Friday, 5 April 2013

Falter at the Altar

I think hypocrisy cuts both ways. There are hypocrite theists and hypocrite atheists. Similarly, there are the warring crusaders of old, who raided and killed with papal endorsement, and in the name of God. And now, there is the clergy project, a group of clergy-turned-atheists formed to renounce religion.

Somewhere, somehow, between those two groups, I can imagine the chalkboard scratch of cognitive dissonance must be deafening.

Once they were fervent advocates of the gospel, now the members of the clergy project are turning their backs from it. I guess for a while, some of these clergymen had been living a double life. But they continued to minister religiously for fear of backlash from the congregation should they come forward with their deconversion.

I think there's nothing new under the sun. It's the same old manichean-like battle between two opposing forces: light and darkness, religion and atheism. Unfortuantely, hypocrisy prevails on both sides of the fence.

For this reason, I feel that some churches should fess up to the failings of the faith. I earnestly believe that there are pastors and church workers who are quietly disillusioned by the apathy of the leadership, the shallowness of their faith, and the seduction of atheism.

Somehow, and strangely, atheism always presents a more intellectual, open and modern face and religion generally projects a more traditional, dogmatic and even intolerant one.

Maybe, it is because the religious have been residing at the ivory tower of institutionalized belief for so long that they have unknowingly scorned (or underestimated) any opposing force threatening to topple their comfortable high ground. I call this the Jericho effect.

Instead of pretending the problem does not exist or "while" it away like a bad itch, I think the church leadership should take proactive steps to identify those bordering at the fringes of faith or deal with potential faithlessness in an open and private discussion.

But then, I guess no sensible pastor or church worker have the temerity to confess to a willowing doubt for fear that it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness or even betrayal.

What's worse, his candor may cause him an immediate disqualification from holding, or continuing to hold, his existing appointments. I call this the defrocking effect.

I sometimes see doubts as balancing on a knife-edge and whether one falls on the side of theism or atheism would depend on many factors. A pastor may be convicted by the spirit to go forward with faith despite his doubts. Or his faith may be strengthened by a loving and supportive church community as he comes forward with his weakness.

But, it definitely doesn't help for self-professed "saints" of God to cast stones at them and brand them as pulpit traitors or biblical apostates. This would surely tip the scale in favor of their deconversion.

I recall a father once came to Jesus and pleaded, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief." I believe this is the same call for help from people of faith who are tempering with doubts.

So let me end with this question: If we so eagerly help new converts with their doubts at the altar, why can’t we help old converts with their unbelief when they falter? Food for thought? Cheerz.

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