The One About Me

I wrote this as if I were going to post it on my public blog.  Who knows, maybe some day.

I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while now.  A long while.  Part of me wanted to wait until I found out where I was going to land, but I’m starting to realize that the only time you land is when you stop growing.  So I might as well write it now.

I am not a Christian.

Unfortunately even that needs to be clarified, lest you think I mean it in a quasi-spiritual Carl Medearis sort of way.  It’s not that I don’t identify as a Christian or that I’m embarrassed by Christian culture or that I want to distance myself from the not-nearly-as-awesome-as-me-Christians.  I am not a Christian by anyone’s definition.

The hows and whys and whens and whats are subtle and complicated and I’d love to talk about them, if anyone wants.  If you know me you know how much I love talking about the big things.  I’m open and approachable.  I expect a lot of emails from this confession and I look forward to them.  The best way to make progress in understanding the universe is to talk with others who are also trying to understand it.

This is a pretty big deal, I know.  I’ve been a preacher since I was sixteen.  I spent almost four years at an evangelical Bible college.  I’ve handed out gospel tracts downtown, preached on the street corners, went to ________ to tell the Muslims about Jesus, spoken at missionary gatherings.  I know exactly how big this deal is.  It’s so big it terrifies me.  But I had to remember an awesome conversation I had with a Christian friend back at _______.

We were talking about competing religions and, in a moment of surprising clarity, we started asking ourselves, “If Islam were somehow proven absolutely true, would we be willing to uproot ourselves and convert?”  Neither of us were thinking that Islam was true, of course; moving from Christianity to Islam seems like a step in the wrong direction.  But the heart of the question was profound.  If I were firmly convinced that the system I have known and embraced all my life was wrong, would I have the courage and the consistent commitment to truth to walk out?  It turns out, I do.

There are a few things that I’d like to clarify.  Assumptions you might have that I’d like to engage.

First, my descent (ascent? /snarkyvoice) towards unbelief has nothing to do with my past interest in a more ecumenical Christianity.  A few years ago I had some heated public and private discussions about the emergent church, red-letter Christianity and stuff like that.  Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren had no influence on my loss of faith.  If anything did, it was the anger I noticed against them from the evangelical community.  And even that probably didn’t influence me much.  Trust me, I was there.

Second, my beliefs about science and evolution have not pulled me from Christianity.  I was an evolutionist before I became a Christian.  I threw it away when the church told me I couldn’t keep it and Jesus.  That has always been a difficult thing for me.  If anything, again, it was not evolution but the church’s anger towards it that influenced me.  And, again, even that probably didn’t influence me much.  Trust me, I was there.

Third, my wife is still a Christian.  Don’t worry about her.  I’m not trying to covert her and she’s not trying to convert me.  And (here’s the most important part) we are in no conflict over this issue whatsoever.  Don’t assume I’m leading her astray or that she feels trapped and isolated.  Drop her a line if you’re concerned and find out for yourself.

Fourth, I love you.  I always did and I always will.  In fact, my love is stronger now than it has even been.  I don’t claim that my love is stronger because I’ve left Christianity.  But it definitely is stronger.  I have no desire at all to ruin relationships over my de-conversion.

Fifth, my kids are fine.  When they ask my wife questions about God, I don’t butt in and my wife doesn’t indoctrinate them.  Despite being the kids of an unbeliever, they pray more than I did at that age!

Sixth, I am not betraying anyone.  A person can only do what their mind deems right.  For all the talk about relying on God instead of on yourself, it’s your own mind that always has the final say.  Even if your mind has decided not to trust itself, that’s still your mind’s decision.  And as sad as this news will probably make many of you, I don’t owe anyone anything.  Unless God is actually real.  Then I’m kinda screwed.

Seventh, despite that last joke, I do understand how serious this is.  Better than most, really.  Because I was one of those rare people gripped with a realization of the gravity of damnation and salvation.  I literally crossed over land and sea to save souls from hell.  I risked my freedom to preach the gospel in a country where proselytizing is illegal.  I know the seriousness.  In the conversations I bet we’ll be having, I ask you to forgive my jokes and quips.  I use them because I’ve always used them.

Eighth, please do not deduce what has brought me here and spread it around as a warning to others on a slippery slope.  Unless you start a conversation with me first and I actually tell you.  The things that have been going on in my head these last five years are not always reflected in the things I’ve talked and posted about.

Ninth, I am grateful for my time in evangelicalism.  I learned a lot.  I learned how important the big questions are.  I learned to read things thoughtfully and critically.  I learned to speak well in public.  I learned the joys of working with others against great odds for a common, awesome goal.  I learned all those things from the Church.  Thanks, Church.

