If Only These Pastors Would Share Their Secret with Their Congregations

A lot of Christian leaders have an opportunity to do the right thing on marriage equality before they get steamrolled by history.

So what’s stopping them? Just their Biblical convictions? That’s true for many… but not all of them, as Sally Quinn notes:

I have had a few religious leaders confide in me that they were not personally against gay marriage but could not take that position publicly for fear of losing their congregations. Think of the conflict and, yes, shame they must be feeling now and how it will only worsen with time. One day, they will have to come around or they really will lose their congregations. They have one thing going for them. Most religions believe in redemption. They’ll need to pray for it big-time.

As we’ve learned from so many of the graduates of the Clergy Project, when you carry a secret that would shock your congregation, saying it out loud can be devastating, but the freedom you get from having a clear conscience is sooooo worth it.

Or you can keep your job and continue preaching to a flock of bigots, watch all the teenagers leave the church never to come back, and further marginalize yourself while the rest of the world embraces equality.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing that. But for the sake of the LGBT in my life, some of whom are still religious, it would be a powerful statement to make from the pulpit if those pastors had the courage to do the right thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/Sajanas1 Sajanas

    That doesn’t surprise me at all. The people that tend to contribute the most to churches are the older members, and those are also the most likely to be anti-gay. When the ELCA Lutheran churches changed their rules to allow gays in committed relationships to become pastors, my parents and about a dozen other older members of my former church left and became Methodists, and I have to imagine that that they were all big givers.

    It all really makes bare the fact that churches are in the business of catering to their own membership, just like a country club, rather than trying to make their members ‘better’ in some way. Its why they work so hard to conflate ‘going to church’ with ‘being a good person’.

  • paulaween

    So, in other words, those religious “leaders” are simply cowards who have chosen a paycheck over doing the right thing. Typical…

  • Artor

    I was going to say the same, but you beat me to it. It’s the pastor’s fucking job to be a moral leader, isn’t it? So if they won’t say what they know is right because they’re afraid their bigoted congregation will reject them, then they should either deliver a blistering sermon or quit and find different work.

  • Ian

    I agree, but its easy to comment. I haven’t had to make a moral decision that could potentially cost my career (not just my job – its not like the list of alternative careers for seminary graduates is exactly glowing). I’m inclined to have a little more compassion.

    But then the effect is the systematic denial of another group’s human rights, and I get angry and all “flog-em” again.

  • Ian

    There’s another way of framing this too, I think. It isn’t just about “losing the congregation”, but in many churches the minister is called by the church, and serves them. So if the church doesn’t want to hear that, and the minister’s conscience is okay with not saying anything, it is hardly a scandal.

    The real political situation in chrches is somewhat different to the rhetoric, I suspect.

    I’d like to think my convictions would be strong enough that I couldn’t just suck it up, but never having been in the position of having to trade my family’s security against my convictions, it’s easy for me to say!

  • Artor

    “You knew this job was dangerous when you took it!”
    I think if someone sets off on a career track of telling other people how to be moral, then that’s the responsibility they’ve chosen to shoulder themselves. They weren’t drafted against their conscientious objection; they set out to be guides, but when they realized the rabid sheep they were supposed to be leading wanted to go somewhere nasty, they chose to let the flock lead them instead. I sympathize with them, but not too much.

  • paulaween

    And what wonderful “moral leaders” they are, putting their morals second to money.

  • Ian

    Yeah, I kind of agree. But I don’t think many pastors get into the job because they want to tell people what to think. A lot, I think, are genuinely pastorally motivated. At least I know several who are (though in the ‘progressive’ end of the religious spectrum).

    I’m not a pastor (nor a Christian), but I can imagine gradually coming to a point where I realised that the job I was doing was morally unhelpful to the world. Perhaps most jobs are, at some point. I’m not sure what I’d do. I’m sure what I’d like to think I’d do, but that’s rather easier.

  • Artor

    I’m not sure what distinction you’re making between telling people what to think and being “pastorally motivated,” unless you’re actually talking about herding sheep. In any case, I don’t think most pastors directly tell their congregations what to think, but through their sermons & guidance, they are supposed to be moral guides, aren’t they? If all the job requires is reading prayers out of a book, then I have even less respect for them than I did before. I’m not sure that’s even possible.

