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I Am Meeting With A Pastor From The Local Ag Church Tomorrow...


Johnny Smith
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Fellow ex-christian friends -

 

I will not go into my entire de-conversion story at this time. However, it has been quite a ride. In my life, I have been involved in the following movements to some extent:

 

Christian Science

Religious Science

Pentecostal Christianity

Mormonism

Evangelical Christianity

Islam

 

I was raised in Christian Science and Religious Science up until the age of 10. I converted to Mormonism at 14, and had a "come to Jesus" movement in my late teenage years which propelled me into the study of ministry and the world of evangelical Christianity. During my fundamentalist Christian journey I have embarked upon a study of world religion, and was very attracted to Islam most recently.

 

I am now tired of religion. I am not tired of the acadmeic study of it, but the practice of it has worn me out. I am still technically a member of a local evangelical (Assembly of God) church in the area. I have not been for several months. For the past two weeks, the assistant pastor has been calling me weekly to check up on me. In his messages, he states that he is concerned about me and has been praying for me. He also had recruited me several months ago to attend a conference at a large evangelical mega-church in Southern California in August. I had accepted, but have been avoiding coming right out and telling him about my de-conversion experience. I realized today that I need to stop avoiding this situation.

 

I called him, and will be meeting with him tomorrow afternoon.

 

Here are the facts:

 

I no longer believe in Hell.

I no longer believe that Jesus is "the only way" to Heaven.

I no longer believe that Heaven is a real place that is filled with gold streets, angels, and saints of old.

I have become much more liberal in my politics than the conservative evangelicals which attend this church.

I am convinced that sexuality is far more complex than the religious person makes it out to be.

I do not want to go back to playing the Christian game.

 

So - I am seeking advice. Have any of you had similar experienced where you know that you need to let your religious authorities know about your "heresies," and yet it has been very difficult to do so?

 

The only other experience I had of this nature is when I left the Mormon church at 18 years old. That was very easy for me to do, because my escape was to the "real Jesus" in fundementalist Christianity. I was convinced that Mormonism was of the devil and not a representation of true Christianity. That was my out.

 

My reasons for leaving THIS system are far different.

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

 

I am leaving work early tomorrow to meet with this Pastor at 3 p.m.

 

He has no idea what is coming, and as far as he is convinced, I'll come back to his office, cry over my "backslidden" state, and agree to proceed with going to this conference in August.

 

Help.

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And, you're meeting with him why? Looks to me like a brief letter would suffice:

 

Dear Pastor:

 

I no longer believe in Hell.

I no longer believe that Jesus is "the only way" to Heaven.

I no longer believe that Heaven is a real place that is filled with gold streets, angels, and saints of old.

I have become much more liberal in my politics than the conservative evangelicals which attend this church.

I am convinced that sexuality is far more complex than the religious person makes it out to be.

I do not want to go back to playing the Christian game.

 

Do not ever call me again.

 

Sincerely, Johnny Smith

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I would not have even met with him.

 

Ah yes. Great minds think alike.

 

Seriously though - what possible gain could be had from meeting with an AG pastor?

 

All he'll do is read you scriptures about hell and lay hands on you while he babbles in tongues.

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Yeah, I met with my old pastor several times, AND had social contact with him occasionally at the restaurant I worked at at the time of my deconversion.

 

It was emotional. It was embittering. But I had to do it because we had a very old friendship and for me it was the only way to "come clean."

 

But it sounds like you're not really tight with this guy. So, I would NOT meet with him, but call him, tell him you're an apostate, you do not believe that Jesus is God, nor do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and top it off with "I do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead."

 

That should do it. If he knows his bible, he'll cease associating with you immediately and also counsel those in the congregation to do likewise.

 

Sorry for the blunt advice. Just my opinion. But who needs some guy calling you all the time, spouting off one inane True Believin' cliche after another.

 

Blech. Time to cut bait.

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Well, I think you know that I think you shouldn't have made a meeting with him, but now that you have, I guess we're going to have to deal. ;)

 

What the others have said about treating it like a business meeting is pretty sound advice, if you ask me. I don't know the Pentecostal mindset very well, so I am not sure what you should say to him... telling lies isn't a bad thing in this kind of case. Especially if you think he might harass you for a while after this trying to convince to come back to the fold.

 

Let us know how it goes!

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Here are a few more details...

