Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life after God...

"My name is Teresa," she begins. "I'm a pastor currently serving a Methodist church — at least up to this point" — the audience laughs — "and I am an atheist."

With those words Methodist clergyperson Teresa MacBain "came out" as an athiest to a convention of atheists -- sort of heroic according to some but a tragic and scandalous admission to others.  In the end, there is much to lament.  On one hand, we should lament and grieve over everyone who loses faith -- especially clergy.  It is sad that she has felt isolated and alone (though I wonder how much of this is due to her loss of faith and how much to the feeling of betrayal on the part of those who wonder when it happened and for how long she continued to stand before them lacking the very faith she supposedly preached).  It is sad that she is being treated as a hero when it is clear that for her, at least initially, and for her family, this is a loss that has had profound consequences.  It is sad that clergy often hide their wounds -- some out of necessity or they would lose their jobs and others out of fear of what others might think of them.  No wound heals because it is ignored or covered up or hidden away.  What might have happened if she had found encouragement from those around her -- we will never know.

"In reality," she says, "as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn't believe it."

There is a sad statement.  A religion with so many holes in it that there was nothing left to stand on...  When faith is reduced to mere facts and when those facts are subjected to standards of veracity that are generally subjective, what is left?  For how long has the Christian Church felt the sting of those who insist it does not matter if you believe this or that, if this was factually true or that wasn't, if the Jesus we know today is not the same Jesus of history?  A couple of centuries of liberalism in which Scripture is left to be a book of truths without substance or factuality and reason and feeling stand above every truth, and we are left with an ordinary person who has nothing left to believe.  How many others have been led down this garden path (clergy or not)?

When it's pointed out that she hasn't said whether or not she misses God, MacBain pauses.  "No, no," she says. "I can't say that I do."

That single statement was by far the most tragic thing in the entire article. Perhaps she was never really a Christian -- I do not know and it is not mine to judge -- but that she misses little except the singing is perhaps the greatest tragedy of her lost faith.  I am reminded of the book Spiritual Envy in which the unbelieving author admitted that he once believed in God but lost his faith to skepticism and doubt.  His story is pretty typical.  “I wanted it to be true, “ he writes.  “I wanted to believe in God; I miss the comfort my faith provided; I wanted to believe but it wasn’t there anymore...”   To have believed and not... and then to miss nothing... well, that is just about the saddest thing of all...


OldSouth said...

Wonderful essay. My thought as a postcript is: She looks relatively young, with some 40 years ahead of her if normal actuarial assumptions hold.

Who knows what may yet occur? It ain't over til it's over.

Dr.D said...

It does not surprise me. The Methodist Church is only a shell, hollowed out, eaten away from the inside. I grew up in the Methodist Church, and I saw this happening when I was a young person, 50 years ago. I was asking theological questions, and I was getting nonsense answers; eventually I left. I still have family in the Methodist Church, and I see that there is nothing but and empty shell left today; it is very sad.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Anonymous said...

Fr. D+

The Methodist church may have been hollowed out as early as the 1820. Few people realize that the Mormons received their understanding of Christianity from this former Methodist: