Monday, April 30, 2007

The Double Dog Dare

So, I keep insisting that I was a strong Christian before my doubts about my faith set in. If that was true, how could I become weak in faith and walk away?

Ever have someone dare you? Ever have someone double dog dare you?

Triple dog?

If you've got a lot of passion about a belief and then someone double dog dares you with the challenge that your faith can be proven false – why, it's on, baby! Bring it! Let's go, chump! Who is this uncircumcised Philistine – cause Goliath is fixin' to go down hard and get a beat down!

That's basically what happened to me. I inadvertently came across a documentary trailer for The God who Wasn't There. Most of the trailer just glazed over my mind; It was all junk to me. Why listen to it? But, somewhere in all that stuff I heard:

People continue to believe in Christianity in spite of the evidence against it, not because of the evidence for it.

Huh? What did that guy just say? Did he just say there was more evidence against Christianity than for it? Oh, no he dih-ent! He just basically said that if I knew the real truth, I'd have to lie to myself to remain a Christian!

Did he just double dog dare me?!

Nope. That was a triple dog dare!

Just like David didn't back down from Goliath, I wasn't going to back down from this slanderous accusation against God's Word.

Christianity was solid enough to withstand the harshest criticism. I was ready for the challenge.

"The Bible is true”, I told myself. The only possible outcome is for the Bible to win this challenge.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Leaving the Sandbox

So . . . what kind of Christian was I and why did I leave my faith?

The process didn't happen over night. This de-conversion took place gradually over the course of two years in all.

I was raised Baptist during my early childhood and adolescence. During my late teenage years, I followed after the Pentecostal persuasion until my de-conversion. While I'm not over the hill yet, I'm no spring chicken, either. So, I spent many years in tight adherence to Pentecostalism. After years of mindlessly following the tenets of my faith, I started to question the traditions that didn't seem Biblically founded. Some traditions even seemed contradictory to the Biblical writings! At that point, I wanted to weed out those things that were from people and nurture those things found in God's Word.

I hungered for authentic Christianity and determined I'd search for it. I wanted to live out what the Bible taught instead of just following what people said. My goal was to strengthen my faith and make my faith true. Little did I know my endeavor was the beginning of the end of my Christian faith.

How can that be?! How can a Pentecostal zealot even walk away from the Faith? Doesn't the speaking in tongues experience validate the Biblical writings? Tongues, man! Why, that's experiencing the miraculous, right?

Again – little did I know I was headed for where I am now. My search was to come closer to God. My honest desire was to be real and earnest concerning my faith in Christ. I would fast and pray often. I would read my Bible and attend church quite regularly. Yes, I had moments where I got off track, but I was involved and dedicated. I committed my life to Jesus Christ.

Unequivocally, I was a strong Christian.

That's why I wanted to better understand my faith. Once I realized the Jewish roots of Christianity, I became fascinated by the early church. I wanted my faith to look more like the way the early church behaved. One year, I wanted to celebrate Good Friday by having the Lord's Supper in the way that the first century believers might have done. Then, I was going to do an intense Bible study from Good Friday into Passover. That's when I noticed in this specific year Easter Sunday fell out of sync with Passover; I did not see Passover in the same month as Easter that year. Why?! After all, Passover is the foreshadowing of Christ's blood being shed for sin, right? How could Passover ever be out of sync with Easter?

Church tradition has a slightly different schedule from Passover's schedule because the church wanted to make sure Easter always fell in a certain range of weeks each year -- regardless of whether Passover fit the schedule or not. So . . . now and then . . . Passover and Easter get out of sync.

Inevitably, other questions started to surface. Why did we file down the aisles for a small wafer and tiny cup of grape juice or a tiny gulp of wine during Communion? The Lord's Supper was clearly a meal where believers ate a Passover-like meal together to commemorate the death and Resurrection of Christ. The Apostle Paul's description of Communion in I Corinthians 11 strongly suggest that the early church had Communion as a meal. The Last Supper was most likely one of many smaller ceremonial meals that Jews had leading up to the main Passover celebration.

So, why are we doing it so differently?

A deep passion rose up in me about these things. Ideas about how we could practice our faith more like the early church started bubbling out of me. But my ideas and my passion started making other Christians around me a little nervous. Pointing out the Jewishness of the Christian faith seemed unsettling for other Christians. “Don't rock the boat” formed on people's expressions when I started bringing up these type issues. Or else, eyes would just glaze over out of disinterest. Or, my ideas just were not making much sense.

Not my fault Passover and Easter get out of sync from time to time.

Oh well . . . why does it matter? Just don't worry about it.

So, that's what I tried to do.

Then, other odd issues started to come up. Why did I have to pay tithes, again? If the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ and I'm not to keep the law to receive or maintain my salvation – why do I have to perform the Jewish law of tithing?

Isn't that like going back to circumcision?

Boy, I really got dirty looks for that idea! But, why should I get dirty looks? I'm trying to live under “grace”. I'm still trying to live my life by the rules the Apostles and Jesus left us in the New Testament. I'm still trying to take Old Testament writings and learn from them and apply their meaning within the dispensation of grace. What's wrong with that? The book of Galatians really comes to mind right now. Basically, Paul is asking a group of Gentile believers why they are letting pockets of Jewish Christians insist they must practice parts of Judaism to be fully Christian.

Sounds like tithes would fit into that category quite nicely.

But, discovering these things didn't shake my faith. Nor did the lack of concern from other Christians.

What did happen, however, was this – I left my little mental sandbox for the first time. I was actually believing in Jesus Christ because the Biblical text said to do so; I had started placing my trust in the Bible. So, I left the sandbox of tradition to allow my faith to be molded by the Biblical text – not people's opinions.

So, if my faith was growing so strong, why did I lose it? Because, leaving the status quo trained my mind to accept new ideas. This laid the foundation for me realizing that dangerous possibility: maybe something other than my beliefs were true-- making me totally wrong about my core beliefs.

Talking through the closet door . . .

I'm a closet ex-Christian. There. I said it. I've been so afraid to tell my Christian friends and family members that I've lost my religious beliefs. I've hid this for almost two years now. But now I'm desperate to pour out my thoughts about my changing beliefs. Yes – this is my dirty little secret. I can't keep it to myself any longer. But, I can't tell this to the believers still in my life. I don't want to injure their faith. I don't want to infect them with the doubt that I've contracted. I don't want to drive a wedge between me and my Christian friends and family members.

But, so much is bottled up inside of me and I have to let it out somewhere!

Maybe I'll be safe here. I can be anonymous and say what I really think and feel and still avoid fallout from my Christian friends and family. I'll confess now . . . I'll talk! I'll talk! But only from behind my closet door. I'm not ready to come out and be seen just yet. But, I can't keep quite any longer!

I'm walking away from practicing any religion – not just Christianity. I would share the reason why with my Christian loved ones, but I fear that I might shake their faith just as mine was shaken.

Ultimately, this blog is a release for me – a journal of my evolving beliefs.

Ah . . . and the Internet is so big; I'll be very surprised if anyone even visits here. But, if someone should, feel free to comment, share or even argue against anything I post; just be civil about any argument you post. I agree to let people disagree with me. An open mind opens one to the world. And few things open the mind like listening to a difference in opinion.