Ministers’ Kids

I ran into a minister’s kid this weekend who told me that she’s convinced, most of the time, that there’s no god. Atheism in the rest of the world doesn’t bother me. If you’re reading this and you’re an atheist and you’re not a minister’s kid, believe me, I don’t give a rat’s ass–as we apparently say down here. It’s a legitimate conclusion to draw about the world.

But I hate hearing it from ministers’ kids, though I do. Not because I’m particularly worried about their souls, but because being a minister’s kid is not easy and becoming an atheist means you must, by definition, believe your parents put you through that either because they were deluded or con artists.

The con artist thing may be easier to make peace with. But believing that your parents are deluded?

It’s basically giving up on any ability to have a functioning relationship with them. Think of it this way–if you believe you were abducted by aliens, I can be your friend and respect you without your alien abduction beliefs coming into play. There’s nothing about the fact that you believe you were abducted by aliens that would require me to be on constant guard against you.

But if you believe that you were abducted by aliens and they required you to make me do things I didn’t want to do, we obviously couldn’t hang out. How could I be sure at any moment that you weren’t going to suddenly be called on through some mechanism I can’t vet to make me do things I don’t want to do?

I think there are probably atheist ministers’ kids who are fine with being atheists. And, as such, it may never come up in conversation with me. After all, you just can’t be saying shit like that. Even as an adult, it puts your parent’s job at risk. And we all know how to protect the job, by habit.

But the people I hear from are usually in the middle of a basic existential crisis. They don’t want to be atheists. They just don’t know how to reconcile the fact that no One rescued them with the existence of Someone who is omnipotent. In a way, they feel like what they’ve been told about God is the means by which God, who was important to them, has been stolen from them.

I find that upsetting.

I toyed around with writing a survival guide for ministers’ kids when I was in college. I’m kind of glad I didn’t, though, because the truth is, I don’t know. You just do. Is there a way to survive it with your faith intact, without then becoming a minister yourself?

I guess I’m starting to think not. No matter what, it looks like you’re going to go through some kind of loss and grieving process. Some folks find their way back from that.

And the rest of us don’t.