From minister to atheist personal statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
fallingup77
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From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:28 pm

I know the conventional wisdom is to stay away from religion/politics, etc. in the personal statements, but I have my reasons for going this route. Just looking at my resume puts me in a box that I no longer fit into. I'm almost 30 and have changed dramatically even since I finished grad school (seminary) and wanted to highlight who I am now. Let me know what you guys think, especially any grammatical issues.
Thanks!

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I officiated a gay wedding last month. It was a beautiful, small event—set in the mountains outside of Seattle. My brother married his partner in what was undoubtedly a day of culmination for them. They have been a couple for many years, but were finally able to stand in front of those closest to them and become recognized legally. This was also a culmination of sorts for me. As they recited their commitments to each other, I voiced my own commitments to fairness and equality that took years to formulate. As strange as it may sound, my brother’s sexuality was the catalyst that prodded this development along.

Initially, the change was miniscule and unnoticeable to an outsider. My brother—my gay brother—made intimate for me an issue I previously swept aside, self-righteously declaring, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This prompted me to ask questions with dangerous implications reaching far beyond my sexual ethic: Should our family disown him? Is it truly wrong? Is he going to hell? Did god make him this way? Is scripture relevant or reliable today? This was a critical time for me. Struggling with these questions opened my mind just enough to consider the possibility that my childhood traditions might not have been as immutable as I believed.

Then my wife and I moved to New York City and I suddenly experienced real diversity. I was faced with justifying difficult doctrines that often marginalized the people who were now my neighbors and coworkers. Working for a year with underserved high-school students only accentuated this discomfort. Some of these young people fought a battle between traditional ideals and hidden gender identity issues. A number even asked me pointedly, in their thick New Yorker accents, whether I thought being gay was a sin. For the first time in my life I could not, at least honestly and responsibly, answer this question affirmatively.

After leaving New York I returned to youth ministry, intending to put my Baptist undergraduate and seminary degrees to good use. I tried desperately to embody two conflicting ideals: progressive beliefs and conservative Christian teachings. The result left me feeling like Jekyll and Hyde. Unsurprisingly, the issue of homosexuality was the breaking point. To feign compliance at that stage would have betrayed too much. I could no longer adhere to the flimsy justifications I constructed to maintain my faith. Christianity failed to answer the questions I started asking when I found out my brother was gay.

Many might be frightened to consider the loss of their belief system—especially when that system entirely defined them and put food on the table. True, I lost the ministry I had worked hard to develop (and owe much to and still empathize with), but I gained a worldview of truth that is inherently human rather than mandated from a higher being. Since then, I have come to realize freedom of thought and confidence in myself that I had not previously known.

Choosing law school fits squarely into my story. I have always considered myself an advocate for others—in ministry, non-profit work, and as an academic advisor—and know that these experiences will lend themselves well to a profession in law. Believing that the legal system can be an agent for progressive change, I consider law school with a sense of enthusiasm and pride: enthusiasm about contributing as a scholar to the theory of law and pride at the thought of putting what I learn to good use for my clients. This will be my new ministry.

On the flight home from Seattle I reflected on how much I had changed. When the plane touched down in Dallas, my emotions were mixed. Being a non-theist who stands for LGBT rights in East Texas is difficult—it relegates me to a vastly outnumbered population. I will forever be a prayer request in my parent’s Sunday school class and everyday conversations require superhuman abilities in bait dodging and tongue biting. Contrasted against the freedoms I obtained, though, the sacrifices seem minor.

For all of this I have my brother to blame—and I couldn't be more thankful.

erik the viking
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby erik the viking » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:35 pm

That's really moving. I don't think it's too controversial to be a PS topic. You handle it very well.

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Ramius
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby Ramius » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:41 pm

You crafted an excellent statement here. I think it eloquently and completely answers what I can only assume would be a major question in your application. It's not every day a minister leaves his ministry to go to another profession.

You've truly done well here and I have little to say by way of critique. Well done.

NYstate
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby NYstate » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:53 pm

Can you delete "thick New Yorker accents" Just offensive and doesn't add a single thing to your statement.

but this is a great statement.
Last edited by NYstate on Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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thewaves
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby thewaves » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:57 pm

+1 very good

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crg0097
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby crg0097 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 3:48 pm

It's a great topic and done well.

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Samara
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby Samara » Sat Aug 24, 2013 3:55 pm

NYstate wrote:Can you delete "thick New Yorker accents" Just offensive and doesn't add a single thing to your statement.

but this is a great statement.

+1

fallingup77
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:04 pm

NYstate wrote:Can you delete "thick New Yorker accents" Just offensive and doesn't add a single thing to your statement.

but this is a great statement.


I've gone back and forth on this phrase. I'll get rid of it.
Thanks all for the encouraging words.

