By - Jerdubyas
What was the final straw?
During my lowest point (my marriage was falling apart) when I needed support the most, my leadership and some of my closest friends turned on me.
I ended up leaving everything and it has taken almost 10 years to actually work up the nerve to talk about it again.
Well, sometimes you’re too far in to realize what’s happening until something slaps you awake. Several times I thought that I was done, but the desire to try and make things right and maybe change the narrative drove me. I eventually realized I was fighting a lost cause but yes it took my own personal tragedy, unfortunately.
I can’t speak for you personally, but there’s usually a lot of fear involved as well. “If I leave and I’m wrong then I’m damned.” That was probably a lot of it for me. That and I had this idea of “helping the world” so engrained in my brain that I didn’t know where else to go. Still don’t, but I left a couple years ago.
Exactly. The fear of "what am I going to do, I have nowhere to go" is real. Starting over is scary af.
Yep. Two years later I’m still there. Work-wise I’m doing software development, but it lacks the “meaning” that ministry felt like it had, and I feel pretty aimless now.
So you’ll be sure not to profit from your book, right?
Not really anticipating a profit but why wouldn’t I? I’m not asking for money from people so I can serve their community and then spending it on a yacht. I’m not a non-profit writer nor am I in the ministry. I don’t work for the church and I’m not here to spread prosperity gospel.
Sounds like one of the most consistent things I’ve seen in church.
“You should be open and vulnerable with your fellow Christians”
\*is open and vulnerable\*
“Woah wait you’re not perfect like us? Wow okay”
That's awful. I'm so sorry that happened to you. You didn't deserve that.
Did your job effect your marriage?
Yeah, it's safe to say it impacted my marriage, family, kids, everything.
Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I swear while the original idea of Christianity is nice and all, people have made it to political. I’m glad you’re still following your religion, just in a different way though
Thoughts on Roe being overturned?
I believe in the separation of church and state. Regardless of my views on abortion, the recent ruling is garbage and could be called tyranny. I’m pro-choice but I also think we need better programs for mothers who feel like they need to make that choice. This is another issue with the church. If they truly were doing what they are supposed to be doing, and not spending all of that tithe on larger buildings, salaries, and cool equipment, we could have many many more programs for the homeless, healthcare, and even options and assistance for women who find themselves in difficult situations.
What if Joel Osteen took those millions and used them for good? He’s just one of many pastors who hoard funds.
Yes! If we all collectively got on board we could have an America where no child ever goes hungry or homeless. Now that would be something.
Children. Homeless. Widows. Orphans. Those were the ones Jesus taught us to take care of. He directly confronted money changers and the religious elite.
I loved in Texas for awhile and my boyfriend and his family went to Osteen's Church. One of the biggest fights we ever had was because I refused to go. I told him "If he was truly a man of God and believed what he taught he would not have a 10 million dollar house, a yacht, a private jet. He doesn't have to live penniless (though, that would be most Christ like) but he would use that money to help care, provide and transform the folks in need around him. He is a false Prophet and I will not set foot in his Church."
I truly respect you separating Church from state. Thank you.
Hope you were able to recover from the Osteen campers. I know quite a few of them as well.
Osteen promotes 'prosperity gospel.' From what I know about it, it's basically greed and pursuit of material wealth justified as 'god's blessings.'
That’s pretty much what it is. Prosperity gospel is a cancer in the Christian church.
If you believe in the separation what’s your thoughts on taxing the church?
I believe if a church isn’t going to contribute X amount of their funds to community outreach, homeless, etc, they should be taxed. The larger churches should be taxed in a similar fashion. Smaller churches, under a specific threshold would be exempt.
Many small churches barely make it by and taxing would close them up. As long as they’re not pushing politics from the pulpit, I’d leave them alone.
Tax credits or some sort of regulation needs to happen especially with larger churches and ESPECIALLY with mega-churches. They want to put their hands into the lives of everyone else, Uncle Sam should have his hands in their business.
It sounds like you have a nuanced view of abortion, but maybe you can shed some light on the way someone who feels more extreme would feel?
My question is this: if it isn't considered "abortion" to remove a dead child from the womb, how do you know if a child is dead before they develop a heartbeat?
It comes from a very real belief that abortion is murder. Those who are pro-life (majority of them) genuinely believe a baby is alive once the heart is beating. So, if you put yourself into that mindset, that’s where they’re coming from. It’s bolstered from the pulpit, in a vacuum, where they can only believe what they are being preached and are programmed that science and those who are pro-choice are just heartless and more concerned with living without consequences.
They even believe that as horrible as rape is, murder is worse. So you can see the cycle there.
I hope that helps explain it. It’s very real for them, very much brainwashing and fear. The more people retaliate and lash out in anger the more it emboldened them and proves their point. “It’s spiritual warfare.”
This makes total sense, I guess I was just wondering if an embryo (something that didn't yet have a heartbeat) implanted somewhere it couldn't possibly survive would be considered alive. I was told that removing a fetus without a heartbeat was "not abortion," and was surprised because of how extremist the person who told me this was
I just listened to Sam Harris talk with David French on his Making Sense Podcast just yesterday.
That listen and this AMA makes me somewhat hopeful about our country. I admire your courage to take the steps you’ve taken.
We’re from opposite ends politically but I see a lot of common ground.
All the best to you on your journey
Will you consider donating a portion of the proceeds of the book toward an organization that helps those harmed by clergy?
That’s actually a really great idea. Yes I would consider that. Absolutely.
Is Joel Osteen the devil?
I’m pretty sure he’s one of Satans best weapons, haha.
Do you still hold onto your beliefs or has your experiences shifted your views?
