they can do that, and thus show everyone who the children really are.

    I don’t know what control the pastor exerts over your brother or your family, but they need to GET OUT NOW!

    That pastor is an amazing piece of work the likes of which I have never personally encountered. The desire to hospitalize him must be immense.

  • 13. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    The desire to hospitalize him must be immense.

    I always had weird feelings about him. One time he and the elders were trying to take over our college group, which we had already explicitly said was under their control. This weirded me out because I was like “what? What do you mean you want more control?” So he called me in his office and when I let him know I was confused and his behavior didn’t make sense he accused me of trying to “take over” the college group. A college group which I and a friend had started.

    He’s a manipulative piece of shit, really.

  • 14. Mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Joshua,

    This is the reason that many people to not believe in Jesus Christ. One of the reasons is the freedom the Bible teaches we have, vrs Islam and many other faiths.

    The supposed bible they use, may be the Koran, Book of Mormon, and the like do not allow for the same freedoms of the New Testament. In fact, they had to be warned by Paul do not take this freedom as a liberty for sin.

    I know you have studied these examples in scripture. Remember, the question came up should we sin all the more so grace can even be more utilized. Paul said “no way” do not use your liberty to gratify your lusts. Jesus did not come to deny the law of God, he came to fulfill it, meaning no man could keep it, ever, and never had. Jesus was the Lamb of God, remember he cleared out the temple, cursed the fig tree.

    Anyway, Josh,

    THERE IS A SAYING THAT SEEMS ALL TOO TRUE:

    CHRISTIANS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO KILL THEIR WOUNDED.

    All too often, this is the fact. This does not release man from coming to God through Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sin, and ending the writ against them. It does give a person a straw man excuse to deny the faith because of the people, sinners saved by grace, performance as Christians.

    There never has been a perfect Christian, there never will be.

  • 15. orDover  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    The final HUGE issue here is the issue of the pastor. I don’t know if he is performing the ceremony, but if he is, I do not know if I can stand up there with him. His disgusting, arrogant, vile behavior has gone on long enough and I do not think I can stand in front of that man marrying my brother and future sister-in-law without being sick to my stomach.

    It might make you feel sick, but you need to do it anyway.

    As former Christians we are fated to experience this sort of sickness. I’m going back to my home town in early November, and my mom mentioned that two of my sisters want to get baptized, and asked me if I wanted her to plan it while I would be there. Even though it will upset me to no end to attend and I’d do anything to avoid it, I told her to schedule it while I would be in town, because I know it will mean a lot to my sisters for me to be there on an important day of their lives. I don’t know how I’ll get through it without turning ashen and having my face set in a permeant frown, but I know this isn’t the first time I’ll be put in such a position, nor the last. I’ll have to attend religious weddings and funerals and more baptisms and christenings and prayer circles. And I’ll have to do my best to smile and be happy for those involved, because I want to be a part of their lives and share milestones with them, regardless of our differences.

  • 16. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    orDover…

    It might make you feel sick, but you need to do it anyway.

    That sounds exactly like what I would say right after telling you your sisters deserve to know you are an atheist.
    :)

  • 17. Joshua  |  October 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    There never has been a perfect Christian, there never will be.

    Christian = human

  • 18. SnugglyBuffalo  |  October 14, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    You’re missing the obvious solution. Declare that you are not attending the wedding, and then dress up as Indiana Jones. Grab the elder, and with him riding piggy-back, you swoop into the room mid-ceremony with your whip. Then you tell the pastor that he chose poorly. At this point I run out of silly ideas, but I’m sure you can improvise from here.

    Normal weddings are far too boring. I can only hope that if I get married my hypothetical fiance will let me do something to shake things up.

    Being serious, I think your best bet is to talk with your brother about how messed up it is, that you have seriously considered not attending because of it. Whether or not it actually influences his decision, he needs to know how idiotic this whole ordeal is.

  • 19. Jeffrey  |  October 14, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    After leaving the faith, you have a choice about how much you want to continue to associate with Christians. As little as possible? Close to life as usual? Strained friendships without seeking more? (This last one has been my choice.)

    You seem to have chosen somewhere close to life as normal – and I respect that. But it comes with the price of putting up with a lot of bullshit. Do you want to choose differently? Do you want less of a connection with Christians to be freer of the fallout? By making a scene, including a boycott or reading a letter from the elder, you are starting down this path. It’s one of your options – but make sure you know that this is probably what you would be doing.

    Not knowing the people involved, I’d say go and without making a scene. This isn’t about accepting the church or their behavior. It’s about accepting your brother and his wife-to-be. I have no qualms about no-holds-barred argumentation when it’s in the proper arena. But a wedding seems like a time to stay silent.

  • 20. Roy  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Live your atheism in a more loving way than they live their Christianity. Love your enemies.

  • 21. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Roy,

    What does that mean? You do not think Christian’s love because a warning comes as a result of understanding the Bible?

