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I Wrote My Former Pastor On Facebook Tonight...


BendyLine
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I haven't seen the man in years, and I doubt he'll bat an eye at what I wrote. Fuck it, it was more for me than for him anyway.

 

Heya. You probably don't remember me, but when I was a teenager (in the mid-late 90's) I went to a church where you were one of several pastors in West Columbia, Texas. We lived in the same neighborhood for a while, even. Again you may or may not remember, but among other things, I had pretty severe glaucoma. During that time, I probably had about 15 to 20 surgeries on my eyes an ears. It was rough, but I sincerely believed that God would heal me, and even if he didn't, he'd give me the strength to get through all of it. Even so, it was not an easy thing to go through, especially for a teenager.

 

Anyway, one time you (and your wife, if I remember correctly) came over to my house to pray for me. I was touched. But later, I found out you had told my dad that it was his lack of faith that caused my medical problems. Now, if there's anyone in my family who has sincere faith, it's my father. He tends to hold things in, but like they say, still waters run deep. Anyway, the point is that comment crushed me.

 

So now, I'm 31 years old. I gradually let go of Christianity throughout my 20's, and have not called myself one for about five years now. The point of my relaying this to you is this: your comment was one of the killing blows to my faith. I can't say it was the only factor, but it's the earliest thing I can think of that started to turn me off to the church. And when people ask me why I left the church, your hurtful, judgmental comment is usually the first thing I tell them about.

 

I could tell you that my faith was sincere when I was younger, and the loss of it was a long and painful experience, but I doubt you'd believe me, so I won't bother trying to convince you. Amazingly enough, my dad is still as devout as he always was. Whatever the case, I'm now happily religion free. While I've lost a good portion of my vision to glaucoma, I've learned to live in spite of it instead of wringing my hands in guilt, trying to figure out why God hasn't bothered to heal me yet. I haven't ruled out coming back to Christianity entirely, but as the days go by and I experience the church from the outside looking in, it seems more and more unlikely. (Most Christians don't see it, but you guys can be pretty terrible to us heathens.)

 

I don't know why I wrote you this. It's probably more of a closure thing for me as I cut away the last few clinging bits of my former religion, but maybe you'll learn something from it. Whatever the case, good luck with your future endeavors.

 

Sincerely,

 

(me)

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You wrote it!

 

Excellent. It must be good to think about him reading it, and now knowing that he knows. I wonder what he'll think of the fact that you keep telling other people about your deconversion. Christians don't tend to like that kind of press.

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Don't expect a rational reply from them because you won't get it. If you get anything it will be some tripe such as 'sorry to see you so bitter' or 'we'll pray for you' or something other garbage. I'd done a similar thing decades ago while I was still a believer in which I stated 3 or 4 facts concerning why we left the church. I got back an insipid 'sorry to see you so angry and bitter but I'll pray for you' and nothing else. They're in their fantasy bubble and you can't puncture it. But as you said, it was for closure so it's good you did it anyway.

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The fact that the pastor disrespected your dad means you should have come out and said fuck you. What a jerk to say his lack og faith caused your medical issues.

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God on you! Your father deserved to be defended, and these irrational pricks need to,stop blaming people because the answers they are so confident in don't work. Of course, that would mean engaging with reality and starting a new career.

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Bravo!!!! clap.gif

 

I found out you had told my dad that it was his lack of faith that caused my medical problems.

...your comment was one of the killing blows to my faith. ...And when people ask me why I left the church, your hurtful, judgmental comment is usually the first thing I tell them about.

 

BL, your letter is amazing. Your tone is so respectful and your intent is to help him learn from his mistakes (not to cause him to derail). Your letter is profound!

 

Sometimes I have this awful gnawing fear that I have caused irreparable harm to others in my fundy days. I hope that if I received an email like this that I'd have the grace to apologize.

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may he rot in the hell that doesn't exist......let's build one for him.

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I love it. It inspires me to send out a few of those myself. I unfortunately have lost contact with a lot of the people who need them though. Who knows, maybe they've already seen the Ex-light!

 

I love how you basically told the guy that he deserved a big "Eff-off," and that he kind of inadvertently showed you the truth about himself and his religion.

 

Has he responded?

