Marcus Mumford doesn’t call himself a Christian anymore. His parents started a church, which makes him a minister’s kid and then some. As I’ve said, I know very few ministers’ kids who transition easily from childhood church attendance into butt-in-pew Christianity in adulthood. Even if they eventually end up butt-in-pew Christians, it’s not been an easy transition. There’s had to be some moment of reckoning from the grief of their childhoods, some way of reconciling themselves to what happened.
A lot of us can’t do that.
Reverend Lillian Daniel takes him to task for that failure. And I’m going to say that her piece literally makes me want to vomit.
When people tell me they can’t stand Christianity, they are usually describing a Church that bears very little resemblance to the open-minded church I serve. They describe judgmental hypocrites who hate people of other faiths and are only after your money. They attribute all the world’s problems to the Church, from sexism to sexual abuse to warfare.
In very few arenas would we tolerate a similar discussion about another group of people. And yet open-minded people listen to such meandering musings with a sympathetic ear, as if they are hearing something wise, brave or original. When in reality, they are hearing something shallow, uninformed and insulting.
A minister’s kid might be a lot of things, but uninformed is just not one of them.
Anyway, I wrote her a letter.
This morning someone shared your piece on Marcus Mumford on Twitter. I read it and, frankly, it made me want to throw up. Normally, I would not write to tell someone that I had such a negative reaction to her writing, but you are a minister who a lot of other ministers look up to and you have a staff full of ministers.
So, I’m writing on behalf of their children. I, myself, am a minister’s kid–Methodist. I haven’t lived in a parsonage in roughly twenty years and I haven’t been in a church except to keep the peace with my father in about that long.
I know a lot of ministers’ kids. Some I’ve known my whole life and some I’ve met as adults. It’s amazing to find people–even ministers’ kids of different denominations–who get it, what you’ve been through. And it seems that there are only three paths ministers’ kids go down. We either stop considering ourselves Christian or we become ministers, in very rare cases, we eventually find some way to get back to church.
I know my sample size is small–maybe just thirty people. But most of us no longer consider ourselves Christian.
It was unfair of you to say that Marcus Mumford was coming from a place of “shallow, uninformed and insulting” knowledge of Christianity. Ministers’ kids are not uninformed. It’s not a matter, either, of just bumping into humanity. My father’s parishioners regularly made me aware of how much they thought he sucked. They also called and complained to my dad about who my friends were and the way I dressed and what kind of music I listened to. They told me they thought my dad should beat my brother. They felt free to criticize my mom’s clothing and the fact that she worked as a teacher.
And, when I tried to find a church home here, one of the places I went, my very first time visiting, someone pulled me aside to tell me that they knew their minister sucked, but they were looking to get rid of him. As if I would naturally take the side of the church against a man with the same job as my father.
I could tell you worse stories from my friends. But I know–I know–you know similar stories. I know there’s a group of people in your church right now who, if they could, would make your life miserable. Or the lives of some of your support staff. And those people are not decent enough to shield children from those things.
Marcus Mumford isn’t just some dude who decided to stop calling himself Christian. He’s a minister’s kid who decided to stop calling himself Christian. And we decide for very different reasons–reasons that are bound up in our feelings for our parents–than the people you seem to be addressing in your piece.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we’re required to stand in a painful place just to suit others, to continue to open ourselves up to abuse, just because that’s “humanity” for you.
I also imagine he spend his whole life being an object lesson to his parents’ congregation. And here he is, yet again, being used as an object lesson to further your theological ends. That part sucks, too.
I hope, in the future, when you see a minister’s kid who can’t call himself a Christian any more, you, at least, consider that his decision is not uninformed. Perhaps you could consider what, exactly, his decision is informed by.