    The Bible calls a person who says in their heart there is no God, a fool. I think that speaks for the Bible accurately.

    So what? That should not bother you since the Book is a myth.

    I have been called everything under the sun because of my sky daddy faith, magic man in the sky….. cursed at, you don’t see me crying like you and Joshua.

    How do you know I do not love you? You don’t feel the Love?

  • 22. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Joshua,

    My advise to you still stands. Deal with this after the wedding.

    You know better than to raise this issue now. There is nothing to gain but pride and ego.

    Think that sums up one of your posts some time ago, it stands firm for you also.

  • 23. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    orDover, If we can get you educated, you can be baptized with them, your sisters and God would all smile.

    You can do it ! ! !

  • 24. Roy  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    What does that mean? You do not think Christian’s love because a warning comes as a result of understanding the Bible?

    It means what it says. Joshua asked for advice and I gave him mine. I do think Christians love and I didn’t say anything about any warning. My comment was directed to Joshua, not you.

    I have been called everything under the sun because of my sky daddy faith, magic man in the sky….. cursed at, you don’t see me crying like you and Joshua.

    I’m not crying.

    How do you know I do not love you? You don’t feel the Love?

    I don’t and I never said that I don’t think you do. Frankly, no I’m not feeling it right now.

  • 25. Roy  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Mel, please let me clarify. When I advised Joshua to live his atheism more lovingly than they live their Chrisianity, I was talking about the particular Christians in his story, not all Christians, and certainly not you.

  • 26. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Roy,

    I do love you, in the right way. Most Christians have a difficult time living their faith because the standard is perfection.

    A Christian failure is look at with a magnifying glass often times. The image of love at all times, in all situations is the goal.

    All of us, or most of us, live a “how does it affect me” life. Even in our marriage, or work, it often times is me first.

    Sometimes we can honestly act unselfishly with no agenda or desire for recognition, but it does not always come naturally.

    Does any of that make sense to you?

  • 27. orDover  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    orDover, If we can get you educated, you can be baptized with them, your sisters and God would all smile.
    You can do it ! ! !

    I already did it. I was baptized when I was in my early teens. It was my education (a real education where one learns about science, critical thinking, and reality) that lead me to realize that there is no plausible evidence for God and certainly no evidence for the sort of Young Earth Creationist Christianity I was brought up with.

    Do you understand that this is a site for former Christians? I would wager that almost all of us have been baptized.

    But all of this aside, I find you comment insulting. I was “educated” in Christianity my entire life. I went to an evangelical school from 2-12th grade, I went to church all of my life, I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, I’ve memorized hundreds of verses. You can’t do much more educating than that. I resent the implication that I am somehow ignorant regarding the faith, or ignorant regarding the nature of life, or just ignorant period.

    This is a site, as it is clearly labeled, for de-converting, skeptical, and former Christians. These types of comments are not welcome. Take them to a Christian forum.

  • 28. Roy  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    orDover said: I would wager that almost all of us have been baptized.

    Yep. Three times for me. The third one apparently was the charm for me. Since then I have come a long way toward understanding what God is, and what He/She/It is not.

  • 29. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Dover,

    The word educated was ill advised due to the facts I now know of your extensive propaganda and dogma training that was forced down your gullet. Am I still in trouble here?

    There are issues in the discussion of Jesus Christ I believe you are ignorant of. Does this reflect an overall idiocy, ofcourse not. You are very thiin skinned.

    It was obvious that I was playing around with you, ofcourse I know you are not going to get baptized (again) with your sisters. I would apologize, but there was no put down intended.

  • 30. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Roy,

    Help me out here, Dover has pegged me onto the “pin the tail on the donkey Christian wall.”

    Gosh, you can’t even tease about Baptizing, btw it is a serious step of faith, but in this site it is not recognized as having any benefit other than reinforcing a foolish, uneducated commitment.

    Seriously, I know I am in a site that does not appreciate my views on faith, and where I have placed it, and why.

    I just want to be LOVED, it that so wrong??? snl

  • 31. mel  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Roy, where are you???

  • 32. Roy  |  October 15, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Roy, where are you???

    Here.

    Help me out here, Dover has pegged me onto the “pin the tail on the donkey Christian wall.”

    What kind of help do you need from me?

    I just want to be LOVED, it that so wrong??? snl

    No, but I think it is more important to love than to be loved. For example, you have been asked by some here to leave them alone. Do you love them enough to do as they wish?

    I’m not sure what “snl” means.

  • 33. mel  |  October 15, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Rockies home for the winter, Roy. Sorry, dude.

    Both my teams are still in the game. Both should win.

  • 34. Roy  |  October 15, 2009 at 12:17 am

    It’s just a game, Mel. May the best team win.

    I’m going to have to shut down this conversation. I’m already on thin ice for encouraging George. I stopped and he went away. I won’t be responding to any more of your comments and I would advise you to go away too. That would in my opinion be the truly loving thing to do.