My core beliefs have remained. I’ll never attend another church, though. I also have many doubts about the Bible. I’d say I follow the teachings of Jesus but I also think there’s more out there.
Is there a denomination that’s closest to your current views?
Not that I've found, no. I honestly haven't really looked in years, but it would most likely be something non-denominational with its roots in the Nicene Creed.
> Nicene Creed.
The one that ends with this?
> I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
My guess is that's just he way the Catholic church taught it to me.
I'm reformed and agnostic now, but I like to visit the Unitarian Church. It would totally be worth checking out if there's one nearby.
I'm in a similar mindset. I'm still faithful to Christ, but American churches have been feeling like poorly disguised political gatherings.
Its difficult to talk about the Bible at times too, because I believe some of it has merely been adapted from Jewish fables, exaggerated for greater effect, or used to make it seem like God approves of the author's personal view. Many Christians refuse to admit the Bible could be abused by corrupted men, and many Atheists are quick to accuse the whole thing as being corrupt.
I hope you find greater clarity and determination to write your book in a way that readers will find comforting, or at least in a way that doesn't make them feel like their beliefs are being threatened.
Lecrae said “I love Jesus but I’m not churchy” and it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that this is where I stand also. I’d love to find a church similar to what you’re looking for. But when the entire second testament is calling Gods people to love like Jesus did, but churches have proven to be some of the most hateful and judgmental organizations, I just can’t justify associating with them.
Do you have any hopes of it actually changing anything at this point or it is more cathartic?
I really want to help change things. Honestly I still have my faith, I just think the church in America has become something so far from Jesus’ teachings that you can’t even call it Christianity. It’s very consumer driven. The music. Lights. Programs. Teaching styles. They have marketing and fund-raising down to an art. It’s gross.
So I’d like to hope that I change something. I also believe this will be good therapy even if it’s never published.
It’s not just Baptist churches it’s an entire movement across multiple denominations. The desire to appeal to the lost by using music and lights and gimmicky things to attract people. It’s an absolute giant movement.
UK atheist here, with no axe to grind; I don't like Christian music, *but*... If the church doesn't try to adapt its approach to draw in younger people, won't it just become "elderly people dying off with a slowly emptying church playing 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful'?"
I don't agree with indoctrination of children, but I also don't think that the church should be preserved in aspic and not have a modern approach to reaching out to people who are likely to be or become believers.
I'll be booted out of the Atheists Guild for speaking up for the church - we have badges and socials and everything... Seriously, though, church 'works' for some people and shouldn't be shackled to a point in fairly recent history at the risk of being seen to be 'current'.
It *should* be shackled when it comes to forcing its minority opinions on people of other faiths (or of no faith), obviously.
I understand your point, and I agree that it would need to adapt at some levels. What we are talking about, though, is a complete shift away from core beliefs and practices in favor of money, growth, and a desire to "be all things to all people." Sure, change with the times, use better seating in favor of hard pews. Maybe ditch the red or green carpet. Use some guitars instead of a large pipe organ.
Apologies. Having taken a few minutes to look at what are euphemistically called "churches" now in America. Wow.
You're not saying that churches can't stay up-to-date, it's more the case that they shouldn't resemble a rock concert in a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned arena with a sound system which wouldn't be out of place at a gig at Wembley Arena.
How did the church in America lose its way and become so crass and - in the religious sense if nothing else - "soulless" and essentially godless? *That's* not religion - sitting in what is essentially a LazyBoy easy chair whilst others in your religion are probably struggling to make ends meet?
At least most of the churches in the UK are modest, I suppose.* There seems to be something concerning pride and greed in some of the US churches I have seen online - and even to someone like me, the irony clangs like a bell.
* Even though the Church of England is one of the largest landowners in the UK, admittedly.
I mean was this not always the churches way of working? Look at any historical Catholic Church. Stained glass was the laser light show of their time. Shiny things to get people interested seems as old as the religion itself.
You’re right especially with the Catholic Church. The American Evangelical movement has taken it to an extreme, though, and in the process have lost their way.
Agreed, check out “Jesus and John Wayne” it’s a fantastic work of research about how the evangelical movement got to where it is today. Also “The rise and fall of Mars Hill” is an really interesting view into the modern church as it entered the digital age, as well as that church specifically. It has a lot of insight from people who were involved and how they psychologically got swept up into movements and specific charismatic leaders.
Maybe my friend you should start your own brick and mortar church. Christianity need more like you to lead true believers and those who have lost faith because of the morally bankrupt and corrupt false prophets. It would be a bright day If we could look to Christianity and see the the teachings of Jesus in their words and actions once again and not the stain of politics.
Well, I learned at the end there that I'm no "lead pastor" type. I hate public speaking, lol. I love organizing, leading, and teaching. I don't really want any authority, nor do I have the desire to walk down that path again. I'm not wired for it.
You sound like Moses. He became a great leader.
Colleges started to be shitty money grabs after they started hiring marketing and management professionals in the 90s. #Love of money is the root of all evil!
Would I be correct in stating that a majority of corruption has to do with catering to those who donated the most money (contrary to what's said in the bible/James)?
That’s a big one. In many organizations you’re taught how to raise money because it is a non-profit after all. However, there are some who get wined and dined by the big “givers” and many times these givers can set the tone for the church. Including who is hired into the clergy.
So just like college football
Hahaha! Yea, and thanks for the chuckle.
And at that moment the "donation" becomes a bribe.
Did you officially leave? And if so, since you left, what has been the biggest hurdle and the biggest help in day to day life?
I did leave and told them to take my license and shove it. The biggest hurdle was starting my career over and learning how to translate my experience in the church into something usable in the “secular” world. It only took a year, though, and I’m so much better off now. 100%
Glad to hear you were able to bounce back.