Tenth, I am grateful to Jesus.  Jesus taught me what real love is.  Others have shown me great insights into love and awesome living, but Jesus taught me first and, still, I think he taught me best.  Because he said things like ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘turn the other cheek.’  Sure, I had beef with teachers who took those awesomely simple words and turned them into something else, but the core message of Jesus is just about as awesome as you can get.  And to top it all off, he died proving it.  No greater love.  No greater love.

Finally, I am sorry that you’re finding out like this.  I am in the fortunate position of having lots and lots of close friends who deserve a visit or a phone call or at least an email notification about this instead of an impersonal blog post.  This is how I had to do it, though.  Because I’m weak and scared.

I’m out of Christianity, but that does not mean I want to say good-bye.  The friendships I’ve created at church, at _______, at Bible Camp, those are real.  The love I have for all you, my beautiful friends, is stronger than the binds of religion.  And I mean that for all of you.  Even if we haven’t been in contact for years.  You know me.  You know how much I love people.  If you feel the need to pull away from me over this, I understand and I don’t hold it against you at all.  But I won’t pull away from you.

Drop me a line.  I’d love to talk.  And if you’re ever in ________ and want to have a really awesome conversation, I’m always available.  There’s nothing I love more than people.

Fucked up Bible Stories #1 – David’s Drippy Bag of Dicks.

From 1 Samuel 18:17-27

Things were going pretty good for David.  He had already risen to a bit of fame after easily defeating Goliath with his sling.  People thought he was pretty shot-shit after that.  I guess they didn’t realize that killing a massive dude with a sling is pretty easy if you know how to use the thing, but whatever.

King Saul was pissed at David.  The whole nation had their heads firmly up the shepherd boy’s ass and Saul still remembered what it felt like to have them licking at his crack.  So he tried being sneaky and plotted a way to kill him.  He sent a message to David and the conversation went something like this:

“Dave, buddy!  Listen, we gotta talk.  I want you to be my son-in-law.”

“Whoa!  Seriously?  Awesome!”

“Yeah, but you gotta pay the dowry.”

“Dude, no problem.  Whatever it takes.  Woot, imma be a king’s son-in-law!  What should I give?  Sheep?  Got lots of sheep?  Gold?  Want me to play a song at the wedding?”

“I need foreskins, Dave.”

Blink.  “Come again?”

“Foreskins.  A hundred of them.”

David scratched his head.  “Erm…”

“Philistine foreskins,” Saul clarified.  I picture him giving a sly grin and rubbing his hands together.  The idea was to get David killed trying to get these foreskins.  Great plan, Saul.  Greeeeaaaat.

I guess Dave thought about it for a while.  I mean, even if the Philistines were willing to give up their foreskins for their arch-enemy’s wedding that’s a dowry that deserves some second thought.  In the end, though, the thought of banging Saul’s daughter was enough to get the boy motivated.  He grabbed a couple buddies and went Philistine hunting.

David was a real over-achiever, owing to his Protestant work ethic.  That boy killed a whopping two hundred Philistines, nicked the ends of their manly bits off and tossed them in a bag.  Two hundred bloody sweaty cock-turtlenecks.  Imagine the sound they made when he brought them to Saul and tossed them at his feet.

Apparently the wedding was lovely.

For Freedom

The best part about leaving religion is the freedom.

Religion controls.  Dictates.  It doesn’t come up to you as an advisor.  It claims authority over you.  Religion doesn’t try to convince you of the virtue of its path.  It tells you to shut up and get walking.

And the control runs deep.  It doesn’t just ask for outward obedience, it wants to rule your thoughts.  Thoughtcrime is all over the Bible.  It’s a sin to lust in your heart.  It’s a sin to want something your neighbour has.

And Christianity takes it even further.  It’s a sin to think evolution is true.  It’s a sin to be attracted to people of your own sex.  It’s a sin to think any religion other than Christianity is legitimate.

That’s the really devil of religion.  It claims control over your thoughts.  It reaches it’s gnarled finger deep inside you as far as it can go, all the way to your inner, unspoken voice and it tells it what to say.  It’s a nasty, malicious son of a bitch.

But, Oh! the feeling of tearing that thorny finger out of my chest.  Suddenly air rushes in to parts of my mind and heart that I never knew I had.  Scary at first, because I had thought these new ideas had been demons.  But now that the light could get in, I could see that they were beautiful and true.  My only regret was that I hadn’t done it sooner.

It’s like Jesus said, You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  Well, truth isn’t what the pastor says.  The truth is something you need to figure out on your own.  And the only way you can do that is with your mind.  And your mind can’t work when it’s shackled up.

For freedom Christ has set you free, right?  So think as free people!