  • 35. mel  |  October 15, 2009 at 12:24 am

    SNL Saturday Night Live

    I just want to be loved, is that so wrong? John Lovetts,

    Leave them alone…….why should they, who ever they are, get to bash Jesus Christ, say ungodly things and not be challenged by no one. It is not right

    If they want to ban me, as they did George, it will be their decision.

    You know it is my desire to see any of the de conversion people to reconsider why they are leaving the faith. I believe the way I do for very verifiable, and documented, reasons.

    I understand the nature of the de conversion site. I was hoping my challenge regarding the nation of Israel, revived in our generation, would interest some to seek to understand why we are at this place in history.

    Only a fool would believe that the Middle East is not going to bring the world into a third world war, and Israel will be the cause. You do not have to believe the Bible to know this is coming. It is just that it is the theme of Bible prophecy for the generation that sees Israel reborn as a nation.

    All the players are in place.

    I was hoping to have someone show interest.

    That was all.

  • 36. Quester  |  October 15, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Roy,

    I don’t want to discourage you from posting, but if Mel isn’t George posting under another name, he’s managing to repeat George’s idiocy fairly faithfully, if you’ll pardon the pun. I know you’re not the only one responding to Mel, and I’m not singling you out to be mean or to persecute you. I’m singling you out because you so recently decided that you would stop responding to George (and thus stop feeding that particular troll) and I’d hate to see you fall into the same trap again so quickly.

    That said, baptized three times? I “gave my life to Jesus” many times, doing altar calls and saying the sinner’s prayer, I’ve done reaffirmation ceremonies, reaffirming my baptismal vows, and I celebrated sevral baptisms as a pastor, but I was only baptized once. I don’t even know of a church that would have baptized me a second time, considering the first invalid. If I can get away with a little threadjacking, I’m curious about this part of your story. Can you fill in a little context?

  • 37. kramii  |  October 15, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Josh:

    As you have said, a Wedding is no place for soap-boxing. It isn’t your brother’s fault that his minister is a ****.

    Have you considered speaking to the Pastor one-to-one? You may be the one person in this whole sorry saga who has nothing to loose by doing so.

    To be honest, it doesn’t sound like you’ll get very far. As the great prophet said, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” But you know enough to make that call.

    From what you’ve said, the pastor sounds like he is really insecure in his position and his person. If that’s the case then an all-guns-blazing approach won’t help. This man (in general) needs encouragement and not condemnation. Not easy to give when his behaviour is clearly deplorable.

    Another thing you might try is just generally asking people questions about the situation, but without giving opinions. Sometimes a good question can make other people think, and lead to changes in their position. Again, as an outsider, your “ignorance” of faithy-things places you in a strong position.

    Whatever happend, I hope you enjoy the wedding, and that your elder friend will take comfort in your friendship.

  • 38. Ubi Dubium  |  October 15, 2009 at 8:47 am

    George/Mel,
    What is it that you are doing here? Really? What is it that you want that keeps you coming back and preaching at us?

    Converts? Not happening. If being preached at were all it would take to keep us believing, none of us would have left.

    Validation? Sorry, but an evangelist here is about as welcome as a drug pusher at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

    An interesting discussion? Then drop the preaching and just talk. We have had many xians come here and be welcomed, as long as they don’t preach, talk some, and listen more than they talk.

    Are you just trying to score Brownie Points with your god? Count me out of that. Go feed the hungry, or something worthwhile.

    Are you looking to anger and annoy us? That makes you a troll, and in that case, go away.

    But you said “I just want to be LOVED, it that so wrong???” Nothing wrong with that. Are you perhaps not getting that from your religion the way you expect? Is that famous “love of god” somehow not filling the void anymore? Anything ever bother you about what people told you that you should believe? That’s the kind of thing we are here to discuss.

    So stay and actually talk, or go preach somewhere else.

  • 39. Quester  |  October 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

    And as the filtered comments come through (are we being filtered for just mentioning G now?), I see that the first half of my comment #36 has been made redundant by Roy’s #34. Ah, well.

  • 40. Roy  |  October 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I don’t want to discourage you from posting, but if Mel isn’t George posting under another name, he’s managing to repeat George’s idiocy fairly faithfully, if you’ll pardon the pun. I know you’re not the only one responding to Mel, and I’m not singling you out to be mean or to persecute you. I’m singling you out because you so recently decided that you would stop responding to George (and thus stop feeding that particular troll) and I’d hate to see you fall into the same trap again so quickly.

    As my previous post stated, I’m not going into debate mode anymore with George/Mel/anybody, though I am willing to answer direct questions when they are directed at me.

    That said, it is not completely clear to me that George and Mel are the same person. Mel’s typing ability, grammar, and editing abilities seem superior to George’s. Maybe Mel is female and she is George’s wife. Just a theory.

