The book Caught in the Pulpit changes gears a little when we get to Part V about emerging themes. The idea here is to identify some common threads that are common to all clergy who leave their faith. The writers start with the commonalities that cause liberal clergy to leave their faith and it is interesting that they recognized that there is a difference in how liberal clergy leave compared to literalists. It is really the first theme they develop which is that there is a difference between the two in how their faith is lost and that is a god thing to recognize.
Liberal clergy are characterized by the following factors: they don’t accept miracles in general and don’t believe in the supernatural. They look at the bible as myth and metaphor but they usually despise atheists because they feel atheists are blind to the mysteries and sacred aspects of life that make it meaningful. Now a lot of them realize what I can see just by reading the above. If there are no miracles and no supernatural events, why then would you believe in this sacred and mysterious part of life which has obvious supernatural elements? This is why many of them ultimately lose faith themselves. But many maintain this idea and consider themselves to be fellow fighters, along with the atheists, against fundamentalism. The real nature of liberal clergy is humanistic as they often have no faith but use the influence of being a clergy person to promote certain political agendas.
My reaction to this part is a lot of sadness. I large part also I am going to say that liberal clergy that started out as liberals in the first place probably never had faith to begin with so I think those types of liberal clergy invalidate the study the authors are trying to look at clergy members who lose their faith. The ones that turn from conservative to liberal qualify, but the ones who start out liberal never had faith to begin with. That said, the other part I found disturbing is the frank dishonesty of these clergy members and the fact they were willing to use Christianity as a means to their own ends. Some of those ends were simply that they had good pension plan and they wanted to keep it. The Big thing that these clergy are able to do in their mind is create a distinction between a Bible story being factual and it continuing truthful or meaningful messages. This distinction however falls a little short for me and always has because if you can question the fact of something then the truth that is connected with it is also subject to question. This is of course the central problem that conservative literalists face which is the subject of the next part of the book.