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Had The Pastor For Lunch


Dagan
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So I had lunch with the pastor of my church. He invited me, and paid, so what the hell. We've gone a couple times before, and I think he's figured out something was up with me. I'm certainly making no secret of my complete disinterest in church and all things churchy. I go as a babysitter for my kids, and sometimes take notes during the sermons and idly poke holes in the bad theology.

 

But the pastor is a nice guy. We've played Settlers of Catan together, and that's not a bonding experience you can just walk away from. So I don't make excuses, or blow him off, and speak plainly with him.

 

He asked me point-blank about my faith, if I have any, and if I still believe in God. I appreciated his blunt questions. None of my Christian friends (or former friends I guess) have done this. So I told him that I had no good reasons to believe anymore.

 

It was easy to tell him, after the initial shock and fighting back the tide of "holyshitheknowswhatdoIsayohgodohno" and it felt good to look him in the eye and answer honestly. To his credit, he didn't throw bible verses at me, or condemn me or anything. I lobbed a few softballs of the arguments I have against Christianity and the bible, basic stuff about how the four gospels don't line up and how Paul's theology is different from what Jesus said, and I got the impression that he'd never thought too deeply about it before. I found that strange.

 

It ended well. He says he still wants to be my friend, and keep talking with me, and I believe him. Part of me knows he sees me as a challenge, a puzzle to solve, how to reconvert the apostate. But at least he's honest about it. Unlike my friend who introduced me to charismatic christianity in the first place. First whiff that I might be struggling, or have uncomfortable questions, she disappears, and whenever we'd talk it was all about her. That relationship is over.

 

I know I should probably run screaming into the hills, but it's nice to know that at least someone wants to seek me out to talk about my spiritual struggles. Only one other person from my church has done so, and I just can't bring myself to start throwing biblical criticism and archaeology at him, he would just respond with "well, I just believe it's true and that's good enough for me." I don't want to alienate him, he's been a good friend and a bit of a big brother to me.

 

The pastor, on the other hand, should know all this stuff and I've got no problem getting into a good argument with him.

 

This could be interesting, especially if he keeps buying me lunch.

 

That sounds horribly cynical, I know. But really, I think I will keep the lines of communication open here so I at least have someone on the old team to talk or even argue with.

 

Am I nuts? Or is free lunch worth it?

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As long as you can handle yourself I suppose. Just remember, Christians are often biggots, decietful, conniving and evil with the leaders of the flock the worst. Tread with care.

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The pastor has only one thing in mind; to get you to believe/donate money again. Just know that. If he was sure you'd never come back to the church, he would never bother with you again.

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I agree with Marty. There is no free lunch.

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Well, I'd have somewhat mixed feelings. My first reaction was that if he doesn't bother to bring up christianity, religion, or anything and else and simply will hang out with you and discuss other topics, then fine, go for it.

 

On the other hand, if he's always buying lunch then there is a mission in his mind. I wouldn't be suprised if there's something going on where your wife spoke to him and he's trying to bring you back not just because of you, but also her. That may explain why he's being so "open" with you.

 

Personally, I'd avoid it. If there's an organized gathering where you two can hang (outside of church I mean) then that may be okay, but I would tend to think there's more behind these lunches than just simple "getting together."

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Jabbrwokk,

I personally do not trust Christians. I have to interact with them and I remain polite, but cautious. Some of them are sincere in their beliefs, but that makes no difference to me. They are still wrong. I am always on guard with them. Even if they don't act like the in your face fundies, I have no way of knowing what they are like inside.

 

I can never be true friends with Christians, only acquaintances.

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Right on the cusp of my deconversion, I invited my pastor to lunch (Chinese food). I paid. I wanted to discuss things with him; I was having lots of questions, and I was seeing a pattern. I hadn't yet done the work of reading the Bible cover to cover, but everything from life to the prayer book seemed out of kilter.

 

Anyway, after I asked my questions and he gave some rather twisted apologetics, he said something I will never forget. He said, "You have doubts."

 

I thought I had questions. His blunt assessment through me for a loop, and started me down the road to apostasy (probably unintentionally).