Mad respect for you.
1) What are some examples of corruption that you’ve been seeing?
2) What do you think I’d driving Christians towards Trumpism?
3) What do you think could help Christians be less… Qanony?
1. Infidelity in the church. Tax evasion. Laundering. To name a few.
2. Those are fanatics. Mostly far right types. I think a lot of those who voted for Trump believed he would do good and just couldn’t stomach Hillary. The rest are rabid far-right types who honestly want Christianity to run the government. If that makes sense.
3. I have no clue but I honestly never ran across many of those types. They’re out there but most Christian’s in my circles think they’re as nuts as everyone else does.
What percentage of the pastors are in the preaching occupation for the purpose of profit rather then for the Christian faith in of itself.
I think most join for the right reasons and then over time they see the power and money that some have and they want it. There’s a gross movement of essentially how to start and grow a large church and that has ruined so many people. They have it down to percentages. You can have x amount of people in your church if you do these 3 things. That sort of thing. The “grow a large church” mantra of recent years has ruined a lot of people.
Ugh I saw so much of that shit when we were church planting. It always made me uneasy
What are your thoughts on the "prosperity gospel"?
It's total bs and I've always thought that. If you look at the original reason for tithe, it was to help the community of believers. The10% was a way to make sure everyone contributed to the community so they could eat and survive. That 10% was usually food and goods of that sort. Prosperity gospel warps this into "if you give me money God will bless you back" It's a total farce.
One answer and then silence for 5 hours? Is OP sleeping?
Yes, fell asleep :).
I promise I'm not being smug when I ask you this, but how has uncovering all that affected your faith?
I was drinking the cool aide for a long time. I knew about it, never felt right, but it all hit me after I left. It was a giant weight that I felt lift off of me. My hope is that I can maybe help some who are in the same boat.
At first I left my faith behind but I could ever truly become atheist. I still have my faith but it doesn’t involve a church at any level.
I recently went through an epiphany of my own. I too felt that same giant weight lifted off of me....at 41. I am, by no means, nowhere near as educated as you are on the subject, but I've been around long enough to know when something doesn't feel right, and it doesn't feel right anymore. I think I may be a little closer to considering myself am @-word, than you are, but I will not totally disregard the possibility of a higher power. I just think it may not have all happened how we were told.
My advice, for what it's worth, is to keep digging. Question everything and find your answers. Trust your gut and always look at every opinion through the lens of "is this someone's agenda" then qualify what they're saying with evidence, fact check, etc. I never, ever, take one person's opinion on anything. Hope that helps.
I do that already...lol. But I appreciate the advice. The only person I let influence me is me....and my wife of course...lol.
What do you or those who shared your faith think of those fellows in Europe who believed in, for example, Catholic and Orthodox?
There are some who argue Catholicism is not Christian. Most Christians are ok with all types of Christianity and are very much “live and let live.” It’s the small percentage of crazies that ruin it. Also, my issue was never with the church members but with its leadership and the power of those at the top.
There’s a saying in pastoral circles. “The church would be a great place if it wasn’t for the people.” I’d argue the church would be exactly what it’s supposed to be if it wasn’t for the pastors.
What do you think of Orthodox then? I like Russian culture a bit so learned a bit of it and they seems even more different with you guys than Catholics and recently the Pope had chastised the Patriach of Orthodox of Russia(not sure if I got the title correct) for support Putin.
Also can you generally tell me what are some basic titles of those who work for the church? I admit I don’t know much, I barely even know the word “pastor”.(English not first language)
In my experience most titles are the same, maybe they hold different levels of authority, but generally speaking you have the same titles in every church.
Priest (not used in evangelical churches)
Many churches will add to the pastor title. So, music? You're the "Worship Pastor" if you run the youth program, you're the "Youth Pastor." Etc.
Pastor simply means Shepard and is used in positions of leadership where you are directly responsible for a ministry.
Do you believe the Bible is the word of god? If so, why?
This is one that I still struggle with and it’s hard to answer simply, there is a lot to unpack so I’ll try.
I believe that the gospels are true. I have a lot of questions about the validity of many books in the OT. I think most of them are based on a truth, some are historically accurate, but I have questions for sure. Many of which I’ll never have answers too.
The church will tell you in order to be a Christian it’s all or nothing. You believe the Bible is THE final authority and you must believe it all, but that’s nuts. Many denominations and theologians argue context and meanings out of the OT all the time. For example there are many different beliefs around how the earth was created. So it’s ok to have different views on creation, for example, but not homosexuality. That type of thing.
So yes, I stick to the New Testament and I believe that Jesus was alive and did miraculous things but I realize that we are talking about a centuries old book. I’m still struggling with my own beliefs around this one, especially around the God of Israel and if, maybe, he’s just one of many. Maybe, they’re all messengers? I don’t know, it’s an area I still struggle with.
Why do you believe Jesus did miraculous things?
That’s just my faith. It’s the faith part that I understand we can’t prove. If you really dig into the history and apologetics of the gospels and Jesus specially, you’ll find some really compelling evidence but, of course, nothing solid. Faith has to be part of it, I also understand how crazy it sounds, haha.
“Just my faith” means you believe it. Why do you believe it?
I have dug into the history. I have a degree in Biblical Literature from a very well respected evangelical university.
Why do you believe the Bible stories about Jesus doing miracles are true, rather than just stories?
Well, in my heart I’ve felt it’s true. I was big into apologetics and, while rusty, I remember coming across some very compelling evidence that added to the validity of those stories. I think my own personal feelings, along with what I found in my studies, formed or solidified my belief.