  • 3lemenope

    Most people do, having a powerful and well-documented need to eat once in a while.

  • paulaween

    Then they should get a job that doesn’t require them to be a guiding moral figure. These pastors don’t seem up to the task of “leading” anyone.

  • Ian

    Sorry, it is Christianese. I mean the folks I was referring to are motivated by the fact that theirs is the number that gets called when someone is sick, there’s is the door that is knocked when someone gets kicked out of their house, they support families with family members in prison, spend countless hours sitting by beds in hospital. Praying with folks is important for them. Preaching is important. But there are some who are motivated by being allowed to serve folks. It was notable that, when we shared that my wife’s younger sister had died, it was a minister friend who came round, with no mention of God or Jesus on his lips.

    I’m not for a minute saying everyone is like that, but I think some are. And that makes me a little reticent to stereotype everyone in this situation.

    But, as I said, I’m not a Christian, and definitely I’m not going to stand up for folks who allow their churches to oppose gay marriage. I think that is despicable, and I’d struggle to have any meaningful friendship with someone like that, I think.

    My point was just that, I think it is easy to be harsh on those in a situation we’re in no danger of ever finding ourselves in.

  • 3lemenope

    Because if you are a failure in one area, you are a failure in all of them? Pastors do much more than tell people what they should and should not do. Most of their duties, in fact, have nothing to do with moral instruction. So, if your point is that (and I agree) failing to communicate their considered religious opinion about the copacetic nature of gay marriage to a congregation hostile to such a revelation is a failure of a duty they hold, it does not necessarily follow that such a failure is dispositive on whether they ought to find a different line of work.

    I will say I find that criticizing the employment suitability of pastors from way out here in atheism-land is silly bordering on surreal. I would really rather such pastors share their opinions with their congregations, but it is really none of my business if they do, and you and I certainly don’t have to suffer any of the possible consequences if they were to do so; notably, they would.

  • Rene Horn

    I think the story of Carlton Pearons bears out those fears, but he’s become more famous now than he ever was before, although it wasn’t easy for him to get there.

    I still think he’s a little strange. He seems almost willing to realize that god is a fairytale, but just can’t quite bring himself to actually say it.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Their faux founder got nailed to a tree for trying to be moral, according to myth, anyway. They just don’t want history repeating itself.

  • meekinheritance

    I mostly agree, but I think you and I might enjoy the possible positive consequences that could come from their openness and honesty.

  • 3lemenope

    Quite so. I just don’t think, not being a member of the congregation, I have the right to demand it.

  • cdbren

    Pastors, at least real Christian pastors, do not tell people what to do. They preach about what God says to do from his written word. Preached basically to people who want to follow/trust in the God of the Bible.

    In the case of gay marriage, it is fairly clearly spelled out in both the new and old testaments that it is completely wrong. Jesus confirmed this as well as confirming the words of Moses as true and directly from God.

    The real issue here is doing what is right in your own eyes, no matter if it is sin or not or obeying the God that created you and that knows what is best.

  • cdbren

    Well, the Bible (God/Jesus) is “anti-gay” so why would “churches” not be anti-gay? (I would prefer to say anti-sin). If a church changes that view they are going against what God and Jesus have stated clearly.

    No church is forcing anyone to do anything. It’s the same as preaching about sex only after marriage. You hear the message that it is what you should do but does everyone listen? No and no Christian pastor is going to force you to listen to God. That is your own choice.

    It’s not bigotry or hate or anything like that. It’s like “here is what God says. This is what is sin”. Your personal actions in life is your choice but choices have consequences.

  • CottonBlimp

    The real issue is being a decent human being, actually.

    If your god is an enemy of decency then your god is shit.

  • cdbren

    Define “decent”. The English dictionary definition is “conforming with generally accepted standards of respectable and moral behavior”. I’d say “my God” fits that bill exactly. Morals and rules came from God in the first place. If you want to know more, pick up a KJ bible and start reading.

    If you want to distort what is respectable and moral, calling sin “good” that’s your deal. I prefer to go by what God says as he is much wiser than I am.

  • CottonBlimp

    Actually, your god seems just as stupid as his believers. It’s almost as if they made him up. Amazingly.

    Your god is only moral because you define morals as being god. By any other standard, torture, murder, bigotry, rape are evil. That you call these things good shows that your morals are shit.