    That said, baptized three times? I “gave my life to Jesus” many times, doing altar calls and saying the sinner’s prayer, I’ve done reaffirmation ceremonies, reaffirming my baptismal vows, and I celebrated sevral baptisms as a pastor, but I was only baptized once. I don’t even know of a church that would have baptized me a second time, considering the first invalid. If I can get away with a little threadjacking, I’m curious about this part of your story. Can you fill in a little context?

    I’m not saying that I think getting dunked in some water does anything useful. The first time was when I was 9 years old, which is absolutely useless. The second time I was ~30 years old. The last time I was ~40 years old. They were different churches. The point is that I sought and sought and sought. I have finally at 50 years old found what I was looking for all along. It’s not that I think dunking in water can be valid or invalid. I just over time did what I had to do to make sense of things for myself. Now it makes perfect sense to me. I toe no docrinal line and I am as extremely non-legaistic as one can possibly get. I’ve been told by a number of people that I am as unassuming, non-judgemental, and honest as anyone they had ever met. For me that is the highest compliment anyone could give me.

    I hope that answers your question.

  • 41. Joshua  |  October 15, 2009 at 10:44 am

    All,

    Notwithstanding the most recent jack of this thread – which I normally enjoy about de-conversion.com – I’ve given my situation and everyone’s advice quite a bit of thought. And two good night’s rests.

    I’ve realized a few things that have helped change my mind quite a bit.

    a) I left the faith because I knew that beliefs had the power to make people act like this. Given the beliefs of the people at that church, what can I do? Until they see how their beliefs are causing them to act like the pastor’s bitch, I can’t really do anything.

    b) To extend Leo’s analogy about children, the elder who was kicked out is like when Billy comes running home from Jason’s house complaining Jason cheats at games. All mom has to say is “well, if Jason cheats, why do you want to be his friend?” I think the elder just discovered a recurring problem with these individuals (which I discovered years ago) and is probably better off removed from their fellowship anyway. In fact, he basically has said so himself on the couple of occasions I spoke with him, confessing that being kicked out of the church has removed a ton of stress from his life. In the end, perhaps it is a good thing – for his sake.

    c) Justice is a tricky issue here, because given the beliefs of those internal to that little asshole of a church, they are enacting a form of justice on that elder – in their own way, given their beliefs. Perhaps questioning Lordship salvation has turned into a cardinal sin in their minds. Not like anything I say will change that. It would probably just give them visions of demonic activity at the wedding.

    d) I just want to have fun. Can I be honest? I’ve dealt with enough of this crap. Honestly, orDover, after making my bold and somewhat rude comment to you, I got to thinking about what you said and it makes some sense. Maybe you’re the smart one who has figured out that since you can’t change people’s minds about this stuff (i.e. they have to figure it out on their own), you just need to be there for people when they start exiting the church, not trying to fish them out of it or make some point about how evil all of their actions are, etc. So in the meantime, we have to pleasantly enjoy the events extending from their delusion. Now that I think about it, a part of my questioning the faith was the unbelievers who made no effort whatsoever to contradict Christianity or preach atheism. It was just people who wanted to make sense and be nice. Those people threw my mind into loops because I couldn’t understand how they could calmly listen to the gospel and it have no affect whatsoever on them. I also couldn’t understand how they could enjoy life so much and not be afraid of death. It made me feel silly for all the energy I spent on that fear myself.

    e) Now that I’ve calmed down I’m realizing that worrying about these things takes a ton of energy. I spent countless hours agonizing over this type of shit in the church. I’m out now and somehow, just enjoying the thought of not having to think about it, makes me smile.

    So, all that said, I don’t think I’m going to do anything unless it comes directly my way. There is a verse in Proverbs about this (forgive me, oh de-converts, for quoting a wise verse from Holy Writ!):

    “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17)

    Leo, I’m actively working on pushing everything into the category of “not my problem”. It’s nice.

  • 42. Joshua  |  October 15, 2009 at 10:55 am

    That said, it is not completely clear to me that George and Mel are the same person.

    They are not the same person.

  • 43. LeoPardus  |  October 15, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Regarding the jack of the thread Josh: you can delete the posts by the assholes yourself. (You can always delete posts from articles that you publish.) Please do. Let’s all work to clean up this crap spewed by the assholes.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  October 15, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Leo, I’m actively working on pushing everything into the category of “not my problem”. It’s nice.

    AWESOME! :D

  • 45. Roy  |  October 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Joshua, please let us know how the “wedding from hell” goes. I will be “praying” for you.

  • 46. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    So, I just found that groomsmen are:

    * Dad
    * Brother
    * Me
    * Person the pastor was using to spy on the elder who was kicked out
    * Another family friend

    I personally know every one involved. In fact, both the other groomsmen we’ve known for years and years. It’s not like I’m jumping into some random group of people…

    This is going to be interesting… because this probably means the pastor who kicked him out is going to be leading the ceremony.

    I almost got sick when I heard this. Awaiting word on whether the pastor is giving the ceremony… if he is, this week is going to be really, really weird…

  • 47. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I feel like I’m in some spiritual warfare mafia family.

