First of all I want to warn you that if you don’t want to be faced with some very difficult ideas (and some “language”) then this post and the ones to follow are not ones that you want to read. This post is very long as well…so don’t start reading till you have 15-20 minutes to devote to it should you decide to continue.
Also, this is going to be a parent post for a series of posts to come. The bulk of this entry will be my story over the last several months which will lay the groundwork for why I have the views I now have. Incorporated into that will be hints toward some of the major "flaws" I see in Christianity which I will address in separate posts at a later time.
That being said please do not take this post or the ones to come as me saying that I am better than anyone else because I have realized these things. I am still a sinner. I still do many of the things I am going to attack in these posts. I am “preaching” to myself as much as anyone else.
Also, I want everyone to know (including you mom and dad, if you read this) that I do love both of my parents with all my heart, despite their failures and mistakes. No one is perfect, least of all them, and I don’t expect perfection from them. The things that they did were because they loved us and wanted what they thought was best for us.
So, my story. As many of you (if not all) that read my posts know, I grew up in a conservative Christian home where the Bible was held in high esteem, as it still is. I went to a church (beginning in 5th grade) that taught sound biblical doctrine and grew up under the influence of leaders who really and truly cared about me and where I stood spiritually. I had three adult men who met with me regularly to disciple me and a mother figure who loved me unconditionally, and that is saying a lot, because I certainly didn’t deserve it most of the time (you all know who you are J). However, during the early years of my life, up into my early teens, my parents (who I love dearly) were borderline legalistic. Everything was either black or white. You didn’t drink because it was bad. You didn’t smoke because it was bad. You didn’t listen to music with electric guitars or drums because it was just noise and there was no way you could actually worship to it; that combined with the fact that my parents just didn’t like that kind of music. My parent’s tastes were to be my tastes just because that’s what they said. Now, I don’t think any of those things were every directly spoken to me (besides the music part), but the way I was raised and the implications that were made caused that line of thinking in me. I remember the night that I would say the Lord truly saved me. I had made some huge mistakes (or so they seemed to a 16 year old) and I couldn’t sleep that night. I stayed up for most of the night repenting of those sins to the Lord and asking him to forgive me and make me his child. After hours of that I sat down at my computer and began writing 5 or 6 emails to people whom I had wronged asking their forgiveness in the situation as well. I determined in my heart to live a better life from that moment forward. Needless to say, that earthly, man-centered focus dwindled rapidly.
I breezed through my high school years like I was the only one in the world that mattered; everyone else was just here to serve me. I wouldn’t say I was popular, but people certainly knew who I was. I was front and center for years whether it was leading worship on Sunday and Wednesday nights, performing songs I had written during spiritual retreats, taking charge of renovation projects on mission trips because “I knew what I was doing and no one else did,” or just being that guy that is super loud all the time. I was in it for what I could get out of it. It was all about me and getting mine. The end of junior year rolls around and I start dating for the first time. Looking back now, I am amazed that I managed to have a good healthy relationship for almost 2 years with a woman who was so far out of my league it is mind boggling. I was SO self obsessed and falsely self actualizing. Even in all of this though, I held fast to my uptight, legalistic, judgmental “Christian” beliefs and values. I never drank, smoked, did drugs, cussed, had sex, or any of those worldly awful things that sinners who were on the fast track to hell did.
Then came college. My first two semesters I was a good kid and I still held fast to my beliefs, values and convictions. I didn’t touch alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. They were of the devil remember? I went to church every Sunday and even went to a Christian Conference in the spring. The following summer I worked at a Christian summer camp for kids just as I had done the previous 3 summers. Starting in the fall of my sophomore year I began to have a drink every now and then. Nothing much, just a little rum in my Dr. Pepper or the occasional beer. I didn’t get drunk or even tipsy; that is, until the night of my last final at the end of the semester. That afternoon I bought about four liters of assorted alcoholic beverages from a buddy and we partied that night. I drank a glass of wine, a beer, a mix drink containing 4 shots of Bacardi raspberry rum and then starting taking straight shots. I had 9 shots of Crown royal whiskey, 2 of UV Blue Raspberry vodka, 3 of Bacardi Puerto Rican rum and 2 of Jack Daniels whiskey. All this took place in the span of about 3 hours, and I was smoking hooka the entire time as well. I. HAVE. NEVER. BEEN. SICKER. I threw up for 10 minutes straight that night and then fell asleep and slept most of the next day. After recovering from my first binge drinking experience I swore off liquor and didn’t touch it for the next 2 months.
A key point that I need to at least very briefly touch on before I continue (and this is not to make an excuse for my actions) is that during this time, my parents had just split up. My mom left with the kids and moved to Louisiana with her parents and their divorce was in progress. It was not until a few weeks ago that it was finalized, so the entirety of 2012, I was dealing with all of the shit that hit the fan between me and each of my parents because of that. As well as the internal struggle I was going through of how you could be these parents that have always preached the gospel to me yet here you are treating each other in the vilest of manners and ending a union before God that you swore was for the course of your earthly lives.
