Archive | April, 2012

Christian Bookstores-Part 2

29 Apr

I had promised to take you behind the shrouded mysteries of employers and employees of Christian Bookstores.  But the the comments after my last post,  made me realize that I had some more to say about it’s customers.

Biblereader is the one that asked about a very special breed of Christian Bookstore customer…..

The King James Only Customer

The KJV Customer usually will head straight to the Bible counter and begin to ask numerous questions about why you don’t carry a better selection of the King James Version.  When you inform Mr. or Mrs. KJV Customer that most people prefer to read an English translation that doesn’t require a Masters in Shakespearean English, they will launch into numerous  arguments to prove that the KJV is really the only Bible Translation that one should ever read.

One milder KJV Customer told me that  they had done a study (not sure who the they was she was referring to) and they found that the King James Version of the Bible was actually easier to read than any other Bibles.  Uhhhhh-no way Jose!  I grew up reading the King James and if there is one thing it is not, is an easy read.

Sometimes, I would cite some of the verses from the King James that I never understood, until I had read them in a modern translation.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

Psalm 23:1  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”

What the heck, why didn’t the Psalmist want the Lord as his Shepherd?  One customer accused me of being uneducated for not understanding what being “in want” meant.  I told this customer that a friend, who grew up in Great Britain , had told me that they had misunderstood the same verse in the same way.  Sheesh-if the English can’t understand proper English, than how can I?

1 Corinthians 5:7 “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump”

I wonder why that wasn’t on any t-shirts or bumper stickers in the store?  Maybe we could have named our store New Lump Christian Books.  What is a new lump anyway?  On second thought…..

Some of the verses just cracked me up, because of ye old English phrasing.  Who can forget this one?

John 11:39 “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

Ah yes….he stinketh Lord.  As did the King James Version, as far as I was concerned.  It’s just a translation people! Sorry, but once I got my High School fingers on the newly completed NIV, there was no going back.

“Creepy Guy Who Hits on You” Customer

Ok…so being a guy myself, I actually didn’t have any guys hitting on me ( at least, none that I know of).  But I had many younger female employees, ages 16-25, that would often have Creepy Guy linger around the store, and vie for their attention.  Creepy Guy would ask one too many questions, or start asking a female employee whether they were married or not.  Some of the girls would get invites to Creepy Guy’s church volleyball game or he’d ask them if they were going to the next big Christian concert.  There was something a little awkward and well, creepy, in the way they would always seem to be avoiding the male employees and be sharking the younger females.

My wife even got hit on by one of our regulars when she was 6 months pregnant and showing.  When she got over the shock and pointed to her belly, the guy laughed nervously and then asked out the girl standing next to my wife…..I think she chased him out of the store with a King James Bible or threatened to tie him up and play Carmen’s “The Champion” if he didn’t exit the store.   Anyway, I think many times, Creepy Guy, was just a lonely guy who was socially awkward and had run out of options at their church singles group.

Last but not least, was the shoplifter.


This had to be the worst part of my job.  Dealing with a shoplifter always left me with a pit in my stomach and the shakes.  It got so bad, that we had to install a whole anti-theft machine at the entrance to the store.

One time, I caught an elderly woman trying to leave the store with a couple Amy Grant CD’s and the novel Joshua-by Girzone.  She started yelling at me and telling me that she was in a Bible study with my boss.  I called the police and she was arrested (never fun).  It turns out she had warrants out in multiple States for shoplifting.

Then there was my Vineyard thief.  Back in the day, when Vineyard music was pumping out the best-selling worship CD’s.  Our little Vineyard thief would come into the store on release day, and we’d be missing a copy within an hour of the CD hitting the shelf.  We never did catch our Vineyard worship thief, and the irony of someone stealing a worship CD always miffed me.

Lastly, there was the shoplifter who stole us blind, but their conscience had caught up with them.  One time, it was a couple in marriage counseling .  They confessed to their pastor, that they had stolen over $10,000 worth of merchandise from our store.  He made them call the owner and work out a payment plan.  That ended up being one expensive counseling session!