It sounds like your issue isn’t Christianity, it’s the American evangelical church. I was there once. I was in leadership at an evangelical church and left for a traditional Christian group 3 years ago (Eastern Orthodoxy), and the difference is night an day. No more worry about “Is the creation story literal?” or garbage from leaders about packing the pews or preachers spewing right wing politics from the pulpit. My faith is as strong as ever, and I finally feel like I’m a part of the church as it ought to be. I’m not deluded enough to think its perfect, but it’s certainly a 180° from where I was. You should check into it once you work through some of the trauma you’ve dealt with.
I'm currently studying theology and my church is funding it. I do not plan to stay in the church for long because of stuff like this. What would your advice be for me? (I'm not in America)
Yes, follow your heart. If you believe in Jesus’ teachings I would stay as close to that as possible. Don’t settle for money and do not trust the “get successful quick” formula that many will preach. Stay humble and know that you will never be rich, and it’s going to suck, but it’s not about your comfort. The moment it becomes about how YOU become successful and noticed, hang it up.
Do you think religion should be institutionalised?
Religion, no, crazies who use religion as a vehicle to control others? Yes. Also, tax the churches over a certain size and regulate any religious institution that preaches politics or hate from the pulpit.
Do you think Adam had a belly button since God created him?
Asking the real questions here. Let’s go with no?
I was on the path to become a pastor in a charismatic world (I went to Ted Haggard's New Life Church) and I lost my faith about 10 years ago. I know you still have faith and I don't begrudge you that. Appreciate you speaking out your views; I know how difficult it can be to do so when you risk losing *everything*. Please let us know the name of the book so I can read it when it comes out.
My two questions:
1. How are you doing? Are you able to make a steady income, if you don't mind me asking? I worry about former clergy a lot.
2. Do you think that the church actually changed around 2016 or was it always on the trajectory it ended up in? I left in 2012 and even though I was cynical about the church and politics I was still surprised.
Thanks for asking.
1. I'm doing great, actually, very well. During my time in clergy, I would work in the tech field to offset my income. I ended up going back into IT and it has worked out very well for me.
2. I think sometime after Brownsville, if you know about that, is where things started to change. Then, we saw a movement in "progressive" churches like Hillsong, who, everyone wanted to mirror. The downfall started with the teaching of "how to become a big church pastor" and valuing that rock star mentality over the humble teachings of Jesus. This is something I want to focus on in my book, actually, because I believe it's cause for quite a lot of issues currently being seen and felt in the (evangelical) church.
Have you ever watched the show The Righteous Gemstones? I know it’s fiction, but I feel like there must be some truth to how these mega churches operate.
Also- why do you think so many religious people were against the Covid vaccine… when vaccines have been around for a long time.
edit: a typo
I have watched that, yes, and it’s hilarious. It’s also scary how close to the truth that show is. Really close.
I think most of the anti-vaccine crowd had a genuine fear. A lot (most) of evangelical Christian’s or conservatives, are taught to fight against the government invading their freedom and privacy (funny right?). That’s where the hysteria comes from. It’s generations of teaching and culture that set that tone.
Thanks for answering. We’re you able to see the humour in the show? Or was it like- too close to reality. (Although decidedly it gets pretty violent)
And I agree with the sort of fear mongering regarding the vaccine. I was just surprised the churches didn’t take the “we must help the less fortunate” approach. I mean… I shouldn’t be surprised.
Oh I think the show is hilarious. I watched a few episodes but haven’t finished a season or anything like that.
Did you ever work with pastors, members of the clergy, etc., that were having affairs, and if so, did they ever try to justify it?
Yes, it's rampant. Once they were caught, no, they did not try to justify it. It happens a lot, though, and has brought down quite a few churches and families. Most of this is due to the power of the position, like it or not, it draws attention from people. Too much trust given to pastors and clergy to "do the right thing." Lots of hours spent in churches and offices alone, with the opposite sex. Those are the most common culprits.
What are your thoughts on how a lot of scholars believe the OT was written in the 500s BC and fabricated as propaganda to strengthen the state of Israel after returning from Babylonian exile?
I left the church for many of the same reasons as you. I was on the same path. Wound up working for a big mega church/Christian music industry giant, Passion. Saw way too much.
After leaving, I tried to hang onto my faith for a while. Then one day I was listening to The Bible Project podcast and they mentioned the above in passing, but didn’t say much about it. I wound up looking into it more and I was never able to get past it. If it was written as state propaganda, then how can I believe any of it?
Edit: Also have you read Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Du Mez? It’s a great book that traces out the origins of the Evangelicalisms ties to conservative politics and how things got to where they are
My thoughts have always been the same and what really sealed it was during my graduate studies. No one can agree on a single truth in the OT. What I mean by no one is no one group. It’s all “theology” and you can’t really trust much of it. Like the example I used of creationism. There are many forms and theories on that one subject alone.
Could it have been propaganda? Yes it could. Was much of it a sort of guide to help people live the only way they understood? Yes. Was a lot of it wrong? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth in there but how can we say it’s absolute truth?
That’s pretty much where I am at this point. Definitely some wisdom to be found in there, but personally, I don’t think I can *believe* it, if that makes sense
Did you ever work with child molesters?
In my specific circle, we ran pretty exhaustive background checks, and a whole slew of interviews in an attempt to filter as much out as possible. It's not perfect, but we tried. I never personally dealt with or experienced finding child molesters in the church or leadership...thankfully. I did counsel families and victims, but never a child molester. I wouldn't have anyway. In any counseling session I would refer out to professionals in that field when needed.
The stories of pedophiles in leadership and the cover-ups are not a surprise, though. The church in general, in every denomination, will cover their ass if it means protecting the image and "integrity" of the name.