    It’s like the Godfather, except without guns, only theological assertions that can rip friends and family apart.

    Shoot, I think I have the making of a movie!

  • 48. LeoPardus  |  October 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I’ll say this much: I’d have a very hard time going to something this monstrous. If I did, I really don’t think I could be up front giving tacit approval to it all.
    Hope you’ve got one hellava strong stomach.

  • 49. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Leo, your assessment of my needs is completely accurate. I think I might go out drinking the night before. I doubt my brother is having a bachelor party… thankfully I’ll be meeting up with my friend Anthony and we can go party one night and I can stay at his place. haha.

  • 50. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Just found out the pastor is doing the ceremony…

    Good God. This is so, so weird. It’s kindof cool actually. I feel like I’m replaying one of those church scenes in the Godfather.

    Pastor dislikes elder, has “John” spy on elder. “John” reports back. Elder is kicked out. My father and brother, ignorant, and following the pastor. My brother is getting married. “John” is groomsman. Other groomsmen are my brother and dad and one other friend. Pastor is giving ceremony. I am the atheist no one believes was ever saved in the first place, but hears about this through the elder (family friend of 12 years). No one in the family wants anyone talking to the elder. I am the other groomsman.

    I wonder if I should stand up front holding The Origin of Species or something.

    This is one fucked up, but hilariously entertaining, story.

  • 51. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    My poor brother. What do I do…

  • 52. LeoPardus  |  October 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Have you talked to your brother yet?

  • 53. Joshua  |  October 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I honestly don’t know what to say, because I have no clue how much he knows about what is going on. So I’m afraid if I speak up, I might inform him of some things that would ruin his wedding. I mean, I don’t know if he is ignorant or not of what is going on. I assume he is not, because his other friend J from the church was talking about boycotting the wedding. So I doubt I would be the first to say something. But I don’t know… yet.

    I’ll keep you all posted.

  • 54. Tit for Tat  |  October 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Tough position to be in, though you do now get to see how important your new values are. I’d be interested to see which direction you go. Good Luck.

    John

  • 55. Mystery Porcupine  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Joshua,

    Wow, what a situation. I feel for you…I just had another “reveal” this weekend and have a Christian wedding coming up next month. Whew. I really enjoyed reading this comment thread…I love how we can help each other just by sharing slightly different perspectives and experiences.

    If your brother didn’t love you and want you to be in the wedding, he probably would have avoided asking you. Even though it may be “acceptable” to have someone who was “never a real believer” in the wedding, I am sure it is not completely comfortable for him to have you up there…the black sheep of the family…a huge sign that it is not a perfect family of Christians all together affirming his vows. Also, personally, I remember when I was a Christian and only wanted Christians to be in my wedding party, because I saw the whole event as such a sacred thing. So anyway, I don’t know if you have thought much about the fact that he loves you enough to have you stand up there with him in a religious ceremony, but it counts for something, right?

    Roy’s very simple advice really appeals to me. Be more loving than they are. Rise above this nonsense. I also like the way Proverbs put it about not making someone else’s quarrel your own.

    OrDover’s comments about doing things even though they make you feel sick…that is pretty much where I am today. There are some people I love enough to sit through whatever religious ceremonies I need to sit through so that I can be a part of their lives. It will be harder standing at the front of the church, because you can’t excuse yourself if you can’t stand it anymore. If it is your intention to go, out of love, and to stand there no matter what in order to avoid making a scene at your brother’s wedding….you will need to go in prepared. Meditation? Daydreaming? Small voodoo doll in your pocket? :-P I mean, it would be bad if you decide to be there and to stay out of the drama only to find yourself so repulsed that you walk out in front of everyone. UGH. Since there is a possibility of that scenario, be prepared.

    This is the thing…you wrote: “His disgusting, arrogant, vile behavior has gone on long enough and I do not think I can stand in front of that man marrying my brother and future sister-in-law without being sick to my stomach.”

    His disgusting behavior has gone on long enough to sicken YOU, but evidently it needs to go on longer in order for other people to see what he is doing. Who knows – maybe it will go on for the rest of his life and people won’t get it. BUT maybe his deeds will turn people away eventually. Either way, I think it can be much more powerful to allow someone to hang himself than to try and open people’s eyes. If he stands up at a wedding and starts going off in an unloving way towards people, it will weigh on every person in that room. If you walk out, you remove some of that weight…you give them something else to focus on rather than the vile things that are being said. Let them deal with the consequences of following this man. Why distract them from it by drawing attention to the poor lost atheist boy?

    I am sure there are even more perspectives on this situation that would be helpful. I hope people keep sharing.

  • 56. Chrissy  |  October 24, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Hey Josh! First visit to your site. I believe I am a fan :)
    As for the wedding:
    The anxiety this situation is causing is not fair for you to suffer. You are concerned about outcomes and scenarios and words spoken, that have yet to exist. As of right now, they’re not real. You have no need or power to predict the future. Jesus did not plan to “turn the tables” in advanced. The moment required it of him. If righteous anger needs to be expressed, it will be. No need to worry about how the mess will be tidied. As of now, the tables have not been turned, they might not be. No need to anticipate a mess that does not exist.