 

Even though it was friendly and helpful, I can't get past the fact that his mission was not to help me down the road to atheism. Ever since that time I have felt like I was preparing for a sparring match when discussing my faith with a Christian. I don't like that, so I don't do that anymore.

 

Each to his own.

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I loved your poll choices! :grin:

 

Frankly, I enjoy any theological conversation with just about anybody. How it goes, of course, is determined by how they behave. I always start out respectful and friendly. Usually, it continues and ends that way. I always keep an eye on them psychologically, because some people just can't handle the responsibility that comes with taking it seriously enough to face real questions and deal with them. I don't want to hurt anybody. But once in a while, it will become clear in the course of the conversation that the other person deserves to be treated by the very same principle that they are using to mistreat others, or encouraging others to mistreat still others.

 

And that can be fun, too. Bullies deserve to be bullied.

 

Any direction it goes, it's almost always fun for me.

 

Other than the issue of whether the person can deal with heavy lifting in the first place, the main consideration I have is for third parties. For instance, a sibling of mine, or spouse might have a friendship with the person I'm talking to and, even though they weren't even there for the conversation, they still may have to deal with the fallout. Or it could be the spouse or children of the person I'm talking to. I always approach it with an awareness of that sort of thing, and try not to do anything that would hurt third parties.

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Given that so far he seems to be respectful of you and trying to listen and understand you, to put it bluntly, I think you'd be a giant hypocrite to say you want nothing to do with him just because he's a Christian and you aren't.

 

I've seen so many complaints on here about how Christians don't respect us, don't really listen to us, reject us outright for our beliefs... and now people are advocating behaving in the same way? I understand that some people have been recently hurt and need time and space away from a religious environment... but what's the point of leaving religion if we're not going to be any better than that? If we're going to be judgmental and close-minded toward people because of their beliefs? I thought that was what we were moving away from.

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Given that so far he seems to be respectful of you and trying to listen and understand you, to put it bluntly, I think you'd be a giant hypocrite to say you want nothing to do with him just because he's a Christian and you aren't.

 

I've seen so many complaints on here about how Christians don't respect us, don't really listen to us, reject us outright for our beliefs... and now people are advocating behaving in the same way? I understand that some people have been recently hurt and need time and space away from a religious environment... but what's the point of leaving religion if we're not going to be any better than that? If we're going to be judgmental and close-minded toward people because of their beliefs? I thought that was what we were moving away from.

It's not that we are behaving the same way. It's that you can't trust the snakes because it is their god given mission to save you. Their life is not their own. They must obey their stupid imaginary friend. As someone without gods, we have no such agenda. And how could we be anything BUT close minded about their freaking absurd fantasies? Would you trust someone that goes around spewing things about how great the Easter Bunny is and how you should live your life according to the great Bunny's wishes? Their god is as patently absurd, actually worse since their god is a tyrant and wholly EVIL.

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I don't suggest avoiding someone just because they're a Christian. For all you know, in speaking with them, you may just be helping someone deconvert.

 

Plus, I'm sure the last thing you want to do is stoop to the same level of intolerance the religious have. I sorely regret not talking to more Neopagans, "psychics", goth kids, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, et cetera, without trying to witness to them when I was younger. I wouldn't have stayed a Christian so long if I'd been exposed to more viewpoints that differed from my own.

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I don't suggest avoiding someone just because they're a Christian. For all you know, in speaking with them, you may just be helping someone deconvert.

 

Plus, I'm sure the last thing you want to do is stoop to the same level of intolerance the religious have. I sorely regret not talking to more Neopagans, "psychics", goth kids, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, et cetera, without trying to witness to them when I was younger. I wouldn't have stayed a Christian so long if I'd been exposed to more viewpoints that differed from my own.

I didn't say avoid them completely. Just never trust them. As long as they carry their mandate from "heaven" you cannot trust them. In my experience Christians will not be your friend simply. No, they are on a mission to bring you back to the fold.

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I guess that some of you were different kinds of Christians than I was. Were you all on a constant mission to evangelize people?

