Of course, now that I’m a bit older and have had my own skirmishes with self-sabotage, I’ve come to wonder if my colleagues and I had it all wrong. It wasn’t moral and theological certitude that helped some of us stay more or less moral; it was moral and theological honesty. The greatest threat to our moral and spiritual health wasn’t questions or doubts but rather dishonesty or pretense about our questions or doubts. I’ve come to suspect that many of our former colleagues felt questions and doubts arising within them just as I did that day in the high school bathroom, but for reasons even they may not have understood, they dismissed their questions, denied their doubts, and refused to face and grapple with them. Publicly, they beamed a happy, confident, doubt-free smile to the church and the world, but privately, they hid a frightened, doubting, troubled heart and probably suppressed their questions even from themselves. Hypocrisy and self-deception proved to be far greater dangers than uncertainty. Once they practiced denial, deception, and cover-up in one area, they found it easier and easier to practice them in other areas.
When I look back on the did you hear about ritual, I now wonder if some of the unexpected departures were more deliberate than they seemed. Perhaps when someone is hiding doubts, a member of their inner brain committee tries to end the charade by hatching a plan to self-sabotage sexually relationally, or financially. An act of ministry suicide is painful, but less painful, perhaps, than living the lie.
From “Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What To Do About It” by Brian McLaren