Tag Archives: christianity

The line that I never thought I would cross

line-in-the-snad

Ever since leaving the IFB, I have been purposefully vague about where I stand on Biblical issues and theology. Mostly, this was due to the fact that I have been laboriously reviewing every position I have. And for the first time in my life, I have been forming beliefs, views, and opinions from outside the bubble as an adult. The results are not what I expected, and they may come as a shock to those I have not yet been able to tell in person. Given my previous track record, I know that a lot of people have a very specific image of who I am and what I believe and stand for. And I want to bring everyone up to speed. So here it goes.

I am an agnostic. Depending on how you define the term, you might consider me to be a deist or an atheist. The simple fact is that I do not believe in God. More specifically, I do not believe in the personal God that is described in the Bible. As to how I came to that conclusion, I am more than happy to share that at a different time.

For some of you, this information is very difficult to swallow. All I ask for now is that you consider the following statements and talk with me in person before jumping to any conclusions.

1. I still care about each and every one of you. It saddens me to know that there are some friends who will inevitably break communication with me over this. If that is you, I do not fault you for that, and I understand. But please bear in mind that the choice to share my views is based in a desire for honesty and openness. In no way am I making a personal attack against anybody, any group of people, or any organization.

2. I am still the same guy that I was before. In fact, my life is still pretty normal by most standards. I suffer through the morning commute to a job that I love (most days). My wife is the love of my life and my best friend. I am a huge Redskins fan/Cowboys hater. My sense of humor is unfortunately not any better, and you can still catch me laughing at things that aren’t really that funny. I’m still a sucker for tech gadgets of any kind. I am still absolutely captivated by great music, and a solid father/son movie is almost guaranteed to make my eyes sweat.

3. My moral compass has not been destroyed. I didn’t become an agnostic in order to live free of consequences for my behavior and choices. I don’t hold a grudge against any deity whatsoever. And on a related note, I am not in league with Satan to destroy the moral fabric of society.

4. I hope that we can still be friends.

5. If you are a theist, and especially if you are a practicing christian, I do not consider you to be stupid or ignorant. Most importantly, I do not look down on you. If you hold a theistic viewpoint, I am hoping that we can agree to disagree and find a way to move forward in harmony. Please know that I am not on a mission to subversively crumble the foundations of anyone’s faith.

6. Let’s talk it over. If you want to know the reasons that I am agnostic, I am more than happy to have a friendly conversation about it. I would ask two things:

Number one: Please don’t feel awkward to broach the subject of your personal views on religion and spirituality (I know that for some this will be easier said than done). I will not be offended or upset by hearing about praying, church, blessings, theology, or anything else that may (or may not) be an integral part of your life. You are important to me, and therefore the things that are important to you are important to me.

Number two: Please do not try to fix me. I am not broken.

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4 Reasons Why I Don’t Resent My Parents….Anymore

[Disclaimer: This is not an attack against my parents.  To be clear, this is not an attack against my parents.  This is nothing more than an important part of the healing process: forgiveness.  The reason that I am sharing it, is that I have encountered a lot of former IFBers who are still chained by their anger and I hope that sharing my experience can lead to healing and hope for them]

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Walking away from a life of manipulation and legalism leaves even the brightest  and most resilient soul exhausted, scarred and blackened by the endless barrage of guilt and lies.  And often times, the wide and colorful palette of human emotion is stripped down to one lonely slow-burning option: anger.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise for those of us that have lived the life.  The foundation of all other emotions inside the bubble seems to have anger at its root.   Anger at sin.  Anger at sinners.  Anger at the devil.  Anger Disney movies.  Anger at modern haircuts.  And the list goes on.  This anger is the fuel that feeds the starving engine of endless rule creation and guilt inspired punishment.  All under the guise of love for the sheep.