 

But it also seems for some people, the more they started to doubt Christianity, the more they were scared and tried to compensate by talking about their belief and talking about what strong Christians they were- as if they could convince themselves by convincing someone else. You never know who might be going through this, so what better way to help them than by being a friend without judgment?

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It wasn't constant, for me, but as a kid I always heard adults say things like "What that guy needs is Jesus," when they talked about horrible people on the news. And since you believe what you're told as a kid, I started thinking that way, too - not as often as the aforementioned adults, though. I'd only witness if someone else brought religion up first, and was easy to argue into silence about it.

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I can never be true friends with Christians, only acquaintances.

 

The reverse was one of the most striking rules of many, many Christians around me growing up, of many denominations.

 

I struggle to resist the view you present, but after growing up as one of them and seeing and hearing so many declare and hold to this sentiment, it is hard to rise above it. Especially because, in many cases, by keeping them at arms length I am giving them what they want anyway.

 

Phanta

 

Edit: Writing this made me feel really sad.

 

 

 

Now, I know you didn't ask for my opinion on this, but perhaps there is something that you and ClaraOlive are missing here. The first thing I want to point out is that pretty much always the reason a Christian will stay away from Atheists is because of the mere fact they are indoctrinated, while the reverse is almost never true; the Atheist stays away because he/she/it has been traumatized so badly it doesn't want to truly trust any Christian. To pan this off as if they are somehow equally intolerant is a grave injustice to the people who have had hard life experiences. As far as "keeping them at arm's length", why would you want to disrespect their religious boundaries if that's what they are? Ironically, in a sense, by disrespecting their boundaries you are doing the exact same thing they did to you, but the scenario isn't a one way scenario as I just described, because it goes both ways. Now this isn't to say one couldn't truly trust and get along with a Christian who is open to being friends with an Atheist as that is entirely possible and my goal one day is to have several friends who are just such Christians. But to try and violate a fundamentalist's boundaries rather than "giving them what they want" is not my idea of healthy boundaries, in fact it's my idea of the same unhealthy boundaries the X-tianity taught us all. But like I said, I have no qualms becoming friends with Christians in Real Life if they obviously are not bigoted towards me as an Atheist, as such depth as a true friendship is entirely possible in such a situation with such a person. But why violate the boundaries of an insecure fundamentalist? What would that accomplish exactly?

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I agree that we should respect religious boundaries, Quid, but in this specific situation, the pastor seems to want to stay friends with Jabbrwokk and has not attacked or harassed him.

 

I already said that I realize that some people have been recently hurt and need time and space away from religion. However, I think that staying in the attitude of "I'm never going to trust any Christian again" is counterproductive. My deconversion came with a divorce, the loss of probably 90% of my friends, and a denunciation from my former best friend. And that just fuels my belief even more that I shouldn't be the one being judgmental toward others, but should reach out to them as long as they're willing to try. It doesn't mean that I'll tolerate harassment, but that doesn't seem to be the situation here.

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I agree that we should respect religious boundaries, Quid, but in this specific situation, the pastor seems to want to stay friends with Jabbrwokk and has not attacked or harassed him.

 

I already said that I realize that some people have been recently hurt and need time and space away from religion. However, I think that staying in the attitude of "I'm never going to trust any Christian again" is counterproductive. My deconversion came with a divorce, the loss of probably 90% of my friends, and a denunciation from my former best friend. And that just fuels my belief even more that I shouldn't be the one being judgmental toward others, but should reach out to them as long as they're willing to try. It doesn't mean that I'll tolerate harassment, but that doesn't seem to be the situation here.

