You Can’t Take the Job Because of *That*?

Peter, the Preacher’s Kid, is back and he’s talking about his parents’ divorce. Which reminds him of his parents’ marriage. Which reminds him of that one time his dad was trying to make ends meet…

Flashback to fall ’94. My parents were young, realigning themselves as professionals after returning from years of missionary work in the South American jungles. They scrapped through my dad’s seminary bills (seminary = grad school + Jesus – weed) by working odd jobs, counting down the hours until the next WIC payout, and knocking on every wooden surface in sight.

His dad got a job offer from a local church and it came with some pretty sweet perks — insurance and paid education among them — but he turned it down.

Why?

The church, he said, had some doctrinal points he stood against too strongly to find common ground. Biggest was infant baptism, which, okay, he wouldn’t have to perform them, they’d just be in the building, but still. Really, he wouldn’t have to do anything he didn’t believe in and they didn’t expect him to, but, but, but they were wroooong! My mom’s favorite quote from the ensuing argument: “Do you expect me to stand before Christ in judgment and tell him I preached at a church that believed in amillenialism?”

Of all the things Jesus isn’t going to care about when he doesn’t meet you in Heaven, that’s gotta be one of the least relevant.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    Irony: opposition to infant baptism is based on the idea that someone needs to choose their faith with a free will decision and can’t be born into it but somehow doesn’t stop the indoctrination.

    • 59 norris

      Actually no.  Infant baptism is based on the idea that original sin is not a function of the will but is an inherited condition.

      It is granted that all sin is considered woo around here.  Be that as it may, the particulars are not as you think them to be in this case.

      • Anonymous

        Notice that I said “opposition to infant baptism”, not “infant baptism”. In the denomination I grew up in, it was cited that you must choose Christ, and it’s the belief, not the baptism ceremony or any act that absolves you of original sin.

        • 59 norris

          Yes, I see your point and I totally misread your post.  Sorry about that.

      • Anonymous

        Theological nitpicking aside, the issue is that sects that practice adult baptism still practice rather severe indoctrination of children. So they don’t get a the magic ritual, but still a heavy dose of religious education. A few shun people who don’t choose the faith. So the decision about whether to be baptized isn’t free or unbiased.

  • http://cory.albrecht.name/ Cory Albrecht

    While the individual ins and outs of theology and eschatology of a particular religion may look silly to those of us not part it, this is a story of a person who chose their own personal sense of ethics an morals rather than a well-paying job which conflicted with those ethics.

    Perhaps this seems a trivial reason to you and I, but what things are there that would be important to my sense of ethics that you would find trivial? Or what things important to you that I would think are just silly?

    Standing up for your ethics, for your sense of right and wrong even when it hurts you is something is something that should be lauded instead of mocked as you do here, even if we think the particular point of conflict is nonsense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/JayVenator Jason Venator

      “Standing up for your ethics, for your sense of right and wrong even when it hurts you is something … that should be lauded”.  Right, especially when the KKK do just that. Or any of histories evils.  You rebutt is poorly thought out. Let me do the work for you: Can any one DEFEND the morals that he used to base his choice of he and his family suffering from the opportunity cost of upholding those morals? Blindly lauding the upholding of ones ethics is just that. Blind.

      • http://cory.albrecht.name/ Cory Albrecht

        Show me one of those KKK events when it was actually was a person standing up for their convictions and ideals in spite harm that would come to themselves because of it. Something hat wasn’t just malicious bigotry or greed or xenophobia. I’m guessing you’ll have a difficult time doing so.

        And who says the guy was just blindly, unthinkingly holding up those ethics? Even Peter can’t know that his father did that without thinking. My childhood was not exactly economic bliss, either, but I can’t just blindly assume that the choice my parents made about accepting or not accepting jobs was based unthinking devotion to a set of morals. For example, when I was 9 my Mom took a faculty position at a private Mennonite high school even though her salary was 2/3rds of what she would have made as a teach in the local public board (and then as anow, teachers were not exactly the highest paid people). But she did this out of her conviction that this private high school was good thing and needed the very best teachers they could get even if they couldn’t pay them the very best.

        Was Peter’s father an idiot? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. We don’t know what his thought processes were on this and it is unfair to judge him as being unthinking just because you and I may think is conviction was silly.

        Or are your convictions for sale to the highest salary bidder?

      • 59 norris

        There must be a KKK corollary to Godwin’s Law somewhere.