    The reality of today, is that you love and care for your friend, and you are rightfully distressed by the church’s treatment of him. In maintaining your friendship with him, and practicing actual love (which comes quite naturally) rather than religious love (AKA: hate), you are prepared to face the hypocrites. When I am concerned about addressing the logic of others and whether or not it is worth answering them the proverb “Answer a fool according to his folly; Do not answer a fool according to his folly” has been very helpful. At one time I thought this scripture was a frustrating contradiction, until I realized that the “fool” is the variable that effects the outcome. Sometimes the fool is worth answering. Sometimes not. It all depends on the fool. If the situation requires action from you, you will know, and you are well prepared. The outcome, you will deal with when you get there. Today you love your friend because you can’t help it. It is all you can do. That same love will direct you through tomorrow’s trouble. You will know if your answer is worth the fool.

    In facing the hypocrites remember “Love covers a multitude of wrongs.” It is what we wish the Christians would practice, but we can also apply it to them. Our love can cover their multitude of wrongs. They are fucked up and broken like us. We can let them pretend they’re not. When it comes down to it, they hate themselves. That is sad. They express their self hatred by condemning a loving, sincere person. It is wrong. But we can have compassion toward them. I have to. I was similar to them. The compassion and patience of others eventually shattered my self-righteousness. It changed me. In having compassion toward them, you may find one person you genuinely connect with. Loving them in their hypocrisy, could crumble the mask that keeps them from accepting you. Loving them could allow them to be human with you.

    Rather than premeditating your rebuttals, that may or may not be used, I suggest a simple toast : “To true love, which covers a multitude of wrongs.” Zing!!!

    Using what they claim to practice, is a powerful weapon against their hypocrisy. They’re own methods can fully disarm them, even if they are used by an agnostic :) This battle is one that you are fully equipped to fight. You have been INVITED to the front lines. Truth will speak for itself. Your life and presence will be there to advocate. It will be hard, but it will be OK. Truth has already won.

  • 57. CheezChoc  |  October 27, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Any wedding report yet, Josh?

  • 58. Joshua  |  October 28, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Yes, a wedding report will be forthcoming… it was a difficult and weird week. I’m not even sure how to summarize it yet :)

  • 59. Joshua  |  October 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Update:

    So I first want to thank everyone for their support and allowing me to vent – most likely under the common recognition that I vent to relieve emotion so that I don’t take it out on people. Appreciate it.

    Last week was weird. Really weird. In every way.

    I get home. The next morning I ask my brother what is going on. We have quite a discussion. Apparently a bunch of things I said are new information. The ‘that’s new to me’ was a theme which I discovered was oh-so-common since nobody was talking to anyone first hand since ‘sin’ was involved and everyone was either just submitting to the elders or believing second hand information since they felt they could not talk to someone first hand for fear they were being dishonest. What a mess. We finally concluded we were not getting anywhere and ended the conversation after like 4 hours of discussion…

    That night my brother comes to me and says “why are you telling me all this?” I’m like “well, because it was so bothersome and I had to make a decision about whether I would be able to stomache being in the wedding…” He then tells me that “if what you say is true, the wedding is off… you just ruined my wedding. Listen, I don’t have time to think about this, are you going to be in the wedding or not?” So I told him I would decide by the next morning.

    That night I met up with an old friend who also went through the ringer at that church and another church in Colorado and we got drunk together. I was super distraught.

    Next morning I decide this is all so fucked up that I will just be in the wedding if my brother still likes me and wants me in. So I endured the wedding… it was a little rough, but honestly talking about it beforehand helped a TON. At least I wasn’t keeping it all inside while I stood up there… I might have walked out or gotten sick.

    My brother’s vows were extremely… normal for what I grew up with. He began with “I, [brother's name] am a worthless, disgusting sinner… but thanks be to God!” I couldn’t help but think what a self-degrading and somewhat disgusting way to begin your own written vows. Oh well.

    The pastor’s sermon was… long. Yes, there was basically a sermon. Sweating in my tux, I endured like a good soldier. Listening to every mention of the marriage relationship begin like Christ and the church to the depth of responsibility he and his wife must show toward his vows. I couldn’t help but think “all this so they can have sex. Wow.”

    There was one good “witnessing” opportunity I had before the wedding. We were all getting into our tuxes at the church and someone was joking that there should be at least one mirror in the sunday school classroom we were in. I mentioned that “I thought the Bible was supposed to be your mirror!” There was a muffled laugh until everyone realized that they probably shouldn’t laugh at that.