So, for those of us who are sick and tired of christian churches dictating the lives of everyone - what in your opinion, is their most vulnerable point? I know women who were intending to protest outside worship services yesterday but I’m thinking there has got to be something more effective. And to be clear - I am NOT asking or condoning violence or anything outside the law, which ironically churches seem to be, outside the law I mean.
I think the best tool is to use their own words and teachings against them. Meaning, no violence, use patience, and show up in numbers. Hand out info with well documented facts and get someone who knows their doctrine/beliefs to help write it up. Information is always good, if used the right way.
Never use violence or anger (as angry as you are) because that's just fuel for their cause. Be more like Jesus than they are. It will burn them up and those who are watching will notice, those are the ones who will advocate for change in their own circles. There are many, many, Christians who believe what is happening is wrong but they're outnumbered (or they feel like they are) and are afraid of being outcasts or losing their community.
Hope that helps.
Sorry to ask another question, but do you struggle with bitterness over it?
I left the church at 30. I spent my whole 20s doing ministry work, and now it all feels like it was such a waste. I gave my 20s to the church. I could have been following other dreams. Now it feels too late.
At first, I was extremely bitter and angry. Now, I'm still angry, but it's mostly at the abuse taking place within the church. The over-reach of the church, etc. So, I'm angry, but it's because I know how much crap is taking place and I'd love for it all to be exposed.
I truly believe that the further the church moves away from the gospel, the more people will leave. There's a sort of grass-roots movement happening where small community gatherings are happening. Instead of large congregations with rules, boards, and pastors, they are gathering and having a study, singing some songs maybe, and just living the best way they can.
When do you think you will be finished with your book?
I honestly don’t know. My biggest hurdle is figuring out how to approach this and what direction I want it to go. I want it to be short and focused. It could easily go down a rabbit hole.
This Q&A might be a perfect leaping off point about what people want to know. Put in a couple chapters introducing yourself, credentials and then chapters about what people would or should understand about what is happening!
That’s a good idea! Some of this is a way to gauge interest for me. I have a few topics outlined but struggle with how to deliver it as a complete package. I’m seeing a lot of the same questions and concerns here that I’ve seen in other places or in conversations with friends.
Loving Jesus, Leaving Church
The problems with modern christianity in America
CORRUPTION?? IN THE CHURCH??
Next you're going to tell me that we can't trust politicians or police either right?
Reading this comes at a weird time. My fiancée left as soon as Covid let up. We were both rooted leaders in our church. She has kept at it, but I found it shook my newly growing faith to the point I don’t even go to church any longer. I still believe that Jesus lived and died for our sins as a people, but I find myself seeing a disparity between what Jesus is to have said and what Paul’s interpretations of it are.
It bothers me that much of our dogma comes from Paul, and I could be wrong, but it seems way more came from him than actually came from Jesus. It’s causing a bit of a disconnect within me in regards to taking the Bible at face value.
I never got down with tithing, even though the ex did. It’s hard to do when you see church “leaders” who don’t have what I would call a “real” job and they live in luxury homes, drive luxury cars and think they have a handle on the message of Jesus.
Your AMA is coming at a fun time and it is a good read so far.
Find your truth, man. Paul was one of my favorites, but I can totally understand and appreciate where you're coming from. I think, possibly, you're picking up on a lot of leaders in the church who "think" they are Paul. There is so much of that, but they miss the part where he was a martyr and lived like a hermit, basically, while helping bring together communities that were organized and had what they needed.
Keep digging and keep your head up.
It took me a while to reconcile the whole “Prophecy” of Jesus coming from David when Joseph’s lineage was cited. Finding out Mary also descended from David cleared that up.
I’ve seen a LOT of “Christian” churches slamming Catholicism. I personally feel this is Protestant nonsense and rewriting history. If not for the Catholic Church, we would not have our current New Testament. So, since it’s an AMA, let me ask you. Do you feel the early councils left out gospels because their messages went counter to what the church thought would benefit them?
That's a fairly large conversation, but I would urge you to research when and how the early Catholic church was started. I believe before it was "sanctioned" by the state as the "religion" of the state, it was called the Universal Church. I'm not slamming the Catholic church, but they are definitely not doing it right, either.
As far as canon, there is a theory out there and a good explanation of why we have the books we have. I'd have to dig back into it, but if memory serves me it has to do with language types, period of time, and degrees of separation in eyewitness accounts, etc. Those that all matched close enough together were kept. I know the Catholic church has other books, but honestly who knows?
Believers of any religion are just that, believers. They don't need fact; the very nature of faith is to believe something without factual evidence. I think, at some level, we need to be ok with that. If you want to get into absolute moral right and wrong, that's a long discussion and some would point humanities general moral compass back to a creator type. I understand as well that there is science which can point to humanities ability to understand, collectively, moral right and wrong.
You can't factually prove that god is real or fake. We can't prove or disprove it and that's ok.
What’s your opinion on the supreme court siding with the “praying football coach”?
I tend to see things black and white, maybe too much so, but I think there should be absolute separation of church and state and at every level.
If he's a teacher, therefore a government employee, it shouldn't be allowed. If it is allowed, all students/teachers should be allowed to pray and at the same time. This is the issue, though, if you let one you have to let them all pray, and this is a public school...not a private religious school.
I disagree with the court on this, much like I disagree with the insane things coming from Justice Thomas lately.
Did they agree with you leaving the church? Did the kids/wife understand/supported you during your struggles? Or do they now, if they r adults?
Well, I ended up divorced. My kids were too young to really understand what was happening. The church WAS my life, including my marriage. Once the church was out of the equation, everything fell apart. Looking back, as painful as it was, it was for the best.