So when I walked away, I didn’t leave alone.  I had a two ton gorilla clutching to my shoulders.  He poisoned my thoughts and actions with a steady drip of rage into my unsuspecting arteries.  And just like in any break up, the objects of my resentment were the individuals that I perceived as causing my pain.  For me, public enemy number one (and two i suppose) was my parents.  I felt betrayed, lied to and mislead by the two people that I was genetically designed to unquestioningly trust.  I felt naked and weak and abandoned in a harsh and vicious world that life in the bubble had not come close to preparing me for.

Testosterone told me that I didn’t need them anyway.  I was man enough to make it on my own.  Immaturity told me that I could figure it out on the fly.  But reality put both of them in their place as I fell farther into the darkness that resisted my desperate attempts to claw my way to freedom and happiness.

And then, the healing process began.  As anger gave way to healing and enlightenment, I began to see that my harsh and unrelenting condemnation of my parents was not fair to them.  Its funny how anger clouds judgment.  And its funny how when we’re angry we refuse to see that it does.

So now, in a moment of clarity, I want to list the reasons that I no longer resent my parents for raising me in the IFB.

1. Because I want to be happy.  Spending the rest of my life waiting for an apology that is specific enough to satisfy my rage is a colossal waste of time.  The past is done.  Can’t change it.  Sorry.  That’s reality.  What I can change, however is my reaction.  What I can control is how I will feel, the choices I will make, and the direction that I will go.  And I refuse to let the past squeeze me dry.  So I made a declaration that I will not allow the past to rob the future of fulfillment and happiness.  Sometimes you just have to let go.

2. Because underneath it all, they had good intentions.  Never, ever in the history of mankind have good intentions outshined the evil deeds done in their name.  But when its time to forgive and move on, they shouldn’t be cast aside.  My parents are human.  They made mistakes.  But underneath of the legalism and the unrelenting domination and control was a very real desire to protect me and love me.  I can see that.  And no, it doesn’t make the pain any less hurtful.  And no, it doesn’t make it right.  And for those of you who are still angry, I totally get if you can’t see like this.  I was there.  But on the other side of the healing, good intentions can count for something.

3. Because, they honestly didn’t think they were wrong.  I wasn’t the only one brainwashed.  When they were young and impressionable christians, they were “discipled” by some very heavy-hitting legalistic and judgmental people.  It’s hard to pick up on that vibe that in the throes of infatuation that the new believer experiences.  Which is why those that deal with new converts have probably the the heaviest responsibility in all of christendom. Teach truth.  Period.  But that didn’t happen, and inside the bubble, they honestly thought that they were doing the right thing.

4. Because, I will have children one day (hopefully).  I am under no delusion that I will be the perfect parent (anymore).  And I have no doubt that one day my children will have issues to deal with because of my shortcomings.  They might even write a blog post about it.  Somehow, the realization of my own imperfections helps me forgive the imperfections of others.  Something about he who lives in a glass house, and all that jazz.

So there it is.  Am I completely restored.  Nope.  But I have made the choice to move on.  They say don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his shoes.  I don’t know about all that, but I do know that forgiveness is liberating.

Not for them.  For me.


Questions

War is always bloody and tragic.  There are always more casualties than solutions.  Always.  And a war in the mind is no different.  For years the carnage ripped through the deep secret corridors of my mind.  A war of questions, and a war of truth.  They fashioned themselves as an unending tidal wave and relentlessly pounded the stone walls that more than twenty years of indoctrination and brainwashing had built.  There is no doubt that it has taken its toll on my mind and on my life.  One after another, walls came crashing down and truth shined in.  At first, I was ok with that.  The issues that I questioned were only related to standards and priorities.  But the more walls that came down, the more exposed became the ideas and beliefs that, in themselves, were inseparable from who I was as a person.  And that’s when the feelings of freedom gave way to chilling uncertainty.

 

And even though I was scared, I couldn’t back away.  I couldn’t just brush it under the rug as I had in the past.  And so I asked the questions I was scared to ask.  Is God real?  What about the virgin birth?  Is it possible that Jesus Christ was just a historical figure and not really the Son of God?  Is the Bible really a divine book, and not just a great piece of historical literature?  Are Heaven and Hell real?  If they are, is Christianity the only way to get to Heaven and escape Hell?  Is the creation that Genesis describes really a young-earth creationism point of view?  Is it possible that evolution could be compatible with Christianity?  Is it possible that God had no part at all in the origins of the universe?