    So anyway, the wedding went off without a hitch. I had a chance to talk to another old friend… it was so sad. After the elder got kicked out apparently a group of people left heartbroken. One of them was a good friend of my brother who used to hang out with him all the time. My brother invited him to be an usher, but he could not stomach being in the wedding and thankfully had an excuse. So he attended but did not usher. We had a good chat about things and this poor guy is just… ripped up over the whole thing. I did not find out until later the depth of what was going on…

  • 60. Joshua  |  October 28, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    After the wedding was over, I decided that I needed to talk to my dad. I desperately needed to.

    So, in almost a father-son talk – except initiated by me – I invited my dad for a drive so we could talk. I started off very diplomatically which lead to a “why not just get it out” attitude from him. So I did.

    I explained everything I had heard. He basically backed off and in somewhat of a desperation cried “why don’t people talk to the elders about this?” So I calmly explained that it was “basic psychology”. If the elders tell people not to contact someone, people are going to think the elders are hiding something… so they are going to talk to the person that is being shut up.

    Our discussion lasted for a long time. Basically it seemed to boil down to this: my dad thinks the elder is not being forgiving enough. He is not showing enough grace to the pastor, who has repented of his hard-headedness and is “doing better”. Apparently the elder had this idea of this “pattern” in the pastor’s life and was scared by it. So I explained to my dad that I was scared of the pastor too. That didn’t phase him much… then the conversation went into a discussion about how the pastor had ripped me up before and I had never had an apology. Apparently my dad did not remember this ever happening. So I asked my dad that if the pastor had truly repented, would he not recognize his past sins and go apologize for them – especially when that pastor had directly emotionally influenced some of the decisions that lead to my leaving the faith? Then my dad points out that sometimes people forget things, etc. So I let that be. Quite frankly, I am personally fine without an apology.

    Then that Sunday I went over to the elders house. I’ve been to his home probably a hundred times. I’ve played on his farm – capture the flag, etc. so many times. I know everyone in the family. We sat down to talk.

    What I heard just blew me away. Apparently the accusations against the pastor are the length of my arm. All of the secretaries of the church have left, two of which cited the pastor as the reason. One of them was so disgusted by the pastor’s attitude toward his wife that he decided to confront the pastor and his wife over it. So he did so with his wife – couple to couple. That lead to a confession that there was an abuse situation in the home (physical / verbal). This lead to six months of counseling… after which the counselors gave up and left the church. But not before going to one of the elders and saying “you have to get rid of this pastor… right now.” That was about it. It was the strongest, adamant declaration you can imagine from a guy who I know is soft-spoken and a kind gentleman. The elder who received the news brushed it off… that elder then confronted the pastor and after a month of counseling the problem was pronounced “fixed”. But the congregation never knew.

    So fast forward a ways. Apparently a bunch of people in the church are confused by the teaching of the elder who would eventually get kicked out. One of them – a guy about my age – goes before the elders and declares his concern. A handful of other people go as well. This bickering went on and on and apparently everyone was concerned over some stupid tiny passage and it being taken out of context.

    So, between the pastor and the elder – guess who eventually gets kicked out? The elder.

    Basically, after discussion, the elders decide this other elder has a bad “hermeneutic” – which is ironic given the fact that a few months before most of the elders did not know what hermeneutics was and the elder they were kicking out had been to seminary. They assess that he is unqualified to teach.

    Oh, during this time that young men who brought the accusation admitted to the elder who was kicked out that he was being used as a spy by the pastor.

    As you can imagine, tiny little attitude changes are being noticed in everyone. The elder feels like he is in a power struggle with the pastor – something I have felt so strongly before, you cannot imagine. I agree that the pastor probably has some sort of psychopathic tendencies. The elder who was kicked out says he has never in his life seen this level of psychopathic behavior… it is almost maniacal.

    Anyway, after numerous confrontations, the elders decide that this elder has a bad hermeneutic they can’t resolve and remove him from eldership – not church membership. This elder is told to write a resignation letter. Due to some miscommunication, etc. the elder is forced to write the letter at 10:30pm the night before the church is to announce that he is removed. The letter is hastily written (I’ve read it) and easily misinterpreted.

    The gist of the letter was that the elder believed that he was being removed due to a power struggle with the pastor (some of which is probably true) and basically revealed the elder was extremely confused over what was happening.

    Now you have to remember something. Up until this point, the pastor has had so many run-ins with people who eventually left the church (or the faith: like me) that this type of story is becoming… normal.

    The next morning the letter is read before the congregation… and that is when things exploded. The elder is accused of being divisive for distributing a letter like that (even though he did not do all the distrubuting)… etc. etc. etc. and on and on and fight and fight and bicker and shut people up and put the elder under church discipline and a lady in the church starts contacting everyone she can think of to tell them not to contact this elder and people leave the church hearbroken and everyone thinks everyone else is “sinning” and I cannot… for the life of me… figure out why anyone is defending the pastor…. unless it is a form of Stockholme Syndrome… where the elders have become sympathetic with his psychopathic tendencies and think they are being used by the Lord to help his spiritual life. It’s pathetic.