 

About a year ago, I became involved in a Christian missionary organization. Though I did not quit my well-paying job in a position I have worked very hard to attain, my priorities began to shift in the direction of Christian ministry. I began sending out "support letters" and managed to raise a lot of money so that I could proceed in this venture. Some of you who know me through my posts might be surprised to hear this (just as you might be surprised to know how deeply I had considered Islam subsequent to this experience). Nevertheless, about six months into this fantasy-land adventure back into world conquest of the needy world with the "love" of Jesus," I came to my senses. I realized that I was far more anxious, depressed, stressed, tired, and unhappy than I had been when I was church-less (though I hadn't yet come to the firm conclusion of becoming jesus-less).

 

I was attending this AG church at the time. Some of the people in this church actually served as catalysts to snap me out of my world mission endeavor. I had gone from the type of Christian in my early twenties that worked on stage with Benny Hinn to a far more conservative evangelical that shunned television preachers, the money they made, and journeyed down the road of "self-sacrifice." The missions organization I joined stressed that "the devil" would tempt me with riches and success in order to get me from joining them full time. I began to see this mentality of "sacrifice" to be just as dangerous as the "gospel of prosperity" to which I had previously subscribed. The Pastor of this AG church I attended helped me see that I was operating in a very dysfunctional manner by jumping from the "propserity pushers" to the way of the "woe is me, I am a self-sacrificing, humble, needy Christian willing to die for Jesus." I was about to quit a lucrative position with the company for which I have worked for five years in order to help "snatch the lost and dying world" (particularly the dalits of India) from an eternity of vicious hellfire.

 

So I suppose there is a certain amount of thanks that I have for this Pastor and his church. This church, though AG, did not advertise themselves as such. In fact, upon the founding of the church they debated about affiliation, as the Pastor has said from the pulpit that he does not like to be associated as a pentecostal. It was at this church that I reconciled some of my past "supernatural" experiences as being nothing more than hype and emotion. It was at this church that I heard the Pastor preach on racial reconciliation from the pulpit (he even quoted Gandhi), and where my politics turned form hard core conservative to much more progressive. It was at this church where, for the first time in my religious journey, I was not pressured into doing anything because of my "gift." When the Pastor invited me to this conference, it was after I had attended a class on "recovery." He asked me if I was interested. I said yes. I could have said no at that time, and should have.

 

With all that said, the Pastor's of this church are still evangelical to the bone as far as doctrine is concerned. However, they have taken the "seeker-friendly" route that a lot of evangelical churches have taken.

 

So - I appreciate the advice given (and will welcome more). However, I have decided that I will meet with the Pastor. I will not fall into the subservient role I have fallen into with spiritual "leaders" in the past. I will tell him that I am having trouble reconciling basic Christian doctrine, and that I am on my way out of institutional spirituality. I will hand him his check for the airfare to the conference, and politely and in a business-like manner excuse myself from that obligation.

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I agree with sending him a letter if you say all this to him you are going to have to answer alot of questions and have a long debate with him. but I guess you can always say you got to get ready for work bye....when you get tired of the discussion. If you don't want to lie clean house that's work lol

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Hm.

 

I don't think I'd meet with him, either. Mainly because AoG/Pentecostal preachers are fucking scary, and I wouldn't trust the tactics he might try to use on you to get you to stay.

 

If you do go, I'd take about 6 of your biggest, burliest friends for moral support...

 

But I'd probably write a letter too, really. Outlining pretty much everything you've explained in both of your posts - both your sense of gratitude, and your going apostate. Just whatever you feel you need to say.

 

Because my spider sense is telling me that it isn't going to be as simple as just walking in there, saying "Hey, I enjoyed my time here but I'm apostate and don't believe now" and him saying "Oh! Well, that's a bummer, have a nice life!"

 

AoG's don't work that way.

 

Good luck in any case.

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And, you're meeting with him why? Looks to me like a brief letter would suffice:

 

Dear Pastor:

 

I no longer believe in Hell.

I no longer believe that Jesus is "the only way" to Heaven.

I no longer believe that Heaven is a real place that is filled with gold streets, angels, and saints of old.

I have become much more liberal in my politics than the conservative evangelicals which attend this church.

I am convinced that sexuality is far more complex than the religious person makes it out to be.

I do not want to go back to playing the Christian game.

 

Do not ever call me again.

 

Sincerely, Johnny Smith

 

Pretty much sums it up. There's no reason to walk into a cult leader's office - there's no telling how he'll flip on you or what terror tactics he'll try.

 

As an ex-Catholic, I can't see my priest calling on me to check in on me. That's just fucking creepy. Talk about not knowing how to mind your own business.