 

I understand you are appealing to Jabberwokk's situation, but you are also making a general statement. It is that general statement I take issue with. I myself, on my way out, almost fasted myself to death (literally I was close to death) trying to get a clearer picture of "God's Will" because the Monarchist cult I am an ex-member of wanted me and my parents to move overseas. My own parents let me do that and waited for me to breakdown and I almost died, and my deconversion from a sect so extreme that it was condemned by the official National Catholic Council of Bishops in Brazil in 1985 as a cult of pesonality resulted in the loss of all friendships made before a certain date, and the loss of my parents and access to my brothers and sisters, who are still affiliated with the group which group is actually very, very, dangerous to their physical safety in multiple ways. Even after all of that, I hope one day to have friendship with Christians in Real Life who are capable of a true friendship despite my disbelief. In fact I can see no particular reason I would not date a Christian woman, if she was capable of such a thing. But like I said, you are making a general statement, and that general statement, while certainly partially true, is a severe disservice to victims on this board because it is intellectually dishonest and tries to pan off their distrust as just as bigoted as the X-tians, when it clearly is NOT the result of indoctrination but the result of trauma instead.

 

 

I've seen so many complaints on here about how Christians don't respect us, don't really listen to us, reject us outright for our beliefs... and now people are advocating behaving in the same way? I understand that some people have been recently hurt and need time and space away from a religious environment... but what's the point of leaving religion if we're not going to be any better than that? If we're going to be judgmental and close-minded toward people because of their beliefs? I thought that was what we were moving away from.

 

What I bold-ed (which you said) is a seriously intellectually dishonest statement (given the general context of this discussion) and a grave injustice to people on this board other than you or me who have been severely traumatized by X-tianity, and I am not talking of the extremist sect variety like I was in that somehow managed to get the official condemnation of the RCC itself. Some of the people here are close-minded due to trauma and not because of the Christians' beliefs. Who are you to blame the victim when they haven't dealt with their trauma? Like, you would have a partial point too if you told a rape victim (who was a woman) "You can't avoid men forever, you will just descend into prejudice and bigotry against them", but what you have done here is essentially equate the victim with the victimizer, somehow claiming that because some Atheists will never be willing to trust Christians that they are "just as bigoted" or some such thing. That is so patently offensive it is absurd.

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That sounds horribly cynical, I know. But really, I think I will keep the lines of communication open here so I at least have someone on the old team to talk or even argue with.

 

Am I nuts? Or is free lunch worth it?

 

 

Go for it, who knows, you might even make a genuine friend; he sounds fairly open minded.

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What I bold-ed (which you said) is a seriously intellectually dishonest statement (given the general context of this discussion) and a grave injustice to people on this board other than you or me who have been severely traumatized by X-tianity, and I am not talking of the extremist sect variety like I was in that somehow managed to get the official condemnation of the RCC itself. Some of the people here are close-minded due to trauma and not because of the Christians' beliefs. Who are you to blame the victim when they haven't dealt with their trauma? Like, you would have a partial point too if you told a rape victim (who was a woman) "You can't avoid men forever, you will just descend into prejudice and bigotry against them", but what you have done here is essentially equate the victim with the victimizer, somehow claiming that because some Atheists will never be willing to trust Christians that they are "just as bigoted" or some such thing. That is so patently offensive it is absurd.

 

More than one person has said that you CAN'T trust Christians. If they need to still deal with their trauma, that's fine. But I think that it's wrong that they should encourage other people to be equally untrusting. So I was trying to respond in the context of the OP's problem and the advice given to him. If we're going to be actively encouraging distrust and judgmental behavior toward Christians, then I think that we are just as bigoted. That's completely different than saying "I had an experience that makes it so that I can't be open with Christians right now".

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What I bold-ed (which you said) is a seriously intellectually dishonest statement (given the general context of this discussion) and a grave injustice to people on this board other than you or me who have been severely traumatized by X-tianity, and I am not talking of the extremist sect variety like I was in that somehow managed to get the official condemnation of the RCC itself. Some of the people here are close-minded due to trauma and not because of the Christians' beliefs. Who are you to blame the victim when they haven't dealt with their trauma? Like, you would have a partial point too if you told a rape victim (who was a woman) "You can't avoid men forever, you will just descend into prejudice and bigotry against them", but what you have done here is essentially equate the victim with the victimizer, somehow claiming that because some Atheists will never be willing to trust Christians that they are "just as bigoted" or some such thing. That is so patently offensive it is absurd.