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Thanks for the kudos, everyone. smile.png This was a big step for me. I feel like i defeated a lot of my personal demons with that letter.

 

I really don't expect to hear back from the guy, but if I do I'll keep you all posted. If he does reply, I could always send him this:

 

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Well, he replied. And it appears I may have been mistaken all these years. Or he could be covering his ass. I'm debating what to write back to the guy. Whatever the case, this experience has given me a lot of closure.

 

Also, I wasn't aware of the divorce. I actually took piano lessons from his wife for a short time, I never would have guessed that they would have split up.

 

Hey (me),

I do remember you, and your family.

Certainly, there is a lot of stuff here that is troubling, but mostly, I am sorry about where you are with the Lord right now. I am sorry for the trouble you have experienced physically, but that is nothing compared to a loss of relationship with the Lord.

I would feel terrible about being the "source" of the "blow to your faith" if I thought there was any possible way that I actually accused your dad of a lack of faith. That is not something I believe -- it is not in my theology to believe that to say it to someone who is struggling -- and it is certainly not in my heart to accuse someone like that. In fact, I have taught throughout my ministry that saying something like that is stupid and should never be done. So, it's incomprehensible for me . . . but let's just assume you are right and in a stupid moment I had a brain freeze and did say it -- or I said something about trusting God and having faith that was interpreted that way. I would be more than happy to trace your dad down and apologize to him in whatever way is necessary, and of course to you and your family. Let me know what I can do.

On the larger picture, you are right about how hurtful Christians can be. You may or may not know that I went through a divorce a few years ago, and I discovered firsthand that things we say (thinking we are encouraging strong marriages, thinking that we are 'standing for the truth', etc.) feels like a knife stuck in your gut when you are already in pain and feel the shame of something as reprehensible as a pastor getting divorced. So I know what you are talking about -- and I have no doubt that I made more than my fair share of mistakes, saying things I thought were encouraging someone to stand strong, but actually being less than sensitive. I get it.

Thanks for writing. I'm sure you are not interested in my response, but if you want to push back, feel free. I will say, that in all my heartache and the mess I went through (losing my kids for the most part) the Lord never left me or let me down. I still enjoy His presence every day and I'm gonna be praying that you will eventually come back to Him. Church is not so much the issue as what you do with Him. Thanks for listening.

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Well, he replied. And it appears I may have been mistaken all these years. Or he could be covering his ass. I'm debating what to write back to the guy. Whatever the case, this experience has given me a lot of closure.

 

Also, I wasn't aware of the divorce. I actually took piano lessons from his wife for a short time, I never would have guessed that they would have split up.

 

I respect that he responded, and I'm happy that it gave you closure :)

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Wow, what a response. I thought he was very honest and kind, which is commendable. He too has tasted brokenness and loss. He certainly has not had an easy time and yet he still reaches out and seeks forgiveness.I can't help but like the guy and respect his journey.

 

I hope you have closure and peace, friend!

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I really like the response he gave you. He sounds like a nice guy willing to admit fault and make amends however he can.

And I loved your letter. It is great to see how two people can communicate in a cordial manner. It is Just nice to see.

I wish you the best.

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Wow, the response is a real surprise, and in a good way. He seems a reasonable man. I'm glad the response has brought you some closure.

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Most successful pastors that I've known (mostly in big city megachurches) have been really great guys who face a lot of the same challenges that we do. They are gracious, intelligent, and humble. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

 

The more manipulative pastors tend to hop from church to church, getting ousted when the shit hits the fan (some also get ousted as a result of teaching what they are convinced is true, rather than teaching accepted tradition).

 

I wonder if more of us might benefit from opening up to former pastors.

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I wasn't expecting that response from him. I wish I knew more pastors like him. Most pastors I know would write a long sermon as a response to you, but, he chose to share his own painful experience to show his own fallibility.

 

My own father was an ordained baptist pastor who has been married three times(that I know of); he fathered many children out of wedlock; he abandoned his children from his first marriage( all the 4 kids he had with my mom). Believe me, I am not proud of his actions. He still claims that he had to do these things to survive. I think that your former pastor has more character than a lot of pastors that I know , including my own father.

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Yeah, I'll agree... his response caught me off guard. He really was classy. I also appreciated the fact that while he did express worry over the fact that I was no longer a Christian (which is understandable from his point of view), he didn't try to cram scripture down my throat.

