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A Response

I never, ever thought this would happen, but that church emailed me back. Below is the response from the Baptist Church I wrote a letter to a couple weeks ago. Obviously, I've redacted the name of the church and pastor, but everything else is exactly the way it appears in my email box right now.

Hi Jennifer,

I wanted to respond to your contact of our church. I know it has been a bit of time but, I wanted to pray about this response and make sure I thought it out appropriately. Wanted to clarify a couple of things. If you were pressured into making a decision that you didn’t want to make, I personally want to apologize for that. A relationship with Jesus Christ is one of a personal choice and decision. That should not have happened and that is not the practice of _______ Baptist Church. I personally stress to our church counselors this must be a decision the person has to make and wants to make themselves. I even encourage them not to make this decision if they do not want to and that this would be ok. At the camps we have attended there are multiple churches and counselors who may be more pushy than us. Again, I am sorry for that encounter you had with a counselor. I on behalf of ______ ask your forgiveness.

Now, I am not sure if you have the right church do to some of the comments made below. There are approximately 4-7 _______ Churches in the St. Louis vicinity. But, if we are the ones you are talking about then I must clarify some things you are recalling.

1. everyone was encouraged to go outside and find a councilor to confess their sins to.

Scripture never says to confess sins to other people, unless it was something you have done to that person personally, and we have never held to the practice of confessing sins to other people except for God himself.

2. the praying would not end until every child was out of their seat and giving testimony to one of the adults

I have attending every camp ______ went to up to the past 5 years. We never hold any service until every person makes a response. There are services where most or all people make a decision. There are times when very few people make a decision. There are times when people are dealing with God and or a counselor and the (led in prayer) invitation will go on until they are done dealing with God. But, I assure you we don’t and have never conducted an invitation with the mindset that it will not stop until everyone responds.

3. Eventually, one of the councilors came to get me.

Again, this should not have happened. I call this “person led” and not “God led”. God should be the motivation behind a decision not a person coming to get you from your seat. I apologize if this happened to you. I hope you would forgive our church for this event taking place.

4. I was forced to pray and be "saved."

Scripture clearly says that this is not right. I am sorry to be so firm on this but please take it in the love and grace it is being sent. There is no way we or a camp we attended would force anyone to pray and ask Christ into their life. This is a personal choice you have to make and if this was the case and true, _______ would never be part of it.

5. Every time someone asks me why I'm an atheist, I mention that night and your church.

I am not sure if I understand this comment. Being and Atheist says that there is no God. But every comment you made speaks of feeling forced or uncomfortable about certain events. If you don’t want to believe in a God that is your choice but don’t blame ________ for that decision. Your action should never be determined by what others say or do. We have a choice in spite of what others do or say. This concept says you have no choice but to be an atheist. God is real whether you believe it or not. But, please be accountable to your own decision to reject that there is a God.

Jennifer, I hope you see my honesty in this reply. I take responsibility for what could have happened and apologize for those things. But, there are some items that could not have happened. Some people write generic letters like this to multiple church web pages ( I don’t believe this is the case), or the perceived perception of a person recalling something 12 years ago. I hope you find your way on this journey of life and I have prayed for you today. I would love to discuss things further if you wish or if you have any questions concerning the existence of God or anything else please contact me.

May God Bless,

Pastor [first name]

PS Please see my gentleness and truthfulness in this response!


I haven't responded yet. Instead of "praying" on a response, I'm going to ask for comments on the internet. That's more my style.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
I think its a really nice reply.

If you don’t want to believe in a God that is your choice but don’t blame ________ for that decision. Your action should never be determined by what others say or do. We have a choice in spite of what others do or say.
Hes 100% right about that. You had an unpleasant experience, but ultimately its up to you.

The guy made an effort to respond to you. If you do reply, I hope you take the high road. No ones forcing you to believe in Jesus, but politeness goes a long way.
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I think he mistook my comment about mentioning his church every time I explain why I'm an atheist. I mention his church and what happened as part of a larger picture. He's certainly not the sole reason I believe (or don't believe, if you prefer)what I do.

If I respond, I'm going to be polite. Being rude just gives him an excuse not to take what I say seriously.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
I didn't know the name for it when I wrote my first letter, but I do know they encouraged everyone to leave and talk to a counselor. What about if not their sinning? They absolutely prayed until I was approached to get out of my seat even though that seemingly goes against their religion. The friend who invited me there even got a reward for Best Camper for her role in bringing me to God.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
You're not suggesting that, but he is. Any advice on what to reply back - if at all?
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
I think it's pretty great that he took the time to come up with a polite, well-meaning response for you. Dude seems to have his head on straight, which is a refreshing departure from the DO AS WE DO OR ELSE mentality you experienced as a kid.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
It IS great he responded. I'm a little perturbed though that his first reaction was that this couldn't have been his church. I'm very clear about the details, especially that they prayed until every single person was gone. That was not an exaggeration on my part. And I know that was the way it happened every year, because later my friend who took me there said so.
Sep. 7th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
your beliefs
Jen, most people adjust reality to fit their expectations. I think the minister and some of your commentators as well. (Including me I guess) I suggest you respond politely that you are not at all, misinterpreting, misrepresenting the facts, and, further you do not hold them responsible for your present belief, but the events as you have described them did occur, and a contributing factor to your present belief, as is your science classes, the history of religions totalling screwing up the world, committing religious genocide, etc. etc. That might set him straight.

Wayne Linder
Sep. 7th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Re: your beliefs
Thanks for your thoughts, Wayne. I think I've formed an appropriate response.
Sep. 8th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
Fuck 'em! I know it's not religious or wholesome or blah blah blah gratefully supportive BUT it's what I would say. You were trying to work through YOUR issue and it seemed to get turned back towards you.

AND this is why I belong to the Church of Lady Gaga.

Sep. 8th, 2010 01:07 am (UTC)
Ah, thank you for being the only person to point out the ass hatery that exists in that letter. We had a back and forth over email this afternoon. He apologized but pretty much chalked it up to a difference of perception.
Sep. 8th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
At least you can put yourself to rest and reassure YOURSELF (yep, you had to do it yourself) that you reached out and tried to help yourself.

There are a lot of "yous" and "yourselfs" in that sentence but that's what it comes down to.

Now you can wash your hands of it and know you were the better person.
Sep. 8th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Maybe he can get his congregation to do something like burn Korans or equally totally off God type issues
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )