Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wayward And Down

The problem with being a pastor for too long is you start to view people as sheep.

No wait. Perhaps I'm viewing this all wrong. Maybe I should be flattered. Yes, that's it. I should be flattered. After all, my pastor now considers my loss of faith important enough to merit special attention.

Not special attention to the extent that he would want to listen to me, mind you, or give serious consideration to my reasons for leaving Christianity. But being willing to manipulate me behind the scenes? Well, hell yeah! Which is why he offered my husband guidance, during a private meeting last week, in stealth-counseling me back toward a reconversion.

I...wait, no. Just let that sink in. Let yourself feel the full impact of all the wrong in that statement.

It seems I need to clarify with people that I'm in no way surprised by the reconversion effort itself. That's just standard evangelical practice. I get that. Hell, I expect that. I am, however, surprised at the creepy underhanded tactics, because it seems so uncharacteristic of this pastor. I'm equally surprised that he thought my husband would actually take him up on the offer. My husband, for whatever reason, seems to view me as an independent human being with the ability to think and I'm a person. He seems to think that coercing me back into the faith wouldn't be very respectful. Pfft, I say. Doesn't he know that it's men that God designed with a need for respect? Women need love, and that love is best expressed in stern spiritual guidance from Them That Have Penises.

You've gotta love the overweening confidence of a pastor who, while unable to give me satisfactory answers back when I was grasping about for any reason to keep believing, is somehow certain that he'll magically win me back now that I'm comfortably godless. Also, let's ignore the assumption that the only possible way I could have left the faith is through ignorance of what the Bible teaches. Even my husband laughed at that one. "I may be the one they ordained, but you know the Bible a helluva lot better than I do."

I expected better of this pastor. For the past eight years, he's been like family, and throughout my deconversion---even though I grew to disagree with him, and became uncomfortable with his growing emphasis on authority---I continued to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I'd never seen him use his authority to bully people around. He seemed content to let people make their own decisions, and he'd always treated me with kindness and at least an outward show of respect. Because of that, I was naive enough to think he actually respected me.

Oh well. Ain't the first time I've been wrong.

"If your wife isn't on board with you 100%, it's going to hold you back in ministry."* And the sad thing is, he's right. Most of the fundie faithful won't give you any credibility if you can't convince your own spouse of the truth of the Gospel. After all, if God were really working in your life, there'd be no room for doubt. It's a big reason why, as my faith began to falter, I kept my damn mouth shut. Not because anybody asked me to---I knew that my husband would defend me if it ever came down to it---but because I didn't want him to catch any flack. It's not right, but it's how the evangelical church operates.

That's the thing, though: before this, I'd never known this pastor to keep himself bound to "that's just the way things are". He's always had this "fight the system" attitude to things he saw as flawed, especially within the church. He's gone against his denomination to ordain women. He's put his neck on the line for people---my husband being one---because he believes in them. And he's always treated me like a person in my own right, rather than some doe-eyed accessory to my husband's career in ministry. So it's that much more of a shame to see him behave this way now.

Even as we grew apart in our beliefs, my husband and I were determined to support each other in the searches and choices we were making. Of course this would all be easier if I could make myself believe again, but I can't, and furthermore, I don't want to, so we make it work. We're very careful with each other, because each of us values the other person more than we value any ideological stance. And then this asshole, this self-styled apostle** who presumes to speak for God, feels qualified to come around and dismiss it all as not enough. The only thing that will be enough, apparently, is my total mindless compliance. At any cost, apparently, even at the cost of the love and respect within the relationship. If he's going to play Mephistopheles in this dirty Faustian bargain, then I feel pretty comfortable with writing him off completely.

I don't care who I married, I'm nobody's fucking pawn, and I object to being written out of the equation of my own life. But then, why am I surprised? That's You Suck Christianity all over again, isn't it? You've died, and it's Christ living in you. You have no thoughts, feelings or desires of your own. You have laid down your rights. You were bought at a price.

You are a sheep---a fluffy, brainless animal with a numbered tag on your ear. And they claim you in the name of Jesus.

*To be fair, my husband insists that this statement, though spoken in the same private meeting, was not connected in any way with the reconversion offer; however, I can't imagine that the offer would have even been extended if this pastor didn't seem to view hubby as some sort of protege. It's hard not to view the whole encounter as: "Your wife has become a liability. But I can help fix that."

**Yes, he's upgraded himself from "Pastor" to "Apostle". I'm not even going to try to explain this one. Google "New Apostolic Reformation" if you want to get a taste of the crazy. But don't say I didn't warn you.

**Note: This post has been flagged for italics abuse. The author of this post shall be forced to walk all day at a diagonal slant.**


Michael Mock said...

Wow. That completely sucks... I count a half dozen thing - at least - in the pastor's approach that should have sent up "Maybe I shouldn't be doing this" flags.

Kudos to your husband, though.

(And I suppose I ought to introduce myself: Hi. I'm Michael Mock. I wandered over from either Accidental Historian or Forever In Hell - I forget which - and enjoyed what I read enough to stop back by on occasion. Hope you don't mind comments from a relative stranger.)

Michael Mock said...

D'oh! I've commented here before. Feel free to skip the parenthetical introduction, then...

Geds said...

I've gotten the impression before that you've got yourself one o' them good husbands. It's good to see that the evidence for that keeps piling up.

Sadly, it doesn't really surprise me to learn that the pastor you once had a lot of respect for is getting crazier. I've noticed that pattern with a lot of people from my former life. There are many times I find myself asking, "Are they getting crazier or did I just not notice it before?"

Evangelical Christianity can be bad for sanity, especially for those who see themselves as the ones in charge of and responsible for their flock...

Hugo said...

Interesting story, oh and I love your T-Rex from the more recent post too ;)

Your comment really made me laugh because as I finish reading this sentence:

"it doesn't really surprise me to learn that the pastor you once had a lot of respect for is getting crazier",

I was thinking, well he is probably not getting crazier, he always was... so you can imagine how loud I laughed when I read a few words later:

"Are they getting crazier or did I just not notice it before?"


Laura said...

Wow, I so identify with the pastor thing. When I left, my parent's pastor called me up and didn't give a hoot about the whys of it, either. Just lectured me right out of the church! :)

I say that to say, I feel for you.

The Woeful Budgie said...

Late to my own blog. Isn't that just like me?

@Geds, Hugo
Yeah, I'm really not sure. I keep going back and forth on that, but I think what I'm coming around to is: yes, he was always this crazy, but I was that crazy, too. I began stepping back at about the same time he began shifting to a different flavor of crazy, so perhaps that's what got me to notice.

But for a long time, that was my normal. (And as an aside, I'm amazed how quickly atheism has become my new normal, and how alien and twisted all this stuff from my old life looks now. Of course, that doesn't really prove anything except how adaptable humans are.)

Thanks for stopping by! Your comment here was timely...that day, my husband was scheduled to meet with said pastor again for the first time since the reconversion offer, and I was feeling pretty tense. So it helped to hear from someone who had been there (and then some).

At least this pastor actually saw fit to talk to you, instead of mediating through some male "authority". Then again, I'd really rather not talk to that ass anyway, so perhaps I'm better off.