In the last church I was a member of (almost 2 decades ago), I wrote a letter to the paster. It was a letter of resignation (from membership) and a fairly detailed explanation of some of my findings and concerns. I had been in conference with him several times in the past asking questions. He never answered them to my satisfaction and attempted to make me doubt reason and ethics.
"Just keep praying and studying", he said.
Well, that was kind of a slap in the face. It had become clear to me that I knew more about the Bible than he did. About a month before presenting the letter, I resigned from my position as the director of music and member of the church board. I didn't share why except to say that I had a lot going on and needed to lighten the load. My plan was to slip out of the church quietly, although I was a bit naive thinking that was possible.
Anyway, back to the letter. I made two copies, one for me and the other I gave to my best friend at the time. I knew she'd be stunned that I was leaving and would want a detailed explanation. I also asked her to keep this confidential.
Her copy of the letter was found by her spouse. Turns out he made multiple copies and passed them around to other members the following Wednesday during the mid-week church service. I was informed that around a 3rd of the regularly attending members didn't show up for church the following Sunday. Typical attendance was around 200.
There was panic in the upper echelons of the hierarchy. The pastor informed the regional director and together, they sent out invitations to all members to attend a "very important" service with the regional director as guest speaker. My daughter attended out of curiosity. I was able to get a recorded copy of the sermon that day.
This meme reminded me of what went down. What was your experience?
Well that is quite a story.
I did not formally question leadership like you did but certainly in concept, questioning was equated with the "sin" of doubt and therefore strongly discouraged. If facts or evidence contradict scripture, then scripture governed. The proof-text generally cited was "Let God be true and every man a liar". That pretty much says it all. It sounded noble to me when I was a believer, now it just sounds idiotic.
I guess I didn't see much point in grilling anyone in power based on that. I knew what the answer would be.
I was one of those who just faded away from the church. There was a time when this would have been noticed -- probably when I was in Bible Institute and deeply involved in a particular church right after that. But then I moved around the country and got married and attended a series of larger churches where I was more invisible, plus, I didn't have extended family who were part of the faith locally. So I just sort of faded away. The only questioning of my motives or reaons has been by total strangers on the Internet in places like this.
My upbringing was Seventh Day Adventist, so I read lots of Ellen G. White books. Sometimes when I would quote her to make a point during a debate, I would get yelled at. If I questioned something she said, I’d get yelled at. So no matter what I did, I couldn’t win with these guys.
Wow, what an experience! Mine is very different, but the discouragement of any sort of independent thinking is a parallel. My mother was a controller and I was her favorite subject to control. She did not want me to question her, and since the religious tenets ordered her thinking, she demanded absolute compliance with her/god's will. Later in study groups in church, I aksed questions about things that didn't make sense to me. And I asked about discrepancies that showed up in the bible. I also never got satisfactory answers, and the questioning was greeted with "Don't worry your pretty little head" or "Just have enough faith". When I deconverted, I just stopped going. No one contacted me or asked why. That was more a relief than an insult at the time. It's been more than a quarter century. It's still a relief.
Just the opposite was the case for me. I never had any problems and religion was not shoved down my throat. Oddly enough, when I lived in Germany, Heidelberg was the home of the 2nd oldest university in Europe (1386). It had an amazing old city and American military officers actually attended the University. The mayor of the town knew they wouldn't have a chance so he surrendered to the Allies. It became the headquarters for the 7th army. As such it had the best of everything (biggest officers club, PX/Commissary). They also had the best clergy and for the Catholic priests that meant priests who actually encouraged questioning (but mostly things other than the religion) and I got used to this. One priest actually helped me get an annullment (I was the only one of 3 who filed - I bribed him with a beautiful sweater chest I had made).
When returning to the U.S I looked for this and found it in a British priest who was my age. He didn't care if I was not married and invited us to his birthday party. He encouraged change (which actually made him unpopular). When Iraq invaded Kuwait he talked about justice but when the U.S attacked Iraq he and the archbishop marched against violence. I sent him a letter criticising his move and reminded him religion and politics were not to mix. He passed the letter among the staff and even asked me to join the financial council. He disagreed with me but liked my willingness to speak what I thought. We became friends and his prayers were answered when he got reassigned to Green Bay WI (he loved American football).
After leaving the church I got into a written debate with the archbishop about religion and politics. I actually wanted to try and get excommunicated. No such luck, he answered all my letters and whereas we didn't agree at least we were civil, damn.
My mother answered no to the question, "If a Chinese baby, whose parents do not know about Christ, dies at birth, will it go to heaven?" Her god was unfair since babies with Christian parents who died at birth were supposed to go to heaven. It convinced me that she and her church were confused, at best. I was about 15, and didn't know the word, but was agnostic and have been since then.
I asked the sterotypical question, "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?" Blank stare, never went back on my own. I would go with my family occasionally when visiting, just to be cordial. The programming is really hard for some people to even admit. I have patience and understanding for those so afflicted as long as they aren't evangelical..
As I’ve said in the past I was a Jehovah’s Witness and the straw the broke the camel’s back for me was going to an elder’s meeting at an assembly and being told that we could question nothing that came from New York through the publications. I had always questioned things but believed the good outweighed the bad. I was almost physically sick knowing what I had to do. As soon as we got home I wrote a resignation letter detailing why I had to step down from my responsibilities. Things spiraled down very quickly from there and I was cast out within months. It ended with the loss of my marriage and my son and about all acquaintances.
so did the spouse do you a favor ? copying a private letter and distributing it to cult leaders to retaliate against you >>>>????? leaving such a disgusting congregation is good news, true "gospel".... I'm glad you escaped and closed the door behind you
After relocating to another part of the country and backing away from church life, I had one last tie with my evangelical past; a pastor as well. He was smart enough to actually see the circular argument of self-supporting scripture, so he didn't quote the bible in our discussions... he used ad hominium attacks to berate my new paradigm. "You just want to sin." "You're angry at God."
His interpretation of our orderly world was all the evidence he needed to support creationism and the bible as the innerant word of god. He claimed I didn't see it because I lost my faith. A living example of presuppositionalism.
I was raised Penecostal but never believed any of it. I came out as atheist when I was 12 when I found out there was a name for someone that didn’t believe and informed everyone the I wouldn’t be going to church anymore. Lucky for me my parents taught me to think for myself and to question everything. So sat me down and we talked about it. They didn’t have a argument for my reasoning. That kinda backfired on them. My dad to the day he died blamed himself for me being an atheist.
The atheist debaters say that Christians often admit that they get truth, but belief is more important, and that they'd rather their kids believe than have better lives. Not in those words, but....Modern churches surely get that it's a game holding juggling balls up just to keep status quo. If you could take out all the charlatans, would there be so many true believers left?