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1 Month Out ...


Cowabunga Jones
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So, some of you have probably read the testimony from Prysm about our leaving the faith. It has now been almost an entire month since I set foot inside my office or the walls of any church for that matter. In the time in between then and now I have devoted myself almost entirely to answering apologeticly inclined emails from Christians and sending out endless resumes trying to sell my experience as a pastor as useful in the corporate world. Needless to say, the response from both ends has been underwhelming. I pour myself into a resume and I get turned down. I study thoroughly into a theological argument, and then the person bails on discussion. It just seems like a no-win right now.

 

That said, I also know that this is exactly the kind of "down in the dumps" that Christians want to accredit to my denial of God and my leaving the faith. I'm sure that if I would "repent" of the "sin" of skepticism, my former friends would be more than motivated to give some of their other Christian people a call in order to demonstrate the "amazing love and power of Jesus." I also know that this is not true of all the Christians I have known. Some have genuinely tried to help me and I do owe that small minority credit where it is due. Amazingly, all of those Christians are parents of students who have also eventually left the faith or had sincere doubts. It really is amazingly true how ... common Christian "love" truly is. There is nothing supernatural about it. Its fickle and its human and it is a sham to declare it anything more.

 

I have had a few interviews so far for jobs that are less than desirable but will pay the bills. Hopefully one of them will pan out in the meantime. For now, I almost wish I could take a polaroid of this moment. I wish I could capture the last month of my life sitting on my ass away from the job and the people I once thought cared about me. I'd mail it to every one of them with this one statement written on that nice white border on the bottom:

 

"See this? Its worth it."

 

Hell yes it is. It sucks. Its boring. It makes a mockery of my previous adult life and the Christian college education I will be paying for until I am 40. But you know what? Its finally real.

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Dear CJ - I wish I had something wise to offer, but I don't. I know that you are in a tough place right now, but I must say it does my heart good to read this:

 

"See this? Its worth it."

 

You are going to find a job that will pay the bills. And, I'm sure that someday you will work in a challenging field that you love!

 

I'm wishing for the best for you and Prysm! Keep us posted. :)

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I pour myself into a resume and I get turned down. I study thoroughly into a theological argument, and then the person bails on discussion. It just seems like a no-win right now.

 

Don't feel too bad, there are a ton of highly qualified people out of work right now. The economy sucks and many corporations are slashing jobs left and right. You might try government (city, county, state), or small businesses.

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You seem to have such gifts of humor, persuasiveness, insight and intellect, CJ... so much so that if you were to start up a humanist congregation in my area, I would go. And I would tithe.

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You guys have a powerful story. I think you have a lot to offer the world. I certainly hope that you find gainful employment. And I hope that the ensuing storm of family confrontation (that your wife anticipated in another thread) is not as bad as you fear.

 

My thoughts are with you.

 

Heather

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Write a book about your journey. You have an interesting and unique story to tell.

 

A small publisher might even offer an advance on your outline.

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Hah, I actually have not checked into a humanist congregation in my area. Maybe there isn't even one ... which does make me wonder about that. What are humanist churches even like? It initially sounds like a place I would love being a part of.

 

I went to one meeting of the group below. A friend took me. It was impressive and just the sort of thing I would attend if I again lived in New York City:

 

http://www.nysec.org/sitemap/about-ethical-culture/

Off Central Park a "church" for Humanists

What We Believe

 

Ethical Culture is a Humanist and Ethical movement inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of our lives is to create a more humane society.

 

We stand for separation of church and state. We believe acting morally does not require belief in a god. We place our faith in the demonstrated capacity of people to do wonderful things. We believe in the worth and dignity of all living beings.

We believe that all individuals have:

 

* Inherent worth and dignity

* The potential to grow and change

* A responsibility to strive for ethical growth

* A responsibility to treat others so as to help them realize their fullest potential

* A responsibility to create a better world

* A responsibility to help build an Ethical Culture community that welcomes and involves others

 

As an Ethical Culture community we believe that:

 

* We are all part of something that transcends the individual experience

* We have responsibilities to each other, to the Society, and to the community at large

* We are enriched through our interconnectedness with others

* We find confirmation and validation of our own selves and beliefs through our interactions with others

* We derive strength through our relationships with others

 

If you Google "Humanistic Congregations" you'll find almost exclusively Jewish ones :) -- Y'know... Jews who feel culturally like Jews, but are atheists, or simply don't care to follow the religious practices. I'll be they might have their interest piqued at the idea of hiring a deconverted Christian!

 

"Ethical Societies" is something else to Google; "United Universalists" and all such related nomenclature.