 

More than one person has said that you CAN'T trust Christians. If they need to still deal with their trauma, that's fine. But I think that it's wrong that they should encourage other people to be equally untrusting. So I was trying to respond in the context of the OP's problem and the advice given to him. If we're going to be actively encouraging distrust and judgmental behavior toward Christians, then I think that we are just as bigoted. That's completely different than saying "I had an experience that makes it so that I can't be open with Christians right now".

 

Right... And more than likely the reason that's been stated is because they have been traumatized by people they should have been able to count on; there's a deeper reason at operation there. You have every right to think that people are "just as bigoted" after experiencing severe trauma, but you are wrong for the reasons I have stated, and you are offensive to the point of absurdity. Why did I point this out? It's not because I agree with the idea that we should encourage distrust and judgmental behavior, as I do not. As I have stated, what you have said is partially true. The reason I pointed this out is because victims are victims and they don't need to be told they are "just as bigoted", thus absurdly equating serious trauma by X-tians to the aftereffect of that serious trauma which takes hard work to heal and efforts. How do I know? I put in the hard effort myself to heal, and guess who helped me heal from my trauma and gave me cognitive behavioral therapy? That's right, Christians, and Protestant Evangelicals too at that. In fact I de-converted from Catholicism (the monarchist sect was Catholic), to Deism, Agnosticism, and finally Atheism (Atheistic Agnostic to be technical), while going through therapy and they knew about it, and they didn't bat an eye but respected my right to do so. So I know what I am talking about here.

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I'm glad that you feel that your anecdotal experience means that you know what you're talking about.

 

Look, there are places, including threads in this site, where people who have been victimized are encouraged to have their feelings validated. But this is an advice thread for someone who isn't going through that situation.

 

Anyway, I feel that this is a derailment of the thread topic and that we are not going to agree about this. I think we should drop it or move it in order to be helpful to the OP.

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I'm glad that you feel that your anecdotal experience means that you know what you're talking about.

 

Look, there are places, including threads in this site, where people who have been victimized are encouraged to have their feelings validated. But this is an advice thread for someone who isn't going through that situation.

 

Anyway, I feel that this is a derailment of the thread topic and that we are not going to agree about this. I think we should drop it or move it in order to be helpful to the OP.

 

Obviously you don't comprehend very well; I "know" what I am talking about in the sense that I experienced things and it's not just an intellctual reality for me, so I "know" in the experience sense. I am not using that as an argument trying to validate what I am saying on a logical level. For instance, you can know many technical things about how a particular sailboat works, but if you don't actually own the sailboat and haven't operated it yet, in a sense you can be said to "not know what you are talking about" because you would merely be speaking from book knowledge.

 

But yeah, sure, let's drop it. No sweat, but it's obvious to me your reading comprehension needs some work. I am glad you feel you know what you are talking about when it comes to analyzing what I said.

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Jabbrwokk, I'd say to just do whatever you feel comfortable with. If you're good friends with your pastor and you're sure that he cares about you the person (not just you the extra warm body and wallet at church), and you're comfortable with the conversation topics and feel that you can hold your own against him, then I see no reason to say that you should avoid going out to lunch with him. Who knows, maybe you can be an eye opener for him, and get some free meals in the process. I'm not encouraging doing it, but I wouldn't discourage it either. It's your call.

 

After my church attendance dropped, our current pastor did invite me a couple times to go out for coffee. Of course, I suspect (pretty much know) that he intended to bring up spiritual matters. He seems to be a nice enough guy, but I don't like coffee and don't really want to discuss religion with him in a public setting where just whoever happens to be sitting nearby can eavesdrop on the conversation. If it had been the previous pastor, whom I know better, then I may not have been as quick to avoid the situation, although I still probably would have tried to avoid getting into such a discussion in a public setting.

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We both obviously had experiences where we were hurt by Christians and by ones we trusted, unless you think that going through a divorce is no big deal, so I "know" from experience too. And the outcome of my experience, my conclusions, were different from yours. (And I assume that when you made the analogy of a woman who'd been raped, you were just talking out your ass, so I'm one up on that one from you). So you might want to consider that you are not the only person in the world who's gone through traumatic experiences before you start acting like you're the only one who can make valid conclusions from experience.

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