 

Like Mythra said, a letter, and perhaps a one or two line lecture about respecting people's privacy like a big boy. Not that it'll magically impress him or anything, but at least you'll say your peace.

 

And if you must meet the dope, just say to him what you said to us. Make it short and sweet, and then go to leave. He'll probably launch into a spiel, but that's when you get all New-Jerseyan on him and turn around, hold up the Hand and tell him you didn't ask to hear his opinions but just came to deliver your own.

 

If he's polite about it, then all's well. But if he starts to get whiny or preachy, just give him the hand and tell him where he's standing. There's no need to be polite to a jerkoff cult leader. And if you feel the need, bring big friends. Strength in numbers, after all.

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I personally wouldn't meet with him at all, and I certainly wouldn't return any of his phone calls. I like the letter approach. You can always change your phone number if he keeps calling you. It's worth paying a bit extra to be unlisted.

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And don't forget to mention that you will call the police if he keeps harassing you by constantly calling. That ought to go down well :)

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I would not bare my sould to him.

 

I would tell him something like:

 

"I really appreciate your concern, but right now, I feel I need to take time off to think things through. I feel that having no contact with you or other church members would help me figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my life.

 

"I know how much you guys care about me, and I appreciate that. However, at this point in my life, I feel I most do it on my own. I most reach my own conclusions and take responsibility for my actions.

 

"I really don't want to go into detail about what my issues are. As I said, I need some space. Thank you for your concern."

 

------

 

Have you, Johnny, ever heard the expression "media training?" You know, when the president goes to a press conference, he gets media trained by his public relations people. He is told to "stay on message" and to not be swayed by the journalists questions.

 

So, you need to stay on message. No matter what he says, you respond the same thing rephrased slingthly differently every time, and keep on repeating the same stuff.

 

Whatever you do, do not give him any details, 'cause all he wants is to convince you to stay with them. He does not want to listen to you.

 

Good luck!

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After reading your follow up, I amend my advice. IMO meeting is okay since you did have a positive relationship/friendship w/ him. He wasn't just "The Figurehead Leader" of the congregation for you.

 

At the same time, he's a True Believer and you are not. These people need to know where you're coming from as bluntly as possible. Best of luck dude. Let us know how it goes.

 

Be prepared for fireworks. :yellow:

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Guest revpo

INTERESTING, Your in for harassment for a while, I can't stand those individuals, but never run into any fundies like that. I think they are the one's who send out the gals on Saturday's to seduce you to their church.

 

They don't come here anymore, told them I was a Buddhist, they departed a few years ago, I must be marked on the good book stay away.

 

Anyhow welcome, and enjoy

 

revpo

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I caved.

 

I went in with the greatest of intentions. I did not plan on putting on the Christian cloak, but I did.

 

... and I felt terrible afterwards.

 

When he met me in the reception area of the church, I extended my hand. I wanted to keep our encounter as professional as possible. He grabbed me and forced me into a big hug.

 

As we entered his office, he said, "so what's been going on?"

 

I began by telling him that I have been questioning my faith, and thus did not want to be in contact with any religious people. I informed him that I had been avoiding his calls because I did not want to think about anything spiritual. That was the truth.

 

He replied that the "wilderness season" I have been in has been allowed by God. He said that it has been a time of refining my character, and a time that God has allowed so that I would realize how desperately I need Him. He knows my past involvement with Mormonism and other religious movements, and said that he believes that I have relied so heavily on people speaking for God in my life, that I have discounted the voice of God speaking to me individually.

 

I replied that I was not sure I considered myself a Christian any longer. He replied, "If you were not a Christian, you would not be in this office." He stressed that I needed a "time of refreshing." He encouraged me to listen to "praise and worship" music and said that I just needed to spend some quality "alone time" with the "Lord."

 

I began to tell him about some of my concerns with my past involvement with fanatic Christian practices like speaking in tongues, exorcism, divine healing, and other "supernatural" experiences. He replied that much of modern charismatic Christianity uses these things as a side show circus, but that I should not close myself off to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit due to these experiences. He stated that it was a matter of balance that needed to be achieved.

 

He said that he had observed that I am a solitary individual, and that all the time I have spent "thinking" on these things has given the "devil" an opportunity to bring confusion into my mind. He also said, "part of your problem is that you are perceived by others as much older than you are." He began to talk about how impressive it is for me at my age to hold the type of position I hold in the work force.

 

He concluded by stating that he was very much looking forward to the trip to the conference in August. The conference is in Southern California, which is where I experienced some of my most traumatic spiritual abuse. He said that we might rent a car and drive by the church I attended where this abuse occurred. He said it might help to bring closure.

