Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekly Roundup (The Best of the Internet).

Occasionally, I like to do link roundups, either of great websites/blog posts I encounter, or sometimes, YouTube channels. I always like to share great material I encounter with my blog audience, especially great post for fellow bloggers. You never truly appreciate how much work goes into a great blog post until you become a blogger, and so it’s always good to lend a hand to a great blogger, and send some people their way.

Here’s my favorites for this week:

Are ministers more depressed than the general population?

A recent post by The Friendly Atheist talks about a recent study of Methodist pastors by Duke Divinity school. They surveyed and interviewed over 1,700 pastors from the United Methodist denomination in the US, and found that of the pastors they contacted, 8.7% had depression to some extent, compared to 5.5 % of the general US population.

I wonder if the same holds true for other denominations, and I have a feeling that it’s probably worse in fundamentalist denominations. My feeling is probably that it’s due to the fact that many congregations have a tendency to run their minister ragged, expect too much from him (or her), and don’t give them a break when they really need it.

Congregations can be very demanding on pastors, people get too emotionally connected to their minister, look to them to provide for their feeling of spiritual and emotional well being, and put them on a pedestal. Then there’s the constant stress, long hours, and middle of the night phone calls telling them about some disaster or another that has come upon a member of the congregation, or a friend/family member of a church member.

The last full time pastor at the church I am undercover in had his share of this. He would often visit members and their relatives in nursing homes and hospitals, many younger ministers today don’t do that (he was the son of a pastor, and his father taught him to do that). Then, on top of being a pastor of a church that averaged about 350 people each Sunday at the time, he was also one of my town’s 3 volunteer police chaplains.

He said he didn’t ever plan on sleeping on Friday or Saturday nights, because it would often happen that he would get a call from the dispatcher in the middle of the night, telling him to join officers at a death scene, and then proceed to go with the police chief, assistant chief, or a patrol captain to tell some unfortunate family that their relative had died, usually as the result of a traffic accident or a heroin/codeine overdose (it’s a very common problem in the St. Louis area, as I’ve talked about before).

It’s a stressful, and depressing job, and he often put in about 90 hours a week into it. It’s no surprise that last fall, he suddenly resigned after over 20 years of full time ministry in the church, and decided to retire from being a minister all together. He walked into a deacon’s meeting one Sunday afternoon, handed in his resignation, spoke to the deacons for several minutes, and left, with no advance warning to anyone.  

Tweets of the Week:

Blogger Grundy of Deity Shmeity had his own roundup this week, although his post was of his favorite tweets on Twitter, here’s a few of his favorites:

“Most women would never spend money at a business with the hiring policies of the Church, yet they often give when the basket comes around. I don't get it.”

“I like to think the Arthur Fonzarelli was an aaaaaatheist.”

“Apologists have a lot of certain knowledge about God's nature, power & motivation until a hard question is asked. Then its all mysterious.”

Heresy in the Heartland:

This blog is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs, and I have fellow blogger Ahab of Republic of Gilead to thank for introducing me to this blog.

Heresy in the Heartland is written by a woman named Jeri who broke free from the teachings of IFB cult leader Bill Gothard which she was raised with by her family.

There are so many great posts to read through including her Voiceless Women series about the forgotten wives and female relatives of men who were held up as heroes among Bill Gothard’s followers. The stories of these men often ignored the wives, mothers, etc, who had a big role in their ministries, and their lives, but their accomplishments and stories are missing from many accounts of the lives of these men.

Another great series is her 6 chapter blog series of her personal story of drifting away from the beliefs of her parents, and finding herself in life. An odd thing about reading the blogs from other former fundamentalists is that even if you didn’t grow up in as extreme of a environment as them, you still see quite a common elements in the beliefs and attitudes of your parents as compared to theirs.

Here’s a passage that really stood out to me from chapter 3 in her series, titled “Discord”:
Eating out, a treat that became more rare as more babies arrived, was fraught with anxiety. We would choose a restaurant, drive there, then wait in the parking lot while Dad went inside alone to "check it out". He would ask to look at a menu, I think, but really he was listening for evil sounds. If it was acceptable (usually that meant silent), or if they were willing to turn their music off, he would come out and collect us. If not, well, we'd have to try another place. As the oldest, I felt tremendous internal pressure at such times. I wanted to anticipate the dining experience, but was afraid of having my expectations disappointed. So I would scan Dad's face when he exited the restaurant doors, searching for a clue to the result. Unfortunately for me, Dad's expressions can be hard to read. We never really knew the verdict until he announced it. By then my stomach would be in knots.
Shopping was another danger zone. I learned to mentally block out background music at Kmart or the mall. My husband is still incredulous when I don't recognize a song, "But it was so popular! It got played everywhere!" Maybe so, darling, but I was busy jamming the frequency in my head so I wouldn't get demons of rebellion or want to have sex. I didn't know the Beatles from the Beach Boys. Despite growing up in the 80's and 90's, I never listened to a Michael Jackson song till after he died.

I’ve talked before about my mother’s attitudes about music and how some good rock helped me through some hard time shortly before and during my de conversion in my post Anything Worth Having Is Worth Fighting For.

Unlike her father, my mother wouldn’t refuse to go into a restaurant because of the music, though she would grumble about it the whole time and afterwards. If music she didn’t approve of was playing in a store when she was there, she would keep cringing, and do her best to get what she needed, and get out of there as soon as she could.

Hostility towards any form of rock music, and paranoia that it is "Satanic" in some way isn't just common among US fundamentalists, fellow blogger Christian Kemp was just recently talking about how his childhood pastor in South Africa had him convinced that demons could jump out of an Iron Maiden poster and burn him.

I also have struggled before with catching cultural references, I’ve gotten better at that, especially when it comes to music, but movie references are still hard for me to catch.

I can’t recommend her blog enough, and if you are reading this, Jeri (you might have noticed the people coming to your blog from my links), I would love it if you could write a guest post for this blog, or if you want me to guest post for you. Let me know in comments here, or by e-mailing me at I can’t find any social media links or e-mail address/contact form on your blog to contact you.

Cyanide and Happines: The Rope

If you are a regular reader of the blog, or follow me on Google +, you know I’m a big fan of the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness. Well, C&H, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, got the funding they needed to recently resume their animated short cartoons. Here is their most recent cartoon, “The Rope”, I will tell you, if you are not familiar with them, that their humor is not for the easily offended:

If you would like to see more of their animated short cartoons, check out their Explosm Entertainment YouTube channel


  1. Another factor with burnout in pastors is that they have a hard time making friends. Church and work - two common places for people to meet - are effectively off limits. It's not that they can never be friends with people in the congregation, but it's very tricky to do appropriately, and close friendships are difficult. So you take a stressful job, and then remove the support network that most people have.

    1. I could see that, of course you would be rather close to many people, but you would have no one to confide in, since everyone is expecting you to be this superhero that solves all their problems, and hears all their concerns.

      They have no one who is an equal to them, other than other ministers in the community, if they can find the time to make those connections.

  2. Thanks for the plug. All those tweets were my own, but I should probably do a round-up of other people's tweets too. There are some great ones out there.

    1. I find it funny when Hausdorff talks about some of the arguments he has had on Twitter.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out Sheldon. I have been enjoying Cyanide and Happiness a great amount since you turned me onto it and this animation was just great.


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