Is Leaving the Ministry Like Leaving the Mafia?

Brian Worley

My maternal grandfather died prior to my second birthday, family rumor has it that he was once involved in the mafia. Born in Italy, the family sent him to join his older brother in Chicago when he was of age. Afterwards, he changed his name. In the later years of life, he turned to Christianity and was purported to be an ardent believer until the time of his death. This opening side note helps to introduce a subject matter that sorely needs to be discussed! Sometimes in life, you recognize that you are “in too deep” or discover that you are linked with something that contradicts your inner compass. You know what you should do, but sometimes it isn’t that easy to leave!  

After having read retired gangster, Bill Bonanno’s “Understanding the Mafia” section within Guy Kawasaki’s fascinating “Hindsights” book; I can somewhat understand the mafia’s mindset behind “once mafia, always mafia.” What I cannot understand is the drama, difficulty, or discrimination that many a man or women face when departing the faith. Every case is different. While some experience no problems whatsoever leaving Christianity; ministers/priest or clergy had better beware and count the cost before they decide to leave! Yes there are exceptions to the rule, one being the case of Charles B. Templeton. 

Judging from personal experience and the number of letters I have received, discarding an “imaginary friend” can lead to a disruption/decline of business; loss of job; black balling; or the ending of friendships/relationships. I’m not going to betray confidences, but I know for a fact that a number of clergy/ministers/priest want to leave the faith but cannot risk the financial consequences that they will most assuredly face if they were to go public and renounce their faith! This isn’t a perceived threat either, but a reality that has had me reconsider the wisdom my being vocal about leaving the faith and running the website!  

Some would seek to minimalize the ramifications of this dilemma by employing sadistic humor and painting their plight as martyrs. Overstatements like these serve to deflect attention away from a man being unfairly obstructed from his means of making a living outside of the ministry.  

Corporations also get in on the act by proxy when xenophobic Bible thumpers are given reigns on personnel matters. It has simply never crossed the minds of some of the corporate threat to free speech under the guise of “political correctness.” Companies can do an “end run” around the first amendment by simply avoiding to hire an otherwise qualified individual because they have an “undesirable profile!” Yes, this is illegal but ever so hard to prove in a court of law!     

 This also underscores the contrast between a democracy and a constitutional republic. Quiz most Americans about their form of government and they would probably fail by answering that America is a democracy. America isn’t a democracy, but a constitutional republic where the constitution is considered to be the supreme “law of the land.”  America has strayed far away from this premise. A crude definition of democracy would be that the majority or “mob rules” (pun intended!) It wouldn’t be so bad if this majority followed the constitution rather than Christian interests. If so, secularists wouldn’t have to resist so many power grabs from religious parties overstepping their boundaries. When the representative majority rules (as it does today) rather than the established constitutional guidelines; the “bloom is off the rose” of our American way!

People should be free to “come and go” as they please in matters of faith and religion. Sure nobody holds you up with a gun denying your departure but my intention is to show that they have accomplished the same if they can separate you from your monetary supply!  The alternative for those trapped ministers is to remain in their churches and do their best to pretend that everything is fine. Surely, this isn’t good for the churches either!  

I’m convinced that a number of ministers/priest/clergy feel trapped because they have lost their faith, but yet, they feel that they cannot walk away because it is too complicated to do so! But think with me…what would happen within our communities if these complications were reduced to a manageable level? This is a project that Ex-Minister as an organization would tackle and something that I have had in mind since securing this website domain in 2003. I would appreciate those of you that want to spread secular values to view the “organizational request for funding page” and to help turn these ideas into reality!  

Is leaving the ministry like leaving the mafia? One cannot help but notice the similarities when fear serves to muzzle the ox that had once ploughed the corn!  

PS: I welcome emails from those of you that would share your experiences!


      Brian Worley     May 18, 2009    All rights reserved

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