Many time we’d get an anonymous letter, confessing their crimes and promising to send money for all the items they stole.  And if you want to know one of the most popular items stolen from our store….the Bible.  And it was almost always an expensive leather-bound Bible that would be swindled.

Nothing like feeding your faith, with a copy of God’s Word that you obtained while breaking the commandments.

Christian Bookstores-part 1

25 Apr

I worked in the Christian bookstore industry from 1988 until late 2010.  22 years of my life spent selling, promoting, and consuming the latest in Christian books, music, and movies.  If there’s one thing I know to be true, Christian bookstores are an incredibly unique part of the Christian experience.  You have everything from $250 leather bound Bibles, talking vegetable videos, and plastic wind up trucks with a decal that says “Jesus Loves You”.

But the most interesting part of the Christian Bookstore Industry are the people. The people that work at these stores and the customers who haunt their aisles are some the most colorful characters I’ve ever encountered.  So sit back, relax, and I’ll introduce you to some them.

The Customers

Most of your Christian Bookstore customers, are just your average church goers who stopped in to grab a greeting card or the newest book for their Bible study on Wednesday morning.  Very nice folks that strike you as the average family man/woman.

Then there’s prophecy man.

Every Christian Bookstore has one.  Prophecy man buys lots of books, well, on prophecy.  And not just any old prophecy…END TIMES PROPHECY (cue Vincent Price’s evil laugh).  Yes, the End Times and it’s nearing fulfillment is all this guy (and yes-it’s always a guy) can think and speak of, nothing else can hold his attention.  Often times, Prophecy man will greet you with a question.  Not the “How are you doing?” type of question, no…it’s usually a question like “Did you see what they are doing in China and this whole trade deal?” or “Did you know that the master decoder number for all Social Security Numbers is 666?”…and if warfare is breaking out, you can be sure he’ll detail every last word of Ezekiel 38 to prove to you that this event was foretold and that Jesus would be returning any day.

Yep, prophecy man will spend a lot of time and money in your store.  Which is a mixed blessing for your store.  Nice that he’s a regular customer that will spend most of his money on the books you sell on the topic.  But a mixed blessing, because he will often linger and corner an unsuspecting customer or employee into a drawn out discussion on prophecy.  This poor person is usually too polite to interrupt and will endure Prophecy Man’s latest take on the co-conspirators of the Anti Christ, who is about to emerge.  And the list of co-conspirators is always impressive.  The President, The CIA, Trilateral Commission, and the favorite of all-the United Nations.  According to prophecy man, they are all working for the Beast and are about to unleash the End Times on us all.  The most redeeming quality of Prophecy Man is that he’s willing to pay top dollar for any book on the subject.  Which is unlike one of my other favorite Christian Bookstore standouts….the Missionary customer.

Missionary Customer, unlike Prophecy Man is NOT willing to pay top dollar for anything.  In fact, they barely hide their disdain for moneymaking enterprises and are quick to tell you so.  After insulting you and your means of livelihood, they will spend an hour in your store picking out books, music, and toys they can not purchase on the mission field.  Once they’ve finished, they will march up to the counter, remind you again that they are a missionary.  And proceed to demand for a discount for their newly chosen worldly goods.

The irony in all this, is that Christian bookstores are not highly profitable and that most of your employees at an average store make about half of what an average missionary makes.  But that detail is lost on Missionary Customer.  Probably because they’ve been on the mission field, supported by other working peoples money.  To them money is something that other people have, and we should give it to them.  At least that’s the impression I always got from these arrogant representatives of the Gospel.  Unfortunately for me, the store I worked at did NOT give these very special people discounts.  At this point, Missionary Customer gets pissed and throws the equivalent of a preschool temper tantrum.  Speaking loudly so that everyone can in the store can hear how they are “shocked” or “dismayed” that a “Christian bookstore does not offer a discount to those on the front lines of ministry”.  Whatever…no wonder most missions are not very successful.  It seems most churches have paid good money to send people out as missionaries, so that they only have to deal with this person once every two years.

