I started writing this before the council “closed ranks”. I have a hard time even wanting to edit this, but I figured you’d want to read it. Forgive all the errors.
I was being interviewed last week by the documentary crew and we struck up a conversation not directly related to the interview but probably key to the film. The director made a comment that really pushed in me the need to be public about my process. It was a statement that made me so sad and yet so proud to be part of this film project. The director has been interviewing TCP participants, those who left the ministry, those stuck in the ministry, and me trying to transition out the ministry. She said something like this:
Director: I have probably met more TCP members than anyone else on the planet.
Me: I’ve never personally met anyone from TCP and I only know 1 person who left the ministry because they became an atheist. No one knows we exist! We don’t even know about each other. We’re trapped in silence, left thinking that no one understands us and no one has been through what we’ve been through. This is why I want to do this film. I want my face and real name in this film. I want every pastor in America to see my story. Because there are probably thousands of us who are lonely and afraid, they need to know that The Clergy Project exists. They need to know that this isn’t their fault, there’s nothing wrong with them, they aren’t broken and they don’t need to be fixed. We need to talk and share our stories….
Then I went on a rant that will probably be edited out of the film. Yes I used one single swear word. Instantly regretted it and looked at the sound guy and said:
Me: Sorry about that. You’ll probably have to edit that out.
One of things I have said from the beginning, I wrote it on my blog before I had a single reader, I hope my story can help someone else. And it has. Good god you all have let me know it has. What you may not know is that some of your fellow readers are pastors and expastors who don’t believe anymore.
***I’ve been given explicit permission to tell these next stories****
One reader quit ministry a while ago and realized they became an atheist about 2 years ago. I encouraged him to join TCP. He did. Then he found me on TCP, and in my bio he realized that we are from the same state. Then we realized we lived in the same city. Then we realized he lived 3 mins from my church and had been there a few times. And then he knew who K was. He knows TB’s place of employment. And holy shit, he’s a coworker with a man who’s wife knows about my situation.
Talk about small world.
So we met at the brewery that is giving me the run around.
Me: Well let’s get you a beer.
Tim: No, let me buy you a beer.
Me: I’m not going to turn that down.
And we talked, face to face.
Tim: I remember when I ran across your blog, and I so connected with what you were going through. I know my experience was a bit different but everything you were feeling…I remember that. I know what that’s like, and I was telling my wife about your blog. And I just really connected with everything you were saying.
Then he told me his story. I get the sense that this might have been Tim’s first time telling his story to someone who completely understands. Do you know what that feels like? Do you know what it’s like to suffer mostly in silence, then to come out to people who can never comprehend what you are going through, then after 2 years you find a guy who has a church 3 minutes from your house who knows every pain, fear, and question that you do? I do. It’s amazing. I’m sure he didn’t come there to tell me his story. It sounded like he came in order to encourage me and support me, but I was privileged to sit and listen to him! Just saying things out loud is incredibly therapeutic.
I hope to be having dinner with him and his wife in the near future. It’ll be great for my wife to finally have someone close by that knows her struggles intimately.
But wait, there’s more!
I got a phone call yesterday to my google voice account from a military chaplain who’s been one of my readers. He kept sending me emails saying he’d love to talk with me, and he kept asking how I was doing. But low and behold, we get on the phone, and it’s his story we talk most about. Which is how it should be! I’ve told my story, I have supporters, he doesn’t! Both Tim and Chaplain mention that this something they don’t talk to their wives about. At least I can talk to my wife.
Chaplain explained his struggles and his feelings. I get the sense he hasn’t talked about this stuff out loud more than a handful of times, and again, perhaps the first time with someone who completely understands him.
Chaplain had a hard time with the “A” word. He definitely sees himself as more agnostic than determined atheist. I challenged him to examine if there was a practical difference between atheist vs. agnostic. But I remember how hard that leap was for me.
Me: It was weird for me. I was lying to Christians every Sunday, but something prevented me from lying to the atheist of the Clergy Project. I couldn’t sign the disavowment of spiritual beliefs unless I was honestly an atheist. TCP was offering real help and community, I was trying to leave the church. But I couldn’t sign that form until I could do so honestly.
Chaplain: Well it’s because if we’re going to move forward in our lives we want to do it with as much integrity as we can. We don’t want to start our new lives on lies.
Amen good Chaplain. We need to find room for the truth to grow in our new lives. We need to do away with lies, not create more.
As of right now Chappy isn’t part of TCP because he’s not sure he’s an atheist, though he definitely is not a Christian.
But what does this have to do with you?
I write because you support me, you have promoted me, and now you are funding me. This blog matters, not just to you or to me, but to the still closeted atheist that live in fear of what people might think of them. Especially the poor folks like me that are in danger of losing their jobs because they lost their God. I need to find away to make this blog public again. I need to find more readers and more patrons. And even if I don’t make another dime, my story needs to get out there so that people living my nightmare can know that they are not alone. And you are making all that happen.
Thank you for reading my posts.
Thank you for sharing my links.
Thank you for your one time donations through PayPal.
Thank you for supporting me on Patreon.
And a specially thanks to Friendly Facebook Stalker (FFS) who was *technically* my first patron. She messed up and had to redo her contribution, and someone snuck in to be the first successful patron.