 

Anyway, if there's nothing like this in your area, why not start one? There are probably quite a few folks like us hiding out in towns all over America, who miss the community and the presence of someone who can deliver a good.. er... um... speech... yeh... speech.

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CJ,

 

Hang in there! You have surprising clarity for the short time you've been away from your faith.

 

The reason you're having a hard time finding a job is OBVIOUS. The economy sucks, and you are making a dramatic career change. This would be true of ANYONE, not just of someone who left their faith. So ask all your previous friends to either help you out with a job, or to keep their opinion to themselves.

 

I wonder if anyone in the community here could help you with job leads? What field are you trying to get into? What area do you live in?

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As a former pastor, you have built in teaching skills. Have you ever considered secular teaching?

 

Also... The following may give you some additional ideas...

 

One of my underemployed colleagues sent me an e-mail via my academic department's ListServ; in other words, it went to all the other ESL (English as a Second Language) professors and staff in my university. He had reached out to me since I teach an ESL elective on American resumes and interviews. Here's the long response I sent over the ListServ (with a few personal details edited out). Some of the references are specific to New York or teaching, but I am sure you can adapt it to your situation.

 

--------------

 

Dear Sean,

 

Here is how I have always managed to stay afloat--and, in fact, this is one of the things I taught to my level 3/4 students in my Resumes and Interviews elective.

 

When people think about getting a job, they usually think about answering a want ad in The New York Times, having a formal interview, and then being hired. This is actually the worst way to find a job. How many hundreds of people may answer a want ad--and how many of their resumes will be tossed in the garbage? A very small number of applicants will be interviewed, and only one will get the job. And in many cases none will get the job, as the employer already has someone in mind but has to conduct interviews to comply with regulations. This is great for the lucky person the employer had in mind, but not so great for everyone else.

 

Of course, it is possible to get a job by answering a want ad. But in my opinion, the best thing is to find many places where you think you would like to work, find out whom to contact in those agencies, and then send out resumes even though no jobs are advertised. I have gotten most of my jobs this way. In fact, I spent a few years training literacy tutors part-time through the Brooklyn Public Library while I was in graduate school and made good money doing it; yet, I had never applied for this job and had not even known that it existed. I had sent a general resume to the central Brooklyn library, and someone there had sent it to to their literacy division. On my resume I had included information about volunteer work I had done in literacy, and under job experience I had included my having trained academic tutors (my peers) while in university. The library decided to interview me, and I got the job. No job had been advertised, as the powers that be had been expanding their program and were still experimenting. I had sent my resume to the right place at the right time, and during the interview I had given them some new ideas. (Of course, I spent hours and hours reading up on new literacy techniques before my interview, but they did not know that...)

 

Mind you, at the time I must have sent out about 200 resumes, and I am sure at least 190 of them ended up in the garbage. But I only needed one job.

 

I also got a full-time job at XXXXXX University back in the early 90s simply because it was one of many places to which I had sent a resume. I was hired as the director of two funded outreach programs, this even though I was only 26 at the time. (I am 43 now, older than most of you think I am.) I had never thought of myself in this type of position, but obviously someone had read into my resume in that manner. Thus, once again, I prepared myself for yet another jump outside my field, and found ways to connect my previous experience to the job I was being interviewed for.

 

Now, let me be specific about our field, as you are looking for ESL in 2009. Teachers suddenly get sick. Teachers suddenly die. Family emergencies arise. When people have to leave unexpectedly even though the semester has not ended, program directors and chairpersons are in a crunch. Even though many people throw resumes in the garbare, wiser administrators save good ones in case an emergency arises. If they need to hire someone fast, they don't have time for an extensive search, and they might decide to interview and perhaps even hire this Sean guy with the good resume. Even if you hop into a classroom in the middle of the semester, if you do a good job and save your boss' butt, he or she will remember that when it comes time to assign classes in a future semester. Never underestimate what may come your way when someone has elected to file your resume.

 

Send your resume everywhere you can, even if you think there is no chance that you will ever work in the pace a particular resume is going.

 

Another way to get an "in" is to network. Let me state here that I am nobody special. There are many people with the same skill level or even greater skill level. For this reason, I co-wrote my first book with three colleagues at XXXXXX College. They are names in the field while I am not. At the time they were in their fifties and sixties; I was in my thirties. They have Ph.D.s and I have an M.A. Yet, once I was published, people started to take me more seriously, and I have used the book and (with their permission) the names of my co-authors to help me in my career.

 

I also write non-academic pieces on pop culture, and I got them published by networking. Again, I am a nobody, so who would take me seriously when many people and their grandmothers fancy themselves the next Hemingway? So what did I do? My father knows somebody who knows somebody who is the editor of a large Canadian film magazine, and while I know little about film I do love history. I thus went through the chain and convinced this editor to let me write a long article on the International Film Museum in Brussels, where I was headed for a vacation. I also took the photos myself. Another time I went through a friend of a friend and penned two articles on my favorite super-hero comic books, something I never thought I'd actually get paid for. (I've always wished I could write graphic novels/comic books for a living, and this came close...)

 

Networking works with jobs too. Maybe your friend's mother can give your resume to her co-worker who will them pass it on to her romantic interest in Personnel. Stranger things have happened. (One of my colleagues at XXXXXXXX College who has recently retired got his job because he was sitting in a bar complaining about his ex-wife. The person he was complaining to, a stranger, was also angry at his ex-wife, and by chance they were both English professors. Number two, the person being complained to, was looking to hire, something number one did not know. When he heard that his new comrade in arms, similarly wounded by an ex-wife, was looking for a post... I kid you not.)

 

In addition, what's to stop you from creating your own sources of additional income? When I was in university, I once got myself (and my 35 mm camera) invited to an alumni reception packed with senior citizens at dinner tables. There was no digital photography at the time, so I took the film to a photo shop for developing. It cost me 33 cents to have a single photo printed from a negative, and after numbering each picture I charged 75 cents a print. There had been no other photographer, and most of the attendees wanted many pictures of their friends. Some bought multiples of the same pictures to send by mail in these pre-Internet days. I made a bundle. And really, how hard is it to walk into a photo shop and order a batch of reprints? Big money; little labor. I even got a free catered dinner at the reception!

 

Now think what is possible in 2009. With eBay and a number of on-line resoures at your disposal, all you need is creativity, packing materials, and to wait in line at the post office. Here's an example of what someone else did: Recently, my parents inherited the furnishings and bric-a-bracs of a friend in his 90s who passed away last year--and had many well cared for items that had belonged to HIS grandparents! A friend of my sister's is selling some of those things on eBay for a commission, which means he is making money by simply doing a little research into exactly what these things are (a task he enjoys since he deals in antiques), posting ads, and packing and mailing goods.

 

Finally, something my best friend has always urged me to do but I have not... There are many wealthy businesspeople (particularly from the countries that dominate our program) looking for private English tutors who will help them function more efficiently in an English-speaking environment. They are not usually free during business hours, and they need tutors who can be flexible. What's to stop you from seeking them out and being a private tutor? Network, my friend, network! (Your very e-mail to all of us is networking.)

 

If, like me, you don't have the world's greatest self-esteem and are plagued by self-doubt, here is a quote I live by. Just substitute whoever you'd be working with or the job situation for "audience"...

 

"I can never remember being afraid of an audience. If the audience could do better, they'd be up here on stage and I'd be out there watching them."

 

–Ethel Merman

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Might I suggest taking training classes? Now is as good a time as any. I myself am going back to school starting this summer.

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If I had to do it over again and I were younger, I would go to a culinary school. Chefs bring home the bacon.

 

It's a damn good thing you don't have to do it over again! There is a reason why chefs are notoriously grumpy.

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As a former pastor, you have built in teaching skills. Have you ever considered secular teaching?...

 

This is amusing. I found all my non-ministry jobs via want ads, well except for the army.

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for Cowabunga Jones-----------------

 

You are one of a long line of former Christian ministers who have deconverted. If you are still interested in pursuing a pastoral occupation, check out the Unitarian Universalist Association. I belonged to the local congregation here for almost 4 years. Wonderful bunch of people I can tell you. I even delivered two "sermons" in front of the congregation--------and I'm an atheist! They are very service and community oriented. They provide all the succor and support you would expect from any Christian church, but my congregation were 35-40% atheist or agnostic. Many are deistic or pantheistic. If you can find one near you check it out. But even if you can't, they have an online worldwide kind of thing you can tie into if you're nowhere near a real one.

 

Check it out-----with your ministerial background, you may even want to consider becoming a UUA minister. Who knows? Their "7 Principles" mesh very closely with the Ethical Society ones posted above by another poster.

 

http://www.uua.org/

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  • 2 weeks later...
for Cowabunga Jones-----------------

You are one of a long line of former Christian ministers who have deconverted. If you are still interested in pursuing a pastoral occupation, check out the Unitarian Universalist Association.

 

Thanks for that Seeker. I actually attended my first Unitarian church gathering this last Sunday. I will go to my second tomorrow. It seemed like a nice enough community. I am not sure how "open" I could be to the spiritual at this point. My pendulum of respect for mythological beliefs has swung in the opposite direction of my former self at present.

 

Currently, I am working in a billing call center for a national garbage service. It certainly is a far cry from the days of large youth events, public speaking, and general project oversight. Honestly it feels like an utter waste of the only remaining skills I could salvage from a career in ministry. So, I'm not sure whats next. I will look into what my local Unitarian church's offer. Perhaps there are options.

 

To all of the others who have commented in on this post. Thank you. This has been a very hard time for me. Losing my faith was hard enough, but that has passed. Losing my status, position, and title within a community ... now that blow hasn't had much time to recover. This garbage job seems to only escalate it.

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These are mighty losses indeed, CJ.

 

When my dad turned his back on the ministry in 1946, for reasons nearly identical to yours, he had a wife and four kids to support and nothing but disdain from extended family and friends. The only job he could get was as a night watchman on the San Pedro docks, and his main responsibility was shooting wharf rats.

 

My older sisters assured me, much later, that in time he came to regard that job as a step up.

 

I'm sending you best wishes for better times.

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Keep plugging on! Perhaps now is the time to sit back and ask yourself what your "dream job" would be and then see what you would have to do to make that dream a reality. Working a crap job is fine as long as it serves a purpose. For example, if you wanted to be a lawyer and needed to go to school to get your degree and if the crap job is paying the school bills, then it serves its purpose and, as such, it is endurable. Also, getting an idea of what you want to do and starting to pursue it gives a focused drive to your life.

 

I had it easy (when it comes to the job department). Because I mainly worked on the mission field or as a pastor in small congregations, I always had to do some outside work to pay the bills. Since I am an artist, I have been functioning as a freelance artist for about 10 years now. It was a pretty easy transition for me once I left the faith and the ministry.

 

Even so, I have talked to a few people recently that want to pursue their dreams but are a bit afraid to do so. It all starts with getting a plan and then seeing if you can implement it. It may take some brainstorming to come to some terms and all of that.

 

What is it you would like to do? Don't just consider any skills you may have accumulated over the years in the ministry, but what would YOU like to do? What really "floats your boat" and is it something that can be translated into money?

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Cowabunga,

 

I can really understand your job dilemma. When I left the church (ie was fired) I took a job that would simply pay the bills while I tried to figure out what I would do next. Yes there are some things that are transferable to other careers but what I've found is that it can't be your primary qualification because running a church is a far cry from running a business. Perhaps you can spin some aspect of church work that you liked and re-work your career based on that. Or you could do what I did and abandon that entire trainwreck and try something completely different (I went into the trades and am now more challenged and making more money than I ever did in the church).

 

Anyway, I wish you well in your search.

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Wow! As I was reading through the responses, several people already mentioned what came to mind. My first thought was like what Florduh said, write a book! You and your wife have a great story! Maybe it's something you could start on and see where it goes. And then, you'd likely get public speaking engagements, etc. I know that's a long shot, you gotta eat in the meantime. But keep your eyes open to the possibilities in front of you. Wishing you all the best!

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I finally just recently got a low-paying job (starting next week!) after over 6 months of being out of work. >.< My degree is in Elementary Education, which I don't think I'll ever go back to...the politics and blatant lying to children kinda pisses me off, plus I'd have to get certified in this state and I have no experience outside of substituting. The thing that's really made me frustrated during my difficulty finding work is "just knowing" what my parents are thinking. They told me from a young age that if I didn't give 10% of my earnings or more to God then he would take everything away from me and I wouldn't provide me with anymore money-making opportunities. So sitting around getting in debt just further upset me because I imagined them up on their pedestals thinking, "See, we were right" when really my unemployment has a lot more to do with the economy and nothing to do with their imaginary friend. Hehe, sorry for the kind of random rant. :D

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As hard as this time has been, I am so proud of CJ. I'm completely behind his decision and I'm so proud of the way he refused to be forced back into the flock. I'd rather wonder how we're going to pay for rent and car repairs than sacrifice our integrity and minds. Thank you all for being so supportive of him, since there are so many against us and so few cheering us on. Your encouragement and suggestions are so helpful. We know that someday things won't be so hard, and that motivates us. Really, the hardest thing in all of this for me is seeing the man I respect and love treated so badly and with such disdain. There's nothing that makes me angrier than watching him patiently and respectfully take all that xtians dish out without retaliating in return, only to have them insinuate that we are the immoral ones. And to watch him struggle for to find work when he had so much going for him in the ministry, all for the sake of truth, makes me so proud. It hurts too, though. At least I know that in spite of all the xtian obsession with manliness (like Promise Keepers and Wild at Heart), I am the one who has a real man. I'd take that over all that xtianity has to offer any day.

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