My journey, or deconstruction, as they say, is typical of ministers who lose their faith. I was raised in an ultra conservative denomination, had my doubts but committed myself to service. I wanted to help people and make the community and the world a better place. Over the years I moved incrementally to more liberal churches—each shift seemed pretty dramatic. However, no matter how far I may have come on this religious spectrum, it’s the wrong spectrum, and I have rejected it outright in the privacy of my mind and heart—almost no else knows I’ve come to this point.
I look at the shifts I made in the past.
On past occasions, I came to a crisis of faith where I just wanted out of ministry, but decided to try again in another venue. As I reviewed each of those shifts, the commonality was not just a crisis of faith, but also physical and mental illness.
I look at my medicine cabinet full of blood pressure pills, three different pills for diabetes, an antidepressant, two heart medications, and a little Valium to take the edge off when I get agitated or can’t sleep. What happened to the vigorous man I once was? The one who was brave and daring? Why did I let myself break down like this?
I became a full time minister when I was 23 and immediately began to feel the inadequacy and frustration of ministry, and since then I’ve had many nights when I was so agitated I couldn’t sleep. After a short time, I imagined what a relief it would be to just quit existing, and I daydreamed about ending that existence.
It was decades before I came out of that terrible depression but I have still looked forward to the day when I am done and if my current health problems brought that day fairly soon, well that wouldn’t be so bad.
It seems so stupid now, to try to form some sort of spiritual support group out of people who are mean and superstitious, to try to find cosmic truth from a book of cultural myths, and to trade my health and happiness in a failing attempt to make an unhealthy organization succeed.
But lately, I’ve come to realize that I’d like to stay alive and do more than exist. Perhaps it would be okay to actually be happy? Christianity is suspicious of happiness and promotes the nobility of misery, which seems incredibly stupid, as I think about it now.
If there is a god in heaven, I don’t think he/she/it really insists that I be miserable to get there. And why would I want to spend eternity with someone who is so mean? And if he doesn’t exist, why have I spent so much time trying to live a contagiously unhappy life?