"Hardly anyone reads the Bible. If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble."—Mike Aus, former pastor at Theophilus church in Katy, TX.
Aus, a former Lutheran pastor in Texas and a member of The Clergy Project, said that after 20 years of preaching he has discarded his faith. He stated that he began to question the various claims of Christianity and became more and more skeptical as he was unable to resolve these issues. Aus said “As I started to jettison the beliefs, I came to realize fairly recently there wasn't a whole lot left.”
Within weeks of his “coming out” on Up with Chris Hayes his church disbanded. Dr. Keith Jenkins, a Methodist pastor and former president of the Houston Graduate School of Theology spoke to Local 2 Investigates:
When a pastor comes forward and says, 'I don't believe anymore,' it rocks their world, Members see pastors as spiritual super heroes. I'm sure there are many pastors actively serving in churches who are going through a faith crisis and have lost their faith, but they haven't left because it's their livelihood. But they need to move on. They don't need to stay with a church and use their position as a pastor with sacred trust to try and take others with them.
The local news story including the interview with Dr. Jenkins can be seen in the link above and I recommend watching it (unfortunately I cannot embed it). I think the reaction of people is indicative of the fear and distrusts of atheists, especially those atheists that they considered to be elevated or “spiritual leaders.” Jenkins, and I would presume many people, fear that ministers like Aus will “use their position as a pastor with a sacred trust to try and taker others with them.” I find this fear to be laughable and sad. On the one hand it is perfectly acceptable, if not the duty of Christians, to spread the gospel and bring people to Jesus. This is part of a pastor’s job. However, the fear that the pastors who have lost faith will then turn around and try to convince others to deny faith in God is hypocrisy.
Finally, the Local 2 Investigates news piece has a feeling of doom and fear. Everything from the background music to the use of the term “secret atheists” is either consciously or subconsciously related to the fear of atheists, especially within the religious community. The music in the clip begins as choir music and changes to a harrowing tone, complete with the picture of Mike Aus being darkened (dun dun dun!!!!) as the narrator says the word “atheist.” I have no doubt that the loss of faith by one’s spiritual leaders is confusing and scary. Maybe people should consider the reasons for that loss of faith either on their own or by talking to the person who, until recently, they held in such regard. What about them has actually changed? Find out and think for yourself.
The most pertinent parts of the Local 2 Investigates interview are that they never say that Aus or the other atheist preachers no longer believe in God. It is never explicitly stated. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I found that interesting. Finally, Dr. Jenkins admits that many church leaders question their faith and leave the church, but “…never before has it been a public phenomenon.” I think this is a fantastic point. It says a lot about the progress of non-belief and rejection of religion that it is becoming public. It needs to be a public phenomenon. The fact that church leaders are discarding faith is important. It can only help shake people out of the fear of asking questions of their “leadership” and more importantly of themselves.