Editor’s Note: Now to a simpler, if still painful time, back in 2015, for a respite from national politics. This is in observance of the fact that Trump, in the moment of this writing, is “no longer contagious” according to his doctor (without mention of being negative or symptom-free of COVID-19). Thus, this return to a kind of pain felt currently, or in the past, by many of the readers and contributors to this blog. It is pain that is usually experienced privately that is ultimately alleviated by the personal action of leaving the ministry. As the writer explains below, it’s easy to get restless with the situation. But as bad as it is, it’s possible to alleviate the pain with individual action. This makes it, in my opinion, a preferable type of pain to what many of us are experiencing now, which can only be alleviated with collective action. Still, let’s hope the day comes when we are spared both the individual and societal pain that is caused by collectively or individually finding ourselves in bad situations. /Linda LaScola, Editor
By David Mercer
I like checkers. I haven’t played in a while but I was unbeatable when I was in second grade. The game goes quickly and it’s direct: You only advance at first—there’s no backing up, and then I’ll try to jump your checker piece before you jump mine. Whoever wipes out the other player first wins. It’s satisfying.
On the other hand, I hate chess, where you sit and think, and then you sit and think some more. You can’t visit with each other because you’re supposed to concentrate, and I get fidgety.
I usually get impatient and think,
Screw it! Charge! Wipe out everything in my path and GET THAT KING!
And then my opponent cheats and beats me with one of those damnable strategies concocted in the 18th century by some guy with a weird name, and he usually takes my king out with a lowly pawn.
I’m getting restless, almost hoping someone will find me out and expose me so I have no choice but to move on. A friend expressed concern that I may be getting too reckless, and I can see she is right. It’s best to stay in control, keep thinking, and choose my path wisely.
Tomorrow is Sunday and once more I’ll lead rituals I don’t believe in, and phrase my sermon carefully so I won’t feel like too much of a liar. Some will tell me I’m a wonderful man of God while others plot to get rid of me, not because I’m evil or immoral, but because they’re threatened by me. However it’s not really me—they always feel threatened.
I’ll worry that I’ve already been found out and within the day my wife, children, and I will be thrown out of the parsonage and into the street while my neighbors peek through their windows at us as they lock their doors. And then my elderly parents who were so proud their son was a minister will find out and be ashamed, and other family members will quietly decide not to talk to me, and my lifelong friends will desert me. And my children will be alone and friendless through no fault of their own.
I’ll go to the church building with my head and heart pounding, and my blood pressure so high that I’m dizzy.
And that’s when I want to say from the pulpit,
“SCREW IT! I DON’T BELIEVE THIS SHIT AND I DON’T EVEN LIKE YOU!”
I’ll stride out the door, taking my family with me and we’ll leave with the clothes on our backs and take to the streets of our own volition.
But then I’ll swallow hard, tamp down the panic, and go to work like I always have.
But the day is coming when I can’t do this anymore, and it’s coming soon, whether or not I have an exit strategy.
This isn’t checkers or chess.
**Editor’s Question** If you’ve ever had a successful “exit plan”, how did it work?
Bio: David Mercer, aka “Stan Bennett,” was the “Stan” who was featured in the CNN documentary, Atheists: Inside the World of Non-believers and the Canadian documentary, Losing Our Religion. David was a pastor for thirty-five years in Texas and Oklahoma until he quit and moved to Orlando, Florida, where he met and married his wife, Sylvia. David is now fully out of the closet as an agnostic. He is a life coach, a teacher, and a storyteller. He is the author of the blog Deep Calls. You can also find him on his Author Page on Facebook. This post is reposted with permission from a private blog the author once wrote.
>>>>>Photo Credits: By The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21063724 ; Linda LaScola, 3/6/15. The model is her husband, Art Siebens, at a lectern and robe that belonged to his grandfather, a Presbyterian minister.