UnderrateOverachieve
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby UnderrateOverachieve » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:12 pm

You know a PS is good when the only advice is to remove three or four words.

risanian
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby risanian » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:24 pm

You should also post this, and revisions on Ill Read Yours, If You Read Mine, or [Hi, I'm trying to spam you!], so that others can review it as well, its a free personal statement peer review website and its a little more private than posting it on these blogs, regardless here are my thoughts:

This is one of the best PS I've read thus far, you have truly done a wonderful job. Personally, I like the "thick New Yorker accent" portion, depending on interpretation, it can symbolize something deeper.

Firstly, you may want to consider adding an additional paragraph explicitly demonstrating, by example, your self-proclaimed advocacy for other. It will better convey your passion for equality.

Secondly, "Choosing law school fits squarely into my story." nobody likes squares, you may want to consider a different (better) transition into your desire to go to law school. Im certain there is something or someone that has lead you to believe becoming a lawyer is the best, or a required tool for you to be a successful advocate for equality, use that as a transition instead.

Lastly "I officiated a gay wedding last month. It was a beautiful"
Im not certain why but the "last month" portion bothered me, was it really last month? will it be last month when the ADCOM reads it? If it wasn't last month is this person lying? Is that even important?
Perhaps earlier this year, a few months ago, or in july of this year may be a better choice of words.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
This will be my new ministry.
For all of this I have my brother to blame—and I couldn't be more thankful.

Hope this helps!

fallingup77
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:03 pm

Thanks for the comments, risanian!
Firstly, you may want to consider adding an additional paragraph explicitly demonstrating, by example, your self-proclaimed advocacy for other. It will better convey your passion for equality.

I'm still not fully satisfied with my "why law school" paragraph and agree that adding a little meat will go a long way.

Secondly, "Choosing law school fits squarely into my story." nobody likes squares, you may want to consider a different (better) transition into your desire to go to law school. Im certain there is something or someone that has lead you to believe becoming a lawyer is the best, or a required tool for you to be a successful advocate for equality, use that as a transition instead.

I hadn't really thought about "square" having any negativity attached to it. I'll take this into consideration.

Lastly "I officiated a gay wedding last month. It was a beautiful"
Im not certain why but the "last month" portion bothered me, was it really last month? will it be last month when the ADCOM reads it? If it wasn't last month is this person lying? Is that even important?

I've thought the same thing about my opening. I like the immediacy of saying "last month", but it is true that in a few days this wont technically be true. I'm not sure how much this matters--does the reader just assume that "last month" refers to the month previous to when the writer actually wrote the statement? I guess I could just say "this summer" and not worry about it.
Thanks again for taking time to offer advice. I'll look into the site you recommended.

risanian
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby risanian » Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:02 pm

My pleasure, good luck and you should definitely checkout the site, its perfect for people like us.

Best

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Happy Gilmore
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby Happy Gilmore » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:30 pm

Excellent story, wonderfully articulated.

This is obviously a risky topic, and you have mitigated it for the most part. My only concern is what do you think this says about your judgement? Do you judge before you weigh the evidence, What if you didn't have a gay brother?

Do you have any other topics to talk about? I suppose I favor the simplest, most conservative version of a personal statement possible.

Take my advice as a grain of salt though. Overall I did like it.

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TheSpanishMain
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby TheSpanishMain » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:57 pm

It's wonderfully written. In my mind, there are two small risks to weigh.

1) The obvious one. You might offend someone who disapproves of gay marriage. I don't think this is a serious risk. Admissions committees in general seem pretty LGBT friendly.
2) A religious person who supports LGBT rights/marriage might think you're implying that religiosity necessitates homophobia. I don't think this is what are you're saying necessarily, but there is some risk of alienating liberal/moderate Christians with statements like "Christianity didn't provide an answer" when you're really talking about conservative, east Texas Baptist Christianity. There are Christian churches that perform same sex weddings and ordain openly gay clergy, after all.

fallingup77
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:48 pm

Happy Gilmore wrote:Excellent story, wonderfully articulated.

This is obviously a risky topic, and you have mitigated it for the most part. My only concern is what do you think this says about your judgement? Do you judge before you weigh the evidence, What if you didn't have a gay brother?

Do you have any other topics to talk about? I suppose I favor the simplest, most conservative version of a personal statement possible.

Take my advice as a grain of salt though. Overall I did like it.


Thanks for weighing in! Your concern about my judgment is valid. But my response would then be to question whether change happens in a vacuum. Any time anyone changes their mind on an issue, there is going to have to be something (or a set of somethings) that happen to bring about this change. If I didn't have a gay brother, would I have changed my mind on this issue? It's impossible for me to know--though I have asked myself this same question many times before. Did I judge the issue before without weighing the evidence (i.e. just accept that being gay was a sin because my belief system and canon said so)? I guess I did--but who doesn't as a young person. It is only until you actually experience life and bump up against other ideas that your unquestioned beliefs can then evolve. I am hoping to display this evolution with my PS.

