Editor’s Note: Here’s a first post by another recent Clergy Project member referred to the blog by Mason Lane. Everyone’s story is unique, of course, but this guy takes the cake – and took his whole leadership team with him when he left religious belief. We’re going to want more detail, but this is a good start.
By “Fresh LA”
I’m only human; what a statement in the making. As much as the masses pulled on me to be their sidewalk prophet, a headline prognosticator or a lowercase messiah delivering them from clear and present dangers, I could only ever manage to be me – only human.
Almost three decades ago, the small mid-western church I attended saw the future in me. They raised me up and held me in the sun of all their hopes. It was an obvious precursor to the iconic scene in Disney’s hit movie The Lion King with King Mufasa and his son Simba.
In the years to follow, I rose high, and like Simba, I bore the weight of the crown, traveling coast to coast and then to the nations, forging alliances with evangelical power-brokers from DC to Colorado Springs. In religious circles, they transcended Disney’s cartoon characters to a Greek demigod-like status. But, in the end, they proved to be only human, and I proved I too was only human.
However, unlike the mythological Icarus with his wax and feather wings, I didn’t experience a lethal fall.
There were plenty of hot trials to cause such a deathly descent — the fall of friends collapsing under the weight of their own headlines (i.e. Ted Haggard), the occasional death threats from deranged believers, the constant grind of ministry or the sudden death of my daughter. None of these things melted the wax holding together my “higher calling” and sacred beliefs. No, it was a small, laser-focused rational thought.
What was it? Well, like a hazy spiritual-experience, I can’t really say for certain.
It happened one early morning, or it may have been late at night. It could have been while I was pacing the floor of my small pastoral office in the northeast, or while backpacking on India’s northern border with Pakistan.
One thing is for certain, it probably wasn’t the first time I had thought it, but definitely this time, I could no longer resist. After almost 30 years, I was worn down enough to finally let it linger and burn.
The first feather to break away was Original Sin, then Biblical Inerrancy, followed by Substitutional Atonement, Eternal Estates and the Second Coming. One by one, every angelic feather that gave my belief lift, broke away from the dogmatic strength of my arms. Grasping at air, I fell. But unlike Icarus. I fortunately drifted downward to a soft landing on my backyard patio surrounded by family, friends and my ministerial staff.
Together, we talked. Frequently, our honest and vulnerable conversation lasted late into the night. We rehearsed our individual descents into humanity with no topic out of bounds. No longer were we evangelical demigods trying to manifest the divine. We were just us, featherless and crownless. We talked about everything from movies, music, headlines, science, religion and memories. And here in this hot jungle of animated thoughts and emotions, it was decided: Icarus has fallen, and Mufasa is dead.
The conclusion to my current story is as follows: Myself, along with my wife and entire church leadership, de-converted. We decided, rather than destroy the thriving church we had built together, the middle path of doing no harm would be the best approach. Undoubtably, the Buddha would be proud. Quietly, over three years, we worked ourselves out of our jobs and found gainful employment. Today, I am happy to just be human with no one putting their faith, blame or crowns on me. It’s enough to just be authentic; to be real in the now, no longer a lowercase messiah, headline prophet or evangelical demigod – just me. I’m only human after all.
Bio: “Fresh LA”is a child of the 70s who grew up northeast of St. Louis, MO. His life journey involved a two-century old family farm, a mid-west bible college, almost 30 years of church planting in the northeast and responsibilities as a professional evangelical adviser, nationally and abroad. These days, he’s content to work as a project manager by day, and at night, blog about his past and present experiences as a human, nothing more and nothing less. To learn more, visit http://www.freshLA.me.
>>>>>>By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25659874 : By Jacob Peter Gowy – Icarus http://www.museodelprado.es/imagen/alta_resolucion/P01540_01.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27493281