After that I allowed myself to have a small drink every now and then but NEVER would I get drunk again. Right. That didn’t last long. For the rest of that semester, I and a small group of friends would drink every single Monday night and get completely wasted. I drank some form of alcohol every single day and would get drunk at least twice a week. I started missing church and I honestly didn’t care. I had become completely apathetic about Christianity and my beliefs. I didn’t know if I believed in the God that the bible described or if there even was a god. I thought about what the bible taught and decided it was completely ridiculous…I mean, seriously. There is this all powerful, all knowing being out there who lives in another dimension and when I die I will go be with him if I have lived a good life and followed him? What does that even mean? Or better yet, who cares?! All I cared about was getting to the weekend, finding the next party, drinking, or messing around with whatever girl I could find.
Of course, the majority of my friends were from my Christian circle, so these thoughts and attitudes were not completely worn on my sleeve. I still walked the walk sometimes and talked the talk just to keep in their good graces. But that is where my heart was at. Then there was one Sunday morning that I actually went to church and everything began to change. That morning there was an informational meeting after the service for a summer program called Vintage. It sounded really fun. We would be living together at the church, a bunch of guys and girls, some I knew and some I didn’t, going on small group retreats, retreats with the whole group, a trip to Toronto, Canada…it could be worth looking into. Looking back now, I have no idea what made me want to live in biblical community with a bunch of people and commit my whole summer to studying and growing closer to the Lord, but I did, and it was such an amazing summer. I formed relationships with both guys and girls on a deeper level than I had ever had before. I opened myself up to them and let them see my struggles in life as well as within myself. I connected with the Lord like never before and I launched myself into the new semester with a ferocity and passion I didn’t know I could possess.
Good story right? Yay! After a long road of straying from the Lord, I have finally reconnected, I know the truth and I am living a pleasing life in his eyes! I wish I could say that that is how last semester went, but sadly it isn’t. Just like the Israelites, I was very quick to forget the grace and truth that had been shown me.
I spent the majority of last semester in solitude, shutting almost all of the people that I cared about out of my life. I wrestled daily with issues like the so called truth found in scripture, if God was real, what religion had it right if any of them, or did they all lead the same place as long as you were devoted? What is the soul or is there even such a thing? How can Christianity be the one true way when all I see in the people who follow that way is outright hypocrisy, judgmentalism and hatred? If that is what a Christian is like, then I do not what to be one. It all seemed so complicated and I was tired of trying to figure it out. I was torn between what I was seeing, and the personal experiences I had encountered. In my heart, I knew God was real, I knew He loved me and I wanted to live accordingly, but it just didn’t all add up. And then one day, it clicked. It was so simple! How did I spend an entire semester battling this?! GOD WASN’T THE PROBLEM!!! WE ARE!! You, and me, and him, and her, and mom, and dad, and my pastor, and the guy I sit next to in class…IT’S US!
Ok so get this, because this was my break through. God gave us his word, described in that very word as a sword. He gave us this sword to defend our selves with, and what do we do with it? We go around lopping off the heads of any who dare say we have it wrong. We use it to try to control, we bend and break that sword to make it what WE want it to be, not what He intended it to be. You see, God’s word, His truth isn’t the problem; it is how we bend and stretch it to fit what we want it to mean that is causing all the problems. So I bend it this way and you bend it that way and suddenly, my version disagrees with yours, and now we have something to argue and hate each other over. We see it all the time, whole churches split because of stupid inconsequential things like music or some little, irrelevant to salvation part of doctrine. Not to mention the 59 ½ different denominations or the denominations within denominations like the First, Second, Third, Fourth and 42nd Baptist Church…what is wrong with us?! Not to mention the blatant hypocrisy that so many of us live in. The fact that a guy can call himself a follower of Christ, be so against alcohol in any form, hate it, despise it, look down on those who partake in it and very nearly wish it didn’t exist, and then turn around and have sex with his girlfriend every single day…it blows my mind. When did we start picking and choosing which parts of the bible are true or not? Where in the bible does it say alcohol is of the devil? I am pretty sure it talks about drinking a lot in the bible…Jesus turned water into wine, right? And GOOD wine at that! And where in the bible does it talk about sexual immorality? Oh right, EVERYWHERE! (Again, I want to clarify that I do not think that I am perfect, far from it; I screw up more than anyone I know.) Just don’t get on your soapbox about any one “moral issue” if you are going to turn around and so blatantly disregard those morals in another area.
So where am I at now…? I am definitely a Christian, I know that much. But I see things in a very different light these days. I will write a more detail post on that next time.
Ok so at this point I am going to conclude this post because it has become WAY to long. The next few posts will be in the vein of things I see in Christianity that don’t make sense to me. How or why we choose to act the way we act or attack the things we attack. I don’t really have my thoughts together on all of it yet, but once I do, you will be the first to know.