Last but not least, are your Pastors.  Pastors hate Christian bookstores.  They hate them for a variety of reasons.  Some hate them because it competes with their congregations attention to their golden tongued sermons.  Others hate them because they have other authors and church perspectives that they believe to be false.  And most Pastors hate them because they compete with their church’s book table or in some cases, their own bookstore on the church campus.  But make no mistake, most Pastors hate your store.  As one of my other managers would say after dealing with a pastor (usually her own)  “There goes another arrogant Man of God!”.  She would then turn away and go for the back room so should could decompress with having to deal with one of God’s prim a donas.

The only reason Pastors come to your store, is because you were their last resort.  Which is fine, because the amount of work and insults you endure from Pastor Customer is almost to the point of telling them to shove it-which of course, would mean an extra helping of Pastoral disdain and a pink slip from the owner.  The best you can do with Pastor customer, is smile, and keep telling yourself how glad you are that you will never, ever go to their church.

Anyway, I see that I have much more to say about Christian Bookstores than one post can hold.  I’ll be sure to re-visit the topic and introduce you to the owners and employees of your local Christian Bookstore on our next field trip!

Faith and Science

24 Apr

I was in 5th grade and my teacher (whose name I can’ t remember-I’m horrible with names…) started talking to us about eggs for our science lesson.  A few minutes into the lesson she did something I had never heard any teacher do, before or since…she started crediting God for the cleverness of how an egg functions to help the baby chick emerge into the world.  Now remember, this was public school in the 70’s and it was pretty unheard of for an elementary school teacher to be talking about God.  No sooner did she start into her God awed egg speech, when one of my best fiends shot his hand in the air and reminded my teacher that this was a public school and that our country had separation of church and state.  I kid you not, he started debating with my teacher about the inappropriateness of her lesson and that she needed to stop.  She soon got flustered and gave up on inserting any more references to God during any of our lessons.

After school, I was walking home with my friend who had stopped our teacher in her tracks.  As we talked, another student asked him if he believed in God?  He said he didn’t.  I then asked him who made the Earth?  He said the Big Bang.  I asked him what caused the Big Bang, he said he didn’t know.  On and on this went until we reached home.  Actually, the conversation didn’t end there.  We would debate this topic (origin of the universe) for many years to come.

My friend was very well informed about science.  He was the son of a NASA rocket scientist.  He and his brothers built their own home computer and designed their own video games.  Again, this was back in the late 70’s, before Apple and the home computing revolution had even taken it’s first baby step.  He later graduated from Harvard and is currently a brain research scientist.  In other words, he knew his science stuff pretty darn well.

I mention all this, because even though I never pursued the sciences with anything more than a half-baked approach, I still felt that my Biblical knowledge trumped any evidence he might present, because…well…the Bible told me so.  As I got older, and the challenge to my claims were more vigorous, I still believed my evidence (the Bible) to be truer than the evidence for Evolution and the Big Bang.  I also read many different Christian authors who assured me that the evidence for the Biblical worldview was superior.  They told me exactly what I wanted to hear, and gave me just enough information to feel safe in my doubts of the popular scientific theories of origin that conflicted with the Biblical accounts of Genesis.

But since the demise of my faith, I no longer feel the need to “defend” the Bible’s claims against scientific evidence.  I’ve actually begun to read some popular science authors and what I’ve learned amazes me.  It also has humbled me, because I realize how much really great science stuff I missed or ignored, because I was afraid of the challenge to my faith that it posed.

I’ve studied a little Evolution since taking off the Christian glasses, and you know what?  It totally makes sense to me now.  It also makes me a little sad that I blinded myself for so long.

It’s the irony of faith, while many present faith as facts and truth, it is usually more about doubts and denial.  So many times I was taught to doubt “the experts”, because they might not be Christians. They might actually hate God or are just deceived and that’s why their “evidence” (so called) didn’t match up with the truth of the Bible.  On a personal level I was taught to deny my heart’s desires, because my heart was wicked and filled with sin.  On an intellectual level, I was taught to doubt the things I could see, and to trust my faith in things I could not.   On a romantic level, I was taught to doubt any interest in someone who was not a Christian or a Christian who was not as “committed” as me or my particular brand of church.  On and on the list goes of things we should doubt or deny.  All in the name of faith.