Do you still practice Christianity?
If you mean do I attend a church? No and I probably never will again. If you are asking about my faith, yes I still have my faith but it’s not going to fit into any one denominational bucket.
What do you think about how many pastors retire with no savings into poverty and sometimes without housing?
What do you think can be done to better protect Pastor's Kids from the glaring eye of the church (and basically being raised like child stars - which always turns out so well)?
I'll admit to being a PK. What do you think of my idea that a pastor's family should go to a different church than the one that the Pastor works at?
I think it’s tragic. The large denomination that I was apart of did a decent job of taking care of retired pastors but not enough. I could point to several instances of bad decisions and, again, misuse of money which could have made a big difference in the lives of those who dedicated themselves to the church for so long.
Unfortunately, I don’t think you can. As long as pastors are put on a pedestal, their kids will be there with them. There has to be some fundamental change in how the church views leadership and pastors.
That would probably cause more issues. The root of the issue is with how the pastor is viewed by the congregation.
Why do religious people (mainly christians/catholics from my experience) follow some rules and not others, but still shame people for not following the rules that they do, even though they’re still going against what the bible says?
A well-used example is christians who believe that being gay is a sin and will protest against gay people but will still cut their hair, eat meat and cheese together, drink alcohol, etc. even though the bible allegedly states that they are all sins
Because most of those “sins” are from OT times and were, according to the gospels, no longer necessary once Jesus arrived. He essentially established a new covenant with the people so the blood sacrifice and all of those other OT rules no longer applied. I’m over simplifying here but that’s the just of it. Jesus mentions that we should stay away from sexual immorality but he does not call out homosexuality. His reference was to marriage, as in, you should stay with one person. That’s my interpretation obviously. Many of the teachings and scripture should be read within the context of the time and things that were taking place. A lot of people skip right over that.
Many Christians will use what they want, even scripture, out of context in order to try and make a point or prove they are right. It’s confusing because most people wouldn’t know if the scripture they’re using is correct or not. If they start that crap just throw “let be without sin cast the first stone” and watch them fumble around.
What made you want to become a pastor? Was it just a click in your head one day?
I was raised around it and had a lot of pressure to be a leader. I genuinely wanted to help people and I originally started in music, I was pretty talented, and that opened up doors. From there, the first 5 years or so I was brainwashed and really thought I would be the next big thing. Then, around the time my first kid was born I realized things were really screwed up and I left. A few years later I jumped in again with the hopes of making things better, being a real advocate for change, I tried for 10 years before I crashed.
Do you still love God even if the church wasn't that great? There are a ton of very corrupt churches and idk about your situation but that doesn't say anything about God. I pray you'll still be able to love Jesus.
I still follow the teachings of Jesus, although, the experience I had in the church has caused me to raise a lot of internal questions. I believe the issue has always been with those who would use religion for power, and that's the case with the church in America. It's not a church thing, it's a man (woman) seeking power thing.
Yeah I agree with you mostly. Many people use the news of Jesus and twist it for profit. That doesn't make Jesus bad though.
What do you think is the solution? It feels like the church has been so deeply polluted with corruption it can’t possibly be cleaned…
I think enough people have to step up and start speaking out. That and a massive exodus away from those churches. The power (much like in government) is with the people. Truly.
How does Jesus college work? Do you have to find the angels of the cross? I’m genuinely curious
A lot of it is the study of Christian theology. Greek. Hebrew. History and apologetics. There are different branches of study you can take based on preference but that’s the just of it.
What is your faith like now?
I'd say it's good. Not as strong as it once was, but I'm not even sure what that means. For me, I have my faith and I'm ok with it. One day, maybe in the distant future, I might start looking for another community to join but I'm just not ready for that.
Will you be making a post when you publish it? Sounds like an interesting read.
Most likely, yes. Although I'm not sure when that might be.
Have you read “Caught in the Pulpit”…you might find it interesting too.
I have not, but I'll give it a look!
How do you feel about love-bombing practices, (and other similar cult behaviour in the church) when recruiting minors into the faith?
I think any emotional tool used to manipulate or persuade someone into a community is wrong. Minors or adults. I’ve seen that practice in action and always hated it. Especially when there is a kid who doesn’t fit in, once that initial attention wears off it can have some pretty negative results.
Agreed, once I got out I saw it as predatory and potentially brain washing. My pastor even gave us coffee cards to take out potential members to make them feel “welcome” before bringing them to youth group. I didn’t know this was a thing before I became a member (the same thing was done to me). I’m happy you’re out.
How are you staying safe from people who want to kill you to prevent this information from getting out?
I live in a van. Only pay with cash. Use burner phones and wear convincing disguises when out among the public.
please consider intermittently publishing so we have some of the truth in case you disappear inexplicably
I notice that you have posted, but only answered one question. Were you also perhaps posting to see what type of interest and questions people might have as possible book ideas?
I fell asleep :)
Are you still a christian?
If by Christian, you mean do I follow (or try) to follow the teachings of Christ? Yeah, I think so.
Table of Questions and Answers. Original answer linked - Please upvote the original questions and answers.