 

I wrote him a check for the airfare, and left the office.

 

I caved. I almost did not reply to this thread because I felt ashamed at my weakness.

 

... but maybe just replying to this thread and being honest about my encounter is my first step toward truly living an honest life.

 

JS

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Hey, Johnny Smith! I know from experience like yours that it is very hard to shake off relationships that once were meaningful, when they began from a shared ideology. It's very hard to say "no" when someone pressures you to give your fading beliefs another chance. My suspicion is that you'll go to the conference and it'll be nice on many levels, but it will offer no real answer to any of the problems you've seen in christianity. The Assemblies in particular are skilled at glossing over anything that the mind perceives as a problem. The AG doesn't like people to use their minds in a serious way. So go to the conference but give yourself the permission to call bullshit for what it is and to say, fuck that! if something just isn't adding up.

 

Peace, bro.

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It's understandable. At least you're honest. Pretty hard to make a tough stand against a pastor, who's whole life is religion. They believe so strongly (or at least that's the front they put up), that it's easy to get confused and get sucked back in when you are around them. That's one reason that many of us here questioned your meeting with him.

 

Don't just fall back into religion because it's the path of least resistance. Investigate. Think. Reason. Study. Form your own opinions about God, spirituality, and the soul based on the best evidence and the highest probabilities of something being correct.

 

As long as you do that, you'll be fine.

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Johnny,

 

I am sorry the meeting went that way. He must have made you feel really bad. Given that he knows your history, he has a lot of tools to get to you emotionally. That is exactly why you need to avoid him at all cost, in the same way an alcoholic needs to stay away from the pub. The guy knows how to touch your bottons.

 

As for the trip, I know you already paid, but you don't have to go. Just imagine how horrible it is going to be like being there and gather strength to write him a good-bye letter.

 

You may not see it right now, but he is manipulating you to the point of being abusive. He knows you are vulnerable. Stay away from him like the pest. Find a good non-christian psychologist and get some help. There is a reason why you keep on finding yourself in these abusive situations. Find out why.

 

Be well, Johnny.

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That paster sounds like an expert con artist. He knows what he is doing. It sounds to me like talking to him is going to take a huge emotional toll on you. I would avoid him entirely if I were you.

 

What helps keep it in perspective is to remember that even if Jesus were real, the hell doctrine is the most evil, unethical, immoral religious doctrine (okay, aside from the Islam version of hell, which is apparently much worse than the Christian one).

 

Why worship a tyrant who likes to torture people forever and ever and ever and ever and ever, just for not being a member of his religion? Why worship someone who is that depraved? It's like worshipping Hitler or Osama bin Laden out of fear that you'll be tortured if you don't.

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I replied that I was not sure I considered myself a Christian any longer. He replied, "If you were not a Christian, you would not be in this office."

 

Johnny.....this guy just DISMISSED your individuality, your logic, your knowledge, and your understanding with this sentence. He dismissed everything you've learned, and did not listen to YOU at all.

 

I would not travel to a place of prior abuse with this asshole in the car as your "pillar of support".

 

He calls it "closure", I call it continuing the mind rape.

 

You want to visit that place, go with a friend who supports and loves you for who you are now. Not someone who sees you as a project to be molded and shaped into something he thinks is acceptable.

 

This church gave you a check? You wrote them a check. Seems like you are even to me. Change your phone number, or be serious about screening your calls. NO CALLBACKS, or picking up when he calls you. Remember a ringing phone, no matter how insistant manufacturers make the ring...is a REQUEST for conversation. Not an obligation.

 

Stay away from this toxic jerk.

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That paster sounds like an expert con artist. He knows what he is doing. It sounds to me like talking to him is going to take a huge emotional toll on you. I would avoid him entirely if I were you.

 

Lorena & Amethyst are absolutely right, Johnny. It's this guy's job to keep you in the fold, and you have been in a mentally and emotionally vulnerable state for a long time.

 

And the pastor may not even be consciously aware of it, but he played you like a Stradivarius. Interesting that the meeting ended up with you writing him a check... :scratch:

 

Anyway, don't keep playing his game, and don't feel bad about caving - it's a wakeup call. Remember this episode next time he wants to meet and get more $$$ out of you.

 

Hang in there! :woohoo:

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Maybe you can call him, tell him "No way, I'm cancelling the check" and just back away from all of this. This pastor is a pro, and he knows how to manipulate your struggle.

 

But I'm sure you know what to do. Keep us posted.

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