No wonder so many people of faith descend into depression and the like.  With all the things you’re taught to doubt, what is actually real?  As for me, I’ll take another helping of the scientific method.

Speaking of tongues

20 Apr

I remember the first time I ever heard about the gift of tongues.  I was in Sunday School Class and we were studying the Book of Acts.  The story of Pentecost was read and the account states that all the disciples were in an upper room praying.  While they were praying a sound of a mighty wind was heard and tongues of fire were seen to come down and rest on all present.  The disciples began to speak in tongues, meaning that they were praying and prophesying in languages that were unknown to the disciples.  In other words, they were miraculously empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in these unknown tongues.

It was at this point of the story, that my Sunday School Teacher interrupted the lesson.  He got a very serious look and he spoke with a raised voice (he never spoke with a raised voice).   He sternly warned us that the gift of tongues was a one time event for the apostles.  He continued, telling us that if anyone told us that THEY spoke in tongues, that they were lying.  He said people who speak in tongues today, are doing so by the power…..of the DEVIL!!!!!!!!!!

Oh no!!!  Not that guy again, I hadn’t thought much about him since sweating it out over my Eternal destiny, the previous summer.  But this intrigued me, this idea that there were Christians who were being led astray by the devil and doing black magic stuff by speaking gobbledygook and shouting “Praise-the-Lord, Hallelujah,AMEN!”  I guess my teacher’s warning worked, anytime someone started talking about that crazy black magic stuff, I hightailed it or suddenly got sick and couldn’t go to their “Youth on Fire” event.  I avoided the Charismatic world all the way through my High School years.

At college, I began to meet Christians from all sorts of churches, including Charismatic and Pentecostal.  And you know what?  They were decent Christian folks who certainly didn’t act like the devils spawn.  Intrigued, I began charismatic church hopping with a very good friend who had gone full force into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and tongues experience.  I was still scared that maybe the Devil was just fooling me….but I tried to keep an open mind.

I ended up spending the better part of my first college break, reading scripture and trying to figure out if I was supposed to speak in tongues or not?  The Scriptures sure seemed to speak highly of tongues, so I told God, if he wanted me to pray in tongues, he could do it.  Laying there in bed after my prayer, I opened up my mouth and tried to pray in tongues.  And to my surprise, I was able to mutter some words that sounded like the soundtrack of a Japanese film.  Though, in fairness to Japanese films, I seemed to repeating the same phrase over and over again.

At the time, I became convinced that I had been Baptized in the Holy Spirit and was speaking in an unknown tongue.  I was ready now,  watch out world…..I’ve got a secret tap of that Holy Spirit power flowing through my tongue!  It’s funny to me now, because I can look back and see how I got caught up into a very emotionally based experience to try to validate my faith in God.  But back then, I was completely earnest in my belief that this tongues thing, was empowering me and drawing me closer to God.

I went to every Charismatic church and prayer meeting I could muster.  It gave me an almost gnostic drunkenness when I spoke in tongues.  I really felt that it was the key to many of my spiritual and every day challenges.  I remember leading a Young Life bible study (Young Life wasn’t all that comfortable with the Charismatic thing, so I kept it pretty quiet) and excusing myself to go the bathroom so I could pray in tongues.  Brings new meaning to the phrase “Going into the prayer closet”-more like babbling in the water closet.  I went in there to pray, because I was nervous about leading the study. I was convinced that this would help me overcome my fears and see it bear fruit as a Christian.

Another random tongues moment, is when me and a Charismatic roommate decided to watch  Evangelist Robert Tilton on TV.  He told us to put our hands on his hands (meaning the image of his hand on the TV) and start to pray in tongues.  We did and started praying, but the camera angle had changed and now we were laying hands all over Mr. Tilton’s face.  He didn’t seem to mind, so we kept praying until we were prayed out.  Proof positive that I was becoming a little whacked out.