    • http://www.facebook.com/peter.d.lundquist Peter Lundquist

      Peter here. My dad’s not an idiot and he’s definitely a man of principles. One detail of the story that got sidelined in favor of the overall narrative is that in this case, his devotion to minor theological points nearly cost us everything. At that time in his life, he had a wife, two young kids who would have starved without government assistance, and no other decent employment prospects.

      Though I’ve often admired my dad’s devotion to his ideals, even when I’ve disagreed with them, I think he stepped over the line. He chose minor bits of doctrine over our security.

      We got lucky later when a wealthy elderly churchgoer heard about our desperation and cut him some charity. Had it not been for that, I might’ve been homeless as a result of the choice he made.

      • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

        Your father was negligent in his obligations to his children. If he wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to support his children, then he never should have had children in the first place. Your mother was an adult; she could always have bailed. Did you have that option? Likely, no.
        When you say, “(h)e chose minor bits of doctrine over our security”, you are being far too generous in your appraisal of the situation.
        You need to look at WHY he did that. In fact, he made a choice to cover his own ass in the sight of his sky-fairy at the expense of his children’s well-being.  If this man would cave to fear of an imaginary being, I can only wonder what his response would have been to an immediate and real physical threat to the family. This is nothing less than cowardice and a failure to love.
        He chose to protect himself over protecting you. I’ll respectfully disagree with Cory Albrecht and state that there’s nothing to admire or laud about actions or beliefs that place your children in a secondary position to dogma.
        Years ago, when I was still religious, I unhesitatingly chose what I believed at the time would possibly be my physical death and definitely be an eternity in hell rather than risk my kids going to bed hungry for one night. If I was still religious, I’d do it again and again and again.
        Kids come first. Always. No exceptions for anything or anyone.

        • http://cory.albrecht.name/ Cory Albrecht

          Normally I would agree that the safety and basic necessities of one’s children come first before anything else, even one’s principles. However, that was not how I read Peter’s blog post. I read it as a describing a child’s view of being in a lower-income family that occasionally struggled with things (a.k.a. “the working poor”), but not one where they were in danger o having the basics like food, clothing (usable, if unfashionable) and a roof over their head unmet. I think that the post by Peter’s father vindicates, at least to some extent, that interpretation.

          I note, however, that when one agrees with the principles a person is standing up for we view it as the positive standing up for their convictions in spite of detriment, but if we disagree with those principle then we say the person is blindly following some dogma and stupidly allowing harm to happen.

          And that attitude is, IMO, somewhat arrogant, because it presumes that we know everything about the situation and/or that our ethical faculties are superior to the other person. It’s almost the inverse of the Curse of Knowledge http://measureofdoubt.com/2011/10/18/the-curse-of-knowledge/ . However it is purely an arbitrary classification based simply whether we agree or disagree.

          In retrospect, that is the point I was inexpertly trying to make. How many of us have strong convictions that – if we had the courage to stand up for them in a way that hurt us – would look silly or stupid or dogmatic to somebody else? Or are we all so arrogant to think that others will see the obvious righteousness of our ways and automatically agree with us?

    • http://twitter.com/JasonOfTerra PhiloKGB

      Amilleniallism does not belong to any ethical system with which I am familiar.  

      • Paul D.

        The primary “ethic” of fundamentalist Christianity is mental adherence to all the correct doctrines.

    • Mihangel apYrs

      Having read Peter L’s comments I would say his father was PRIDEFUL, putting his opinion over his obligations.  If he had been obliged to take part in any of the immorality I would agree that he stand down, as it was he made an exhibition of his piety, AND allowed the State to pick up his mess.

      He chose not to pick up his principle duty as a “father” (remember the whole anti-SSM arguments) but rather very publicly “martyred” himself.

      Bad form

  • Randall

    As an atheist, I wouldn’t have taken that job, either.

  • GregFromCos

    As I think back to my childhood. The theological thing that makes me shake my head the most, is the real schisms that occurred surrounding end of times prophesy. There was no issue that could bring out caustic vitriol, like a disagreement on end times prophesy. 

    There was one point in the ’80′s where an end times doctrinal statement issue, managed to bring 80+ male supporters to a school to have a get together to discuss the doctrinal statement. The only real disagreement was on pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib. I remember being in high school and being so worked up about it.Now I just can’t fathom how much energy was put into the parsing of vague words.  I often wonder why churches put so much energy into end times prophesy. I often wonder if it has something to do with the fact that subconsciously they know that its something that can never be actually dis-proven, unlike most everything else they believe.