 

As long as this war was fought on the inside, I didn’t have to face the consequences of vocalizing these questions.  For years I didn’t  even mention a word of this to my wife.  But the war has gone public now.  And in a way, its a relief.  I thought I was the only fundy who struggled with these questions.  I was wrong.  She does too.  In fact, thousands have entered the dark forest of questions.  I know this because I have spent the last few months cyberstalking your blogs and podcasts.  Some of you are now atheists.  Some of your are now agnostics.  Some of you decided to ignore the questions and continue on with life as normal.  And some of you remained Christians, but have left the IFB for a drastically different kind of Christianity.

 

But for those of us (and I include myself) in the fourth group, have we jumped ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ so to speak?  What is to say that by switching from one bubble (the IFB) to another that we didn’t just switch the label on the propaganda pipeline connected to our brains?

 

I am going to be completely vulnerable here and admit that I have not yet made it out of this forest of questions.  And I am willing to go on the record as saying that for two reasons.  Number one, I want others who are asking questions in the dark corners of loneliness to know that they are not the only ones.  And number two, because its an undeniable part of my journey.

 

Funny.  There was a time that I could construct complex theological arguments to justify my position.  Now, my Christianity is wrapped up in the following simplicity.  I call myself a Christian because I cannot explain my life without God.  As for the rest?  I will probably share my conclusions on some things in a series of later posts (I hope), but to tell the truth I don’t have all the answers, and I never will.  And that’s okay.

I Have Never Hit My Wife (and why that surprises certain people)

I have never hit my wife.  I have never even threatened to hit my wife.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever had the desire to hit my wife.  Even when she unashamedly criticizes my impeccable driving skills (in the interest of full disclosure, I am a much worse backseat driver than she is).  Now that we have that out of the way…..
Based on what I was taught, that is a rare thing.  Why? Because I drink alcohol.  And I was taught that alcohol turns the nicest men into raging terrors just about 100% of the time.  As far as church was concerned, I never heard a story in a sermon or a Sunday School lesson about alcohol that did not involve a man beating his wife and children.  I started to develop the idea that alcohol was like a magic potion that created monsters and left nothing but destruction in its path.
However, without even going to the Bible, I have a big problem with this thinking.  Namely, alcohol is not to blame.  But this is the kind of teaching that you get when people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives teach other people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives about how dangerous even drinking one drop of alcohol is.
There are many great academic articles out there on alcohol and the Bible, so I don’t feel the need to get extremely deep here.  But I will stray just a bit from my typical post format to dig a little deeper into exactly what it was that changed my mind about drinking.

Does the Bible teach that drinking alcohol is intrinsically wrong?

No.  It does not.
Of the 31, 103 verses (give or take a few) in the Bible, NOT ONE of them teaches that the act of drinking alcohol is wrong.  The closest that the Bible comes is to say that there are boundaries for consumption of alcohol.  Eph 5:18 – ‘do not get drunk with wine.’

Are there Bible verses that warn against the effects of alcohol?

Yes.  There are many.
The book of proverbs contains many verses that detail what effects too much alcohol can have from making someone look foolish to memory loss and many things in between.  It even goes so far as to say that being deceived by the effects of alcohol is unwise.  But still, it does not say that we should abstain from drinking alcohol.

Are there Bible verses that encourage or allow alcohol consumption?

