Sadly, it happens

I was googling a colleague recently… not any one that I know… just a pastor of a really large church who had an affair with another adult in his congregation. He just got another job, helping other ministers in times of crisis. I was interested in his new position, wondering what the program looked like, so I googled his name.

The first thing to come up was an atheist site, decrying the fact that the pastor got another job, and that he was making a lot of money (the job’s funded by the Lilly Foundation 8/29 edit: CF Foundation). I scrolled down through the comments to hear what people had to say on the matter, because I often think interesting to hear what atheists have to say about our denomination.

But, not this time. They were freaking out that this guy had an affair, and that he got another position. Not a pastoral post, per say, but just another job. (I would link and name names, but I don’t really want them to find my site. There were really mean, hater comments.)

The thing that struck me as odd is the strange logic that seemed to flow under all of this.

  • Athiests don’t like Christians because Christians are judgmental.
  • Christians make mistakes, so that makes them hypocrites.
  • A pastor makes a mistake.
  • The Christians forgive, and… you know… after years of unemployment, think that the guy might still have something to offer in his professional life.
  • That makes the Atheists (or at least the ones on this particular site) REALLY irate.

I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. It feels like the Atheists are much more judgmental than we are. It sounds like the Atheists are using this to point out the hypocrisy, but did anyone in our denomination ever say that pastors don’t make huge and horrible mistakes? Did anyone ever say that we are sinless and that nothing like this will ever happen? I don’t think so.

Pastors are human. We make mistakes. Huge ones. Some pastors have affairs. I know it, you know it. It often destroys the church they minister in. And it usually wreaks havoc on the pastor and his or her family.

I don’t like it. You don’t like it. And even though we know that we are held to a much higher standard, it’s a sad and bitter fact of life that it happens. It doesn’t take very much time in the ministry to hear these cases and cringe. Somewhere along the line, the stories begin to sound a lot less like a juicy piece of gossip, and more like a fatal car crash. And denominations often use great care as they try to help mend the church and pastor back together again. We try to find some place of forgiveness and reconciliation in all of it.

Of course, I could point out that our really amazing male preachers are usually the ones who get the breaks on this… but… I don’t know that for a fact. Maybe it’s just the high profile cases that I know the most about.

All I know for certain is that it happens, and it’s a sad, sad day when it does. There’s certainly hypocrisy when a pastor lies to cover it up.  There’s hypocrisy when a pastor says something like, “Why would we have a gay pride parade? We don’t have a murderers’ pride parade” while he was in the habit of hiring a male prostitute.

But let me be the first to say… on the behalf of our denomination… we make mistakes. Huge blunders. And we make them often. So please do not blame God when it does. Please do not let it destroy your entire faith. And please, please try to forgive us.

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3 thoughts on “Sadly, it happens

  1. i recently met a humanist who was interested in my latest degree of divinity…he has been a big donor toward the furthering of humanism through groups such as the american society of atheist, and many more…morals and ethics are the main root of each of these groups and through this they make the world a better place…we joked about how i do it because of the example of my loving diety…he does it because he thinks that is the duty of living for the other…

    he asked me if i was going to be in a church and i shared my recent resistance…”grace” is always the answer for those of us who go into a perfection-needed ministry…we cannot be expected to live perfectly…but i do wonder if we live as bounded to morals and ethics as our humanist friends?…they have no diety to forgive them – reconcile them…they only have us/humanity…as one of my professors said last spring – “i am sick of all this slathering grace crap”…i recoiled a bit only because i was convinced he was right…i know i did not read the hateful comments, but i wonder if their outcry was about the lack of ethical behavior which is suppossed to be lived out because of our love and claim for our diety? they do it because they love humanity…it’s odd isn’t it?

  2. There are atheists and then there are atheists. Some are psychopathically absolutist, as open and forgiving as your average Pharisee. Many of the neoatheists these days simply can’t cede that a Christian can do anything right. They blame our “Easter Bunny God” for everything and anything wrong with humanity.

    Others, once they realize you’re willing to be gracious in disagreement, can be quite pleasant conversation partners.

  3. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I have to say, some of my best friends are atheists. Really. And I agree, those I know usually moral standards based on the duty of living for each other.

    But if that’s the case, wouldn’t forgiveness be central? Shouldn’t that be a central component any ethical system, theistic or not? I shudder to think of a world where there is no grace–whether that comes from a loving deity or in loving humanity.

    Of course, we’re not talking about one ethical system, any more that we talk about one ethical system in Christianity….

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