    Sigh….

  • 61. Joshua  |  October 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    The next morning I have a talk with my dad and do everything in my power to restore his relationship with the elder. After all of the conversation, my dad turns to my mom and says “well, maybe it is time we begin to restore communication… we should think and pray about it…”

    Good God. Shoot me now. What a fucking mess.

    I can’t help but think a college education among most of these men would fix 90% of their problems. Even a basic psychology course would do wonders.

    Anyway, as I left home in my car a wave of relief rushed over me…

  • 62. atimetorend  |  October 29, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Good job sucking it all and being in the wedding and wading through all that stuff. I doubt there will be a point in the future where you say to yourself, “I shouldn’t have been in my brother’s wedding.” Much more likely the opposite could be true if you had not done so.

    …we should think and pray about it…

    At least he word “think” was used along with “pray.” I’m not sure it is included in the standard issue version of that phrase… It is funny and I’m sure frustrating, but it sounds like you were able to exert some positive influence over the situation.

  • 63. LeoPardus  |  October 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Wow! Even the vows were fucked up. I would need more info to be completely sure, but I’m pretty much ready to call that group you came from a cult. If you ever hear of them doing a ‘cool-aid drink off’ run for help.

    What an inhuman mess. And I thought things were messed up at the old church we went to in MI. Not even close by comparison.

  • 64. Chrissy  |  October 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Geez! This fascist regime is fucking with everyone! All the secrets, accusations, lies and denial! At least your brother’s not a virgin anymore. Maybe blowing a load into another human being will help him realize what he’s been missing :) No disrespect, of course. Just that sometimes regaining one’s humanity begins with the most practical of human interactions. Everybody has a chance to wake up. Sadly, many people prefer their slumber. An honest orgasm may yet do the trick :)

    Thanks for being so honest with your story. It is always refreshing to witness the voice of reason in insanity. I am truly grateful for your inability to deny reality, and your willingness to share. So glad to know you’re out there, keepin’ it real; being human :)

  • 65. Hawanja  |  November 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Best advice I can give is move out of that town. Who needs these people? Let’em deal with thier own B.S.

  • 66. Chrissy  |  November 19, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Joshua,
    Would you mind passing this website on to your elder friend? I’ve been reading a lot about spiritual abuse and authoritarian churches, and your scenario keeps coming to mind. You might enjoy this site as well, seeing that your family is still involved in that church. I too have family members stuck in strict religious environments, and this site has a lot of great resources depicting very specific attributes of spiritual abuse. The subtle manipulation, and the blatant abuse is all outlined. The elder situation is a concrete example, and your friend may find comfort examining it through this resource. Pass it along if you get a chance?
    Thanks!
    Chrissy

  • 67. Chrissy  |  November 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Oh wait. I don’t see it though I left it in the URL. Here it is again just in case:

    http://www.batteredsheep.com/articles.html

  • 68. peridot  |  November 20, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Chrissy, thanks for the link. I looked through the articles with interest, as I left an extremely authoritarian church bordering on cultism myself many years ago.

    I wonder if Joshua’s family’s church is nondenominational? I ask, because it’s been my observation that its the nondenom groups that give charismatic, rogue pastors a bully pulpit. Leo seems to have reacted with shock at Joshua’s story, surprised at how cultlike this family’s church is, but I have seen this sort of thing twice, and both times in nondenoms.

    Anyways, the site you recommended has many good articles on how to spot it and what to do about it, from a Christian perspective. I’m no longer a Christian, but I still was when I left my extraordinarily authoritarian former church, which was difficult at the time. The experience was a significant chapter in journey away from all faith in the end, because it sensitized me to many issues . . . how easily the Bible can be interpreted with evil motives, how sheep-like many believers are, how really ugly things can get among Christians.

  • 69. Joshua  |  November 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Yeah, my family has always leaned non-denominational.

    I’d never really made the connection between authoritarianism and non-denominational churches. It makes sense. Leaders who want complete control do not want to be under control by someone else.

  • 70. Chrissy  |  November 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Some of the articles I read did say that non-denominational churches are culprits of authoritarianism because they lack accountability to any specific doctrine. I also came from a “non-denominational” church, and as I was “on my way out” concluded that it is a denomination in itself. Took me long enough :)

    The link I posted I figured would be helpful for the elder friend, seeing that he probably could use some Biblical confirmation that he was attacked by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Another blog I frequent, Stuff Christian Culture Likes, is hilarious, and the author has recently moved to beliefnet. She now has spiritual abuse sites listed in her blogroll, if you want to check them out. Some are more objective than battered sheep, and do not have a faith based agenda. They simply offer definitions, and occasionally refute them with scripture. I find the articles fascinating! Here is the link to her blog:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes/2009/11/102-gossip-via-prayer-request-1.html

    The abuse links are to the right. The rest of the SCCL archives will be uploaded in the near future, from what I understand. The blog as a whole, makes for a highly entertaining time!

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