 

Anyway, here's the reply I sent to him:

 

First off, thanks for replying. I appreciate you taking the time to write me back.

 

Secondly, my condolences on your divorce. No, I was not aware, and am actually a bit surprised. I imagine the backlash was rough... people can hold you pastors to some pretty lofty standards (yours truly included). I hope things are better for you now; I can't imagine losing my children (as I don't have any), but it must really be difficult, and I sympathize.

 

Thank you for your kind words. It sounds like I accused you unfairly, and for that I apologize. I am glad I wrote the note though, because it has given me a lot of closure. So no hard feelings from me. If you want to hunt down my dad (he's on Facebook) I'm sure he'd appreciate it, but I'll leave that up to you. I don't mind either way.

 

As for my faith, well, my parting with Christianity was a long process, and there were many factors involved (although if I had to choose the biggest one, a couple of years when I struggled with being lonely and feeling no comfort from God or Christianity when I was in my early 20's was probably the biggest push). I was pretty bitter against the church in the early days, but as I've matured a bit, I feel that basing a major worldview change on a series of petty grudges is probably a foolish way to think. In the meantime, I do have some philosophical/theological issues with the Christian portrayal of God. I won't burden you with those, because I don't believe in "unsolicited debate" or pushing my beliefs onto people who will likely disagree with me. However, if you would like to discuss them, I would be more than willing to (and would probably enjoy it). Or if you'd ever like to get together if I'm ever in your part of Texas (you are still there, right?) and you'd like to have a theological conversation over a cold beer (or soda, if you don't drink) I'd enjoy that too. In the mean time, good luck with your future endeavors.

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Yeah, I'll agree... his response caught me off guard. He really was classy. I also appreciated the fact that while he did express worry over the fact that I was no longer a Christian (which is understandable from his point of view), he didn't try to cram scripture down my throat.

 

Anyway, here's the reply I sent to him:

 

First off, thanks for replying. I appreciate you taking the time to write me back.

 

Secondly, my condolences on your divorce. No, I was not aware, and am actually a bit surprised. I imagine the backlash was rough... people can hold you pastors to some pretty lofty standards (yours truly included). I hope things are better for you now; I can't imagine losing my children (as I don't have any), but it must really be difficult, and I sympathize.

 

Thank you for your kind words. It sounds like I accused you unfairly, and for that I apologize. I am glad I wrote the note though, because it has given me a lot of closure. So no hard feelings from me. If you want to hunt down my dad (he's on Facebook) I'm sure he'd appreciate it, but I'll leave that up to you. I don't mind either way.

 

As for my faith, well, my parting with Christianity was a long process, and there were many factors involved (although if I had to choose the biggest one, a couple of years when I struggled with being lonely and feeling no comfort from God or Christianity when I was in my early 20's was probably the biggest push). I was pretty bitter against the church in the early days, but as I've matured a bit, I feel that basing a major worldview change on a series of petty grudges is probably a foolish way to think. In the meantime, I do have some philosophical/theological issues with the Christian portrayal of God. I won't burden you with those, because I don't believe in "unsolicited debate" or pushing my beliefs onto people who will likely disagree with me. However, if you would like to discuss them, I would be more than willing to (and would probably enjoy it). Or if you'd ever like to get together if I'm ever in your part of Texas (you are still there, right?) and you'd like to have a theological conversation over a cold beer (or soda, if you don't drink) I'd enjoy that too. In the mean time, good luck with your future endeavors.

I so want to do this with two former pastors of mine that I really looked up to, but was too scared to open my mouth about my abusive parents to. I think if they knew, they might have helped me. Instead I sat there and let my dad rant and rave all my imperfections to these people and feel shame. This has been a great lesson to learn from and I am going to seriously consider this.
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Wow, Bendy, this is quite a story. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

 

Just think if everyone who's left religion sent a note to their ex-pastors like this. How many ministers are sitting on the fence or nearing it, not knowing how to get out. What if a bunch of us just reached out and let them know that we got out of the pool and the air is fine out here?

 

I've wondered about some of the preachers we had at our church when I was growing up. I've tried looking a couple of them up but haven't had any luck.

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