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Sunday letters: Relativism is eroding Christianity

When a pastor no longer believes | March 28

Relativism is eroding Christianity

In this "fascinating study" by Tufts University, we find several ministers experiencing a crisis of faith.

The idea that Christians experience seasons of doubt is well-known and in fact is often the means by which people grow into deeper faith and trust in God.

What is mind-blowing is not the crisis, but the article's casual treatment of the ministers' actions, rooted in a rationalization and relativism that is eroding Christianity. I find their behavior and choices disturbing, not fascinating. If this was an article about surgeons who are unqualified to be in the operating room, but do it anyway to protect their paycheck and career until they find another way to make a living, I daresay that the St. Petersburg Times would not call it "fascinating." To argue that this is any different is to minimize the damage these men are doing to those who entrust themselves to their spiritual care and the damage to the Body of Christ in general.

There is an insanity to Darryl's stance that he would like to minister to those who feel the same way and believes there is "room in Christianity for this." How can there be room in Christianity for nonbelief in Christ or his teachings? That is illogical. Create your own religion but don't twist mine into something you are comfortable with. Calling yourself a Christian does not make you a Christian. I am fed up with self-serving embezzlers, pedophiles, hatemongers and closet atheists hijacking the labels "organized religion," "the Church" and "Christianity."

Our "progressive" society has developed an antireligious agenda, and what better reading than another story about "them thar Christians who don't believe what they preach." Thank you for delivering another blow.

Maybe someday you'll print a story about the 50-plus ministries at my parish who feed the poor, assist the homeless, visit the imprisoned and care for the sick. I won't hold my breath.

Susan M. Crockett, Safety Harbor

Different kind of believing

How courageous are the pastors who "no longer believe." Thank you for their stories.

Ah, but they do believe! Clearly they believe in the worth of life, a creative spirit that flows through all. Clearly they value a community spiritual life. Clearly they believe in the possibilities of people to grow, to build a better life and to enrich one another. Clearly they revere the fine lives and teachings of our human heritage.

The pastors are more noble than they think. May they know they are not alone. Let us celebrate their ministry. Let their true spirits soar. Let the great mystery continue to reveal itself with awe, joy, inspiration and wonderment.

Charles W. Cook, Belleair

When a pastor no longer believes | March 28

An opportunity to explore spirituality

When anyone, including a pastor, has a change of mind about long-held beliefs, it may be but a stage in the longer process of finding oneself and defining our relationship with the creator. We are programmed from a young age by family, community and institutions like school and church. Some people are comfortable with these programs for life. Others must seek their own way eventually. I believe that shedding one's old beliefs is a major step forward in personal evolution. It should not be met with dismay but enthusiasm for the journey ahead. Exploring one's doubts takes courage.

Polls show that people are leaving institutional religion in increasing numbers. Since many tend to see religion and spirituality as one and the same, it is easy to throw out the baby with the bath at the point of doubting. Those who persevere may find the difference and pursue spirituality on their own. We are all individuals, so why should everyone have to fit into a denominational mold? There are many informal groups, classes and book clubs where people explore spirituality together.

I salute the pastors who have the courage to kick the institutional church addiction and encourage them to plunge into the exhilarating waters of spirituality. And I hope the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts' University will explore the place of doubt in the longer term process of spiritual development.

Alice P. Williams, Sun City Center

When a pastor no longer believes | March 28

A missing moral core

You can always tell when Holy Week is upon us. The media and/or Hollywood inevitably foist some piece of quasi-theological nonsense off on the public to stir up response.

Okay, I'll oblige. This alleged scholarly study from Tufts University really says nothing new or original. There have been, from the earliest days of Christian belief, those in the church who do not believe. The reasons for their presence are myriad. Why would anyone expect that those numbers of nonbelievers, apostates and/or heretics would not include members of the clergy?

As to Adam and Darryl, they are great examples of one of the biggest problems confronting the mainline Christian church today. That problem is the lack of church discipline. However, even when the church fails in discipline, an ethical person who no longer believes (or perhaps never did) would renounce his or her ordination, before causing more harm. That requires a moral core, courage and a strength of character that these two have not shown.

The Rev. James C. Yearsley, Tampa

When a pastor no longer believes | March 28

A slap in the face

The St. Petersburg Times has stooped to a new low by featuring the anti-Christian article by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda Lascola, on Palm Sunday and at the beginning of Holy Week, which showcases two pathetic Christian ministers trying to explain why they continue to preach when they no longer believe.

If either of them had an ounce of decency to them, they would not hide behind a veil of anonymity, and level with their congregations as to why they continue to minister to them while being self-professed agnostics and atheists.

Your poor taste on the timing of this article is a slap in the face to Christians of all denominations who hold sacred this most cherished of all religious seasons.

Douglas K. deWolfe, Odessa

When a pastor no longer believes | March 28

Door to a deeper faith

Daniel C. Dennett and Linda Lascola's study of pastors who no longer believe makes for challenging reading. As a pastor myself, I can identify with the doubts and questions that Darryl, the Presbyterian, and Adam, Church of Christ, are struggling with. They speak of much study and reading, ministry and family life.

Nothing was said about the part that prayer and contemplation played in their spirituality. Could it be that they are experiencing a "Dark Night of the Soul" and are being led to a deeper faith and spirituality as presented by an anonymous 14th century English author in his spiritual classic entitled The Cloud of Unknowing?

Richard Archambault, St. Petersburg

Can they make you buy insurance? | April 1

McCollum's maneuver

The lesson on the Commerce Clause taught by the constitutional lawyers and law professors on the April 1 Opinion page was informative, but wasn't much help in evaluating the probable success of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit to invalidate the health care reform law. The Commerce Clause discussion failed to "see the forest for the trees."

Most practicing lawyers and judges know that courts seldom invalidate entire statutory enactments, but in the event a part of the law is found unconstitutional, courts invoke the doctrine of severability, which requires that only the offending provision in a statute be excised from the law and the remainder be permitted to stand. Should the mandatory insurance provision upon which McCollum largely bases his challenge to the law be found unconstitutional, the remaining portions are unlikely to be invalidated, and Congress can quickly repair the law in any number of ways to ensure its viability.

McCollum undoubtedly knows this, just as he probably knew a dozen years ago that Bill Clinton wasn't going to be found guilty in the impeachment proceedings he helped to lead, but he's apparently counting on being safely ensconced in the Governor's Mansion by the time everyone else finds out.

Bernard E. Boland, Wesley Chapel

Sunday letters: Relativism is eroding Christianity

04/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 3, 2010 8:02pm]
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