  • Greg

    It’s interesting: I became an atheist in my early teens, but I continued to think religion was a good thing – or at least harmless. It was going to a friend’s baby’s baptism that started to turn me into (effectively) an anti-theist: I found what was being said, and promised profoundly uncomfortable when compared to my morals.

    Not sure if that’s relevant or not – but it makes me look at what was happening, and think it’s not quite as cut and dried as it may appear to an outside perspective. 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Even worse than baptisms are First Communions! I’ve been to two of those, and I hope never to have to go to another. I hated seeing all of the adults pretend that the children a) understood the ceremony and b) chose to participate in it. It’s such a charade. At least when they’re baptizing babies, they don’t pretend that the babies have any idea what’s going on.

  • Paul

    I may be able to help the discussion with some facts. I’m Peter’s dad.

    I never received a job offer of any sort from any local church – much less one with “sweet perks.” This simply never happened. What I did receive was a $1,500 scholarship to help transfer to the seminary of a denomination that, yes, mandated infant baptism. Had I accepted the scholarship, my prospects for a job in that denomination arguably would have been better when I graduated 2 years later than if I stayed put at the seminary I was attending. Only God knows. (Or, respecting the convictions of this forum, Nobody knows.)

    It is absolutely true that infant baptism was the issue that led me to refuse the scholarship and decline to transfer. Peter is mistaken in believing that I would not have to perform such baptisms in that tradition. Not only would I have to perform them – I would have to teach and defend the doctrine of pedobaptism, and admonish any rogue parents who refused to have their babies baptized! The prospect of teaching and defending a doctrine I found unpersuasive left me sick. I have never been able to baptize anyone without his or her consent, and I thank God (excuse me, atheist friends, “I am thankful”) that I didn’t start then.

    So I sent back the $1,500 check. Almost immediately, a wealthy individual (from that denomination! you can’t make this up!) called me  and said she wanted to make it financially possible for us to stay at the seminary where I was. For the remainder of my time there she sent us $1,600 a month.  Peter’s mother quit her job and stayed home full time with our boys. (Had we transferred she would have had to keep working.) Upon graduating I got a job offer – very modest, true, but at least with the perks of insurance etc.

    The comment I supposedly made about “amillennialism” is a fabrication.  I do not care, and cannot recall ever caring, about the issue that divides “premillenial” from “amillennial” Christians. The millennium is mentioned in only one chapter of one book of the Bible, and I have never preached from it. The grain of truth is that I belong to a tradition that favors premillennialism and declined to join one that favors amillennialism, but that’s about it.  In all my years of preaching I can’t recall mentioning millennial issues (or non-issues) even once.  Don’t care.

    I believe that Peter’s understanding of events that occurred when he was 4-5 years old have been deeply colored by his mother’s stories about them. It is true that she grew increasingly hostile toward me and the faith we once shared, and that in 2005 surprised me with divorce papers and left to go pursue a lifestyle that did not include religion. Certainly none of you want to be bored with the gory details of a “he said-she said,” so I’ll say nothing more about this than to affirm that the narrative my son described to you is neither accurate nor just, and proceeds from an untrustworthy source.

    And please excuse me, cut me some slack if you will, if any of what I have shared above seems touchy or defensive. I admit that. Some of you have been wounded by religious people, but some of us have been wounded by atheists. A wound is a wound. Please also understand that I am a father, and I love my son more than life itself.

    Paul Lundquist

    • Ducky

      “I have never been able to baptize anyone without his or her consent, and I thank God (excuse me, atheist friends, “I am thankful”) that I didn’t start then.”
      You know, most keyboards come with backspace keys. I know, there’s always one in a crowd.
      Kidding aside, I actually had to google amillennialism. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Reminds me of a book I bought about end of the world type things. I believe it was called Cracking the Apocalypse Code. Can’t recall much about it now, except that it scared the hell out of me. Put a lot of stock in that book, until I read a different theory out there that did pretty much the same thing. That’s when I began to realize that was all those books were good for: Scareing you and selling a lot of books.

    • Mihangel apYrs

      sir

      I think you and Peter need to talk.  The misunderstanding here has led me at least to judge you, which was wrong.  But Peter believes something different from your view, such a difference needs rectifying and others quelching,

      I have no children of my body, though I have of my soul – I would stand against the Throne itself to protect that person, so the thought of you putting your children’s welfare at peril irked me.

      Talk to your son, and speak truth

      • Paul

        Thank you for your sincere words. Blessings upon you and upon the children – of body or of soul – born to you. It is good that they have in you a zealous and passionate defender. Peace.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    it does not make no sense“Yes, it does make no sense.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Sorry, wrong thread.


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