Question | Answer | Link
What was the final straw?|During my lowest point (my marriage was falling apart) when I needed support the most, my leadership and some of my closest friends turned on me. I ended up leaving everything and it has taken almost 10 years to actually work up the nerve to talk about it again.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idw1hx2/)
Is Joel Osteen the devil?|I’m pretty sure he’s one of Satans best weapons, haha.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idw794k/)
One answer and then silence for 5 hours? Is OP sleeping?|Yes, fell asleep :).|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwtm5t/)
Will you consider donating a portion of the proceeds of the book toward an organization that helps those harmed by clergy?|That’s actually a really great idea. Yes I would consider that. Absolutely.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwipfv/)
Would I be correct in stating that a majority of corruption has to do with catering to those who donated the most money (contrary to what's said in the bible/James)?|That’s a big one. In many organizations you’re taught how to raise money because it is a non-profit after all. However, there are some who get wined and dined by the big “givers” and many times these givers can set the tone for the church. Including who is hired into the clergy.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwofav/)
Thoughts on Roe being overturned?|I believe in the separation of church and state. Regardless of my views on abortion, the recent ruling is garbage and could be called tyranny. I’m pro-choice but I also think we need better programs for mothers who feel like they need to make that choice. This is another issue with the church. If they truly were doing what they are supposed to be doing, and not spending all of that tithe on larger buildings, salaries, and cool equipment, we could have many many more programs for the homeless, healthcare, and even options and assistance for women who find themselves in difficult situations. What if Joel Osteen took those millions and used them for good? He’s just one of many pastors who hoard funds.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwricz/)
1) What are some examples of corruption that you’ve been seeing? 2) What do you think I’d driving Christians towards Trumpism? 3) What do you think could help Christians be less… Qanony?|1. Infidelity in the church. Tax evasion. Laundering. To make a few. 2. Those are fanatics. Mostly far right types. I think a lot of those who voted for Trump believed he would do good and just couldn’t stomach Hillary. The rest are rabid far-right types who honestly want Christianity to run the government. If that makes sense. 3. I have no clue but I honestly never ran across many of those types. They’re out there but most Christian’s in my circles think they’re as nuts as everyone else does.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwpk1d/)
Do you have any hopes of it actually changing anything at this point or it is more cathartic?|I really want to help change things. Honestly I still have my faith, I just think the church in America has become something so far from Jesus’ teachings that you can’t even call it Christianity. It’s very consumer driven. The music. Lights. Programs. Teaching styles. They have marketing and fund-raising down to an art. It’s gross. So I’d like to hope that I change something. I also believe this will be good therapy even if it’s never published.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwpogt/)
I notice that you have posted, but only answered one question. Were you also perhaps posting to see what type of interest and questions people might have as possible book ideas?|I fell asleep :)|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwsggi/)
I'm currently studying theology and my church is funding it. I do not plan to stay in the church for long because of stuff like this. What would your advice be for me? (I'm not in America)|Yes, follow your heart. If you believe in Jesus’ teachings I would stay as close to that as possible. Don’t settle for money and do not trust the “get successful quick” formula that many will preach. Stay humble and know that you will never be rich, and it’s going to suck, but it’s not about your comfort. The moment it becomes about how YOU become successful and noticed, hang it up.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwwacq/)
Did you officially leave? And if so, since you left, what has been the biggest hurdle and the biggest help in day to day life?|I did leave and told them to take my license and shove it. The biggest hurdle was starting my career over and learning how to translate my experience in the church into something usable in the “secular” world. It only took a year, though, and I’m so much better off now. 100%|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwwjs8/)
I promise I'm not being smug when I ask you this, but how has uncovering all that affected your faith?|I was drinking the cool aide for a long time. I knew about it, never felt right, but it all hit me after I left. It was a giant weight that I felt lift off of me. My hope is that I can maybe help some who are in the same boat. At first I left my faith behind but I could ever truly become atheist. I still have my faith but it doesn’t involve a church at any level.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idx1a5c/)
What percentage of the pastors are in the preaching occupation for the purpose of profit rather then for the Christian faith in of itself.|I think most join for the right reasons and then over time they see the power and money that some have and they want it. There’s a gross movement of essentially how to start and grow a large church and that has ruined so many people. They have it down to percentages. You can have x amount of people in your church if you do these 3 things. That sort of thing. The “grow a large church” mantra of recent years has ruined a lot of people.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idwrhex/)
What do you or those who shared your faith think of those fellows in Europe who believed in, for example, Catholic and Orthodox?|There are some who argue Catholicism is not Christian. Most Christians are ok with all types of Christianity and are very much “live and let live.” It’s the small percentage of crazies that ruin it. Also, my issue was never with the church members but with its leadership and the power of those at the top. There’s a saying in pastoral circles. “The church would be a great place if it wasn’t for the people.” I’d argue the church would be exactly what it’s supposed to be if it wasn’t for the pastors.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idx34s3/)
Do you think religion should be institutionalised?|Religion, no, crazies who use religion as a vehicle to control others? Yes. Also, tax the churches over a certain size and regulate any religious institution that preaches politics or hate from the pulpit.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idx4rks/)
Do you believe the Bible is the word of god? If so, why?|This is one that I still struggle with and it’s hard to answer simply, there is a lot to unpack so I’ll try. I believe that the gospels are true. I have a lot of questions about the validity of many books in the OT. I think most of them are based on a truth, some are historically accurate, but I have questions for sure. Many of which I’ll never have answers too. The church will tell you in order to be a Christian it’s all or nothing. You believe the Bible is THE final authority and you must believe it all, but that’s nuts. Many denominations and theologians argue context and meanings out of the OT all the time. For example there are many different beliefs around how the earth was created. So it’s ok to have different views on creation, for example, but not homosexuality. That type of thing. So yes, I stick to the New Testament and I believe that Jesus was alive and did miraculous things but I realize that we are talking about a centuries old book. I’m still struggling with my own beliefs around this one, especially around the God of Israel and if, maybe, he’s just one of many. Maybe, they’re all messengers? I don’t know, it’s an area I still struggle with.|[Here](/r/AMA/comments/vlm93y/i_was_an_ordained_pastor_in_a_large_evangelical/idx528s/)
You're making it sound like a high percentage of churches are corrupted. While I likely agree with that, there's a varying degree to what constitutes as corruption. So couple of questions...