Yes.  There are.
In regards to taking the annual journey to the temple, God says that if you are coming from far away and you won’t be able to finish the trip, you should stop where you are and buy whatever you heart desires including wine and strong drink (liquor) to have a roadside feast to the Lord (Deut 14:24-26).
At a marriage celebration Jesus turned water into wine.  In the IFB I was taught that the wine mentioned in this story was not fermented.  This in spite of the fact that the word that ‘wine’ is translated from is the same root word used in other passages of the Bible where the context is obviously referencing alcoholic wine.  Just for the record, there is ZERO support for that argument.
And of course, Paul admonished Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake.
There are a few places that the Bible allows drinking without explicitly stating it.  For example, when listing the code that the priest had to adhere to while performing their duties in the temple, abstaining from all alcohol consumption is mentioned.  But there is nothing stating that they could not drink when they were not performing their duties.  And when Paul rebuked the Christians who were getting drunk at the observation of the Lord’s supper, he did not tell them not to drink at all.  He merely rebuked them for drinking too much.

Is there a period in history in which Christians drank alcohol?

Yes! Absolutely.
Up until the temperance movement started, it was not uncommon at all for Christians to have alcohol as part of their normal lives.  Ask Martin Luther.

Did Jesus drink alcohol or condone the use of alcohol?

Yes.  There is no denying this at all.
Even if you don’t infer that He drank alcohol from the accusations against Him of being a drunkard, it is impossible to deny that he drank alcohol during the last supper in the upper room.
After considering all of this, I had to come to the conclusion that everything I had been taught about alcohol was really someone’s preference and not a biblical standard.  If you choose not to drink, I support your decision 100%.  However, it is irresponsible, misguided and dangerous to create a doctrine from the Bible that alcohol consumption is sinful.
Cheers!
What was your experience with alcohol like in the IFB and has your position changed since you left?

How did you move on?

 

Moving on takes three major forms for those of us who are ready to leave the IFB.

1) Becoming an atheist or an agnostic

2) Maintaining a belief in God, but writing off church and organized religion

3) Maintaining a belief in God, and becoming a part of a different kind of church

Which one did you choose and why?

The Anatomy of a Fundy Conversion Experience

How does one become a fundy? This is a quick post to outline the anatomy of a fundy conversion experience as I understood it while inside the bubble:

Step 1: Accept Christ – This is the beginning. Not everybody that takes this step will advance to the next.

Step 2: Put Off (alienation) – Destroy most (if not all) secular music, movies and books in your possession. Pour out all alcohol. Ties with old friends should either be severed or severely limited unless those friends are Christians (which means fundy). This also applies to family. Especially the ones that actively try to interfere with the new way of life. After all, you have a new family now and no longer have a need for the old one.

Step 3: Put On (indoctrination) – Be proud of everything that you gave up for Jesus in step two. Vigorously defend the separation from friends and family created in step two at all costs. Use a KJV. Develop a conviction against women wearing pants, long hair on men, and a hundred other things that oddly seem to reflect the mindset of the early 1940s. Ignore the controversy between those standards and the actual teachings of the Bible. If it helps, try to create logical arguments to rectify those differences. Above all, do not question biblical authority. In the church, this means the pastor. In the home, this means the father and husband.

Oh yeah, and try to have a personal relationship with Christ. But if you can’t, just follow steps two and three and you will be okay for the most part.

I grew up in the movement, so I’m not really surprised that I advanced through the entire process before I decided to get out. But what makes people coming in from the outside so willing to go through step 2 and step 3? Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have an opinion.


Innocent Criminals

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Remember that story in the New Testament where Christ and His disciples walked through the grain fields on the sabbath?  Overcome by hunger, they plucked the grain and ate it.  The Pharisees were quick to point out the gross violation of the sabbath law, but Christ rebuked them.  He said, ‘If you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” you would not have condemned the guiltless.’

Condemning the guiltless is the mission statement of the IFB.  Finding fault where God sees none.  Drawing lines where an all-knowing and just God has not seen fit to draw them.  Half of my life as a fundy was spent trying to justify these extra-biblical statutes in my mind and the other half was spent trying to live up to them.

Here’s the kicker.  Jesus clearly stated that His desire from us is Mercy.  Not sacrifice.  Showing God how awesome I am by making my life harder than He intended for it to be is selfish, arrogant, and stupid.  Passing those standards on to people who are trusting me to lead them in the right path is irresponsible, sick and twisted.

If only it was that obvious from inside the bubble….

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