For me, being conservative in my PS would seem to run from a decided advantage that I feel older students have over a K-JD candidate. I have no clue what I would have written about 8 years ago as a senior in college--but I can tell you, personally, it would have been far less compelling. Do I run the risk of alienating a conservative Christian adcom? Sure, but it is a risk I'm willing to take because I think it's worth it. There isn't much in my life more important than what I wrote in this statement and I am happy to share that with people who are trying to get a feel for me beyond my statistics.

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond and for the kind words.

fallingup77
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:00 pm

TheSpanishMain wrote:It's wonderfully written. In my mind, there are two small risks to weigh.

1) The obvious one. You might offend someone who disapproves of gay marriage. I don't think this is a serious risk. Admissions committees in general seem pretty LGBT friendly.
2) A religious person who supports LGBT rights/marriage might think you're implying that religiosity necessitates homophobia. I don't think this is what are you're saying necessarily, but there is some risk of alienating liberal/moderate Christians with statements like "Christianity didn't provide an answer" when you're really talking about conservative, east Texas Baptist Christianity. There are Christian churches that perform same sex weddings and ordain openly gay clergy, after all.


SpanishMain-thanks for the comment. Throughout the entire process of writing this statement, I tried to be very conscious about how a religious person--whether conservative, moderate, or liberal--might view it. Thankfully, I can empathize with all three viewpoints as I adhered to each at some point in the past. In order to protect against this, I tried to make it evident that this was a purely personal struggle that ended with myself being unsatisfied. This is precisely why I worded the following sentence the way that I did: "I could no longer adhere to the flimsy justifications I constructed to maintain my faith." Maybe this doesn't come across at all, but one of my intentions was that a conservative might be able to read the statement and not feel threatened--rather that this wrestling was in my own mind and says nothing about the ways in which another person arrives at his or her own beliefs.

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TheSpanishMain
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby TheSpanishMain » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:25 am

fallingup77 wrote:
SpanishMain-thanks for the comment. Throughout the entire process of writing this statement, I tried to be very conscious about how a religious person--whether conservative, moderate, or liberal--might view it. Thankfully, I can empathize with all three viewpoints as I adhered to each at some point in the past. In order to protect against this, I tried to make it evident that this was a purely personal struggle that ended with myself being unsatisfied. This is precisely why I worded the following sentence the way that I did: "I could no longer adhere to the flimsy justifications I constructed to maintain my faith." Maybe this doesn't come across at all, but one of my intentions was that a conservative might be able to read the statement and not feel threatened--rather that this wrestling was in my own mind and says nothing about the ways in which another person arrives at his or her own beliefs.


No, I understand. I'm not saying you come off as an angsty teenage "I just read Nietzche and I'm so mad at my parents!" type atheist. I don't think anyone reading the statement could come away thinking you're anything other than thoughtful and sincere, and I know you're describing your personal belief system, not making global statements. There are a few places, though, where the wording might lead one to believe you're conflating politically conservative, pray away the gay type Christianity with Christianity in general. Just food for thought.

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Ramius
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby Ramius » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:37 am

TheSpanishMain wrote:
fallingup77 wrote:
SpanishMain-thanks for the comment. Throughout the entire process of writing this statement, I tried to be very conscious about how a religious person--whether conservative, moderate, or liberal--might view it. Thankfully, I can empathize with all three viewpoints as I adhered to each at some point in the past. In order to protect against this, I tried to make it evident that this was a purely personal struggle that ended with myself being unsatisfied. This is precisely why I worded the following sentence the way that I did: "I could no longer adhere to the flimsy justifications I constructed to maintain my faith." Maybe this doesn't come across at all, but one of my intentions was that a conservative might be able to read the statement and not feel threatened--rather that this wrestling was in my own mind and says nothing about the ways in which another person arrives at his or her own beliefs.


No, I understand. I'm not saying you come off as an angsty teenage "I just read Nietzche and I'm so mad at my parents!" type atheist. I don't think anyone reading the statement could come away thinking you're anything other than thoughtful and sincere, and I know you're describing your personal belief system, not making global statements. There are a few places, though, where the wording might lead one to believe you're conflating politically conservative, pray away the gay type Christianity with Christianity in general. Just food for thought.


Regent University would be pissed to see this app

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TheSpanishMain
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby TheSpanishMain » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:58 am

OP, I will pay your app fee if you apply to Regent and Liberty.

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Ramius
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby Ramius » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:25 am

TheSpanishMain wrote:OP, I will pay your app fee if you apply to Regent and Liberty.


They might accept him in hopes of bringing him back into the fold. Pat Robertson is a persistent mofo.

fallingup77
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Re: From minister to atheist personal statement

Postby fallingup77 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:34 pm

TheSpanishMain wrote:OP, I will pay your app fee if you apply to Regent and Liberty.

Lol. That would actually be an interesting experiment. If you also pay the lsac fee I might consider it.

matthewsean85 wrote:
TheSpanishMain wrote:OP, I will pay your app fee if you apply to Regent and Liberty.


They might accept him in hopes of bringing him back into the fold. Pat Robertson is a persistent mofo.

I assume you're joking here, but it's probably not too far of a stretch. What would this be called? "Missionary admitting"?




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