1. How many churches have you been involved in?
2. You mentioned you planted many churches, was that you as an individual or was it in association with the large church you were involved in?
3. Could it be just your large church that's corrupted, not the others (that you didn't visit)?
4. You mentioned you still have your faith but stopped going to church. The bible defines the church not as a building but more of a community of believers. Do you have friends that share or empathize with your perspective?
5. Are there pastors our there that you still admire / agree with their POV? What's your take on Francis Chan?
1. At least 15-20 churches directly. Many more indirectly.
2. I planted two through a non-denominational organization and 1 through a single denomination.
3. No, nope I’m not exaggerating. Anyone could do some research and find there’s an alarming rate of pastors leaving churches due to all sorts of issues. Those are just the ones we hear about. Sure, there are good ones out there, but that’s not what I’m concerned with.
4. You’re correct. I stopped going to institutions bound with laws and doctrine around a version or interpretation of Christianity. No more buildings like that for me.
5. Very few. I always admired Francis Chan but I haven’t followed him recently so I don’t know. I do not follow any of the more prominent leaders so I can’t really speak to who I agree with or don’t.
Do you feel any responsibility for pushing an anti Roe agenda or any of the hateful bigotry you promoted?
If you read some of my other answers, you'll see that I never promoted any of that. In fact, I was quite vocal about being pro-choice and for same sex marriage. Being a Christian doesn't automatically make you a bigot, but I'm sorry if you think that.
There is a large amount of that in the denomination I was a part of (and many others) which is one of the reasons I decided to leave. I was naive enough to think I could facilitate change, but it just wasn't going to happen. If anything, I feel bad that I stayed with it for so long when I could have put my energy into something much more meaningful.
I loved to teach on Jesus and direct attention to how he taught, loved, and cared for those around him. Sermon on the mount, hands down my favorite.
Do you still practice, believe in the religion? (I’m sorry if you have answered this, my screen-reader isn’t working probably…)
I’m no longer working in the church, no. I still have my faith but it’s not any one denomination. I follow Jesus’ teachings the best I can.
religion is fake, faith is not. Entire religious establishments in the USA including Jews and Muslim establishments are a scam. Why? tax breaks and free money. City on the hill is a great lie.
Many good answers here and thanks for your engagement.
Consider looking into https://clergyproject.org/
They help people such as yourself who have left the church.
I will, thank you!
When's it out?
Still working on it, no real date yet. I'm shooting for next year.
Alright, well, when it's out I'll be sure to look for it.
Sounds like a good read.
Part of me hopes it's not as bad as it seems, but the realist in me knows it will be worse.
Good on you for doing it though, that takes some man sized balls. Be safe.
This is so totally random for me to run across, but I think I know you. Did you ever work in tallahassee? And you will know who I am by my username.
I’m sorry, I never lived in Florida. But I hope you give good hugs?
I have my faith, but it doesn't really fit into any one category of Christianity.
What is the greatest sin that you have ever committed?
Eating too much BBQ.
No that wasn’t the sin. The sin was what you left in the toilet the next morning
Thoughts on the satanic temple?
They have a temple?
Well, in the name they do. TST is more of a political activism group
I was joking, haha. Yeah to each their own. I don’t really bother with others religions or belief systems but I believe in the freedom to do so (as long as you’re not hurting people). I’m also a pretty firm believer in separation of church and state.
The Church has always warned of the coming of the Antichrist. Thinking about who the Church really is - as a congregation - I believe the Church is the Antichrist. They do not reflect the body of Christ, and often they are contrary to those teachings. I would be interested in your thoughts of this theory?
Now this is what one can call "doing the God's work"! Sure, helping those in need is good, but helping those in need by exposing those who are harming those same people in need is just.. \*chefs kiss\*. I bet even the Old Testament God would be proud of this one :D
All I can say to you is thank you. I hope your work can redeem the real Christian people in some way at these places. Maybe bringing the corruption to light will help true Christians find churches not built on hate and greed. I wish you and them the best of luck.
Have you been to a therapist?
I ask because I’ve been in a similar boat, and all that “biblical counseling” stuff was useless to me. A trained, certified therapist really helped a lot.
If you want support, I’m happy to talk. Send me a DM.
if you were unhappy about the way the church was, why didn't you just go to a different church or start another church?
Did you feel called to be there while you were there or to leave when you left?
I was in a similar situation for 13 years, my husband 30 and many others I know. Do you have any experience on how to expose churches because I have many friends still stuck there. My SO’s parents are the leaders
What is your thoughts on witchcraft/paganism/Wicca? Did you have any rules about those practices in the church? And was there discrimination because of that?
I personally don’t have issues with other religions. In the church, especially the ones I was a part of, any religion other than Christianity is wrong. Anything to do with Witchcraft is straight from the devil. There are some who go as far as movies portraying magic of any kind is satanic and should not be watched. Those are extremes, but those viewpoints are out there. I remember arguments in the church around Harry Potter and even LOTR. LOTR got a pass, though, because it was written by a Christian.
Ex-evangelical minister and conversion therapy survivor here. Welcome to the other side. Write your book, get a publicist, and give them hell!
Surely there are a lot of wealthy, influential and powerful people you're gonna upset with this; aren't you worried about being "silenced"?
I live in a small town with way too many churches also new ones are getting built. What is the meaning of this?
Fuck yes!!! Please keep me posted, I LOVE this kinda stuff, especially first hand experience
Do you believe in a higher power anymore? Or have you completely lost faith in all religion?