As the years followed, I would occasionally pray in tongues.  But the emotional charge it gave me at first, began to wear off.  Realistically, I think it served more as a nervous release of emotion but was of no spiritual significance.  I never saw any prayers answered, heck, I didn’t even know what I was praying-if at all!  It started to seem just as ritualistic as saying the  “Our Father” or “Hail Mary”.  Charismatic ritualism, but ritualistic none the less.

Now that I no longer have faith in Jesus or the Holy Spirit, there is really no reason to speak in tongues.  But ironically, I still can.  Which I think points to the fact that tongues is just a human experience.  Not a spiritual experience empowered by God ( or Satan-like I was warned in Sunday School).

How Smart People Get Sucked into Cults

14 Apr

I was a few months into my new job and really enjoying my position and co-workers.  I was taking a quick break and jumped on a computer in the break room to check email.  After checking email, I decided to click over to the SGMSURVIVORS board for current and former member of the cult I used to be a part.  I was just about to wrap it up when one of my newest co-workers came up and enthusiastically asked what I was reading.   AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!  Do I just kinda fudge it and say nothing while I quickly close the page?  Or do I just tell the truth?

I hesitated and she asked “What?”-you know, the kind of one word question that says “did I just say something wrong to you” sort of what.

I breathed deep and said, “I was checking on a Survivors blog  for former members of an abusive church I used to attend…..a cult.”

My co-worker looked surprised and said “But you’re smart, how did you end up being a part of a cult?”  Without getting too deep into the details, I explained that I was raised Christian, and while at college I attended some churches to try to stay involved with my faith.  Unfortunately, I ended up at a church that seemed so friendly and nice at first;  but after being involved for years, came to realize that they would suck people into their relational network, only to threaten to take it away if you dared to disagree with church leadership.

It took me years to admit it….but it’s true.  I was part of a cult.  And you know why it took me years to admit it…pride.  You see, only gullible and naive people get sucked into cults, right?  I mean, if I admit that I was part of a cult, than what does that say about me?  That I’m gullible and naive, of course.  And what intelligent person wants to admit that there a sucker…I certainly didn’t.

Emotional Creatures Are We

The experience of getting sucked into a cult has taught me something-we are emotional creatures first, rational creatures only when forced to change.  This is a generalization of course, but I think it holds true and is why thinking people get caught up into cults.

From my experience, I can look back now and see how the church I attended would Love Bomb visitors and then exploit the relational needs or vulnerabilities of these folks.  They would draw their new-found recruits into a deeper relational network composed of only members of the church.  Once someone became intertwined in the church, that’s when the additional demands (both doctrinally and practically) would be trotted out.  At this point, I am forced to make a choice.  Do I reject this new doctrine/demand and risk losing  my new-found relationships, or do I try to make a go of it so that I can continue to enjoy the relationships that I now depend on for support and self-worth?

It’s this exploitation of our emotions that makes leaving a cult so hard.  It hurts like hell, in fact.  All of the sudden, people you thought you could depend on are treating you like you’re a criminal.  Or acting as if you don’t exist anymore.  All the while, you thought you were building relationships to last a lifetime, only to see them washed away in one fell swoop.

It’s then that you realize that all the phone calls, the meals when you were sick, the invites to hang out as couples all hinged on you being a part of the “best church” since the New Testament was written; maybe even better.  Now that you’ve voiced some concerns, or pointed out an area where they do not practice what they preach, you become “persona non grata”.

And that’s it in a nutshell.  It almost doesn’t matter what the particulars of the belief system are.  It’s the fact that you will be punished through your relationships, with cruel efficiency and forethought by people you love.  It’s this threat of relational banishment that holds current members in fearful check, while those being banished find themselves overboard and drifting on a sea of emotional turmoil and confusion.  Have I mentioned it hurts like hell?  Well just in case you missed it, it hurts like hell.

Tithing and The Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

11 Apr

I was in the middle of my brief tenure as a Vineyard worship leader, at the last church I would ever attend as a member.  We were a few weeks into the new year and my pastor called me to discuss the church.  We agreed to meet at Starbucks to go over the upcoming schedule and events.

Later that day, we met up for an overpriced cup of joe and some conversation.  After talking kids and politics, we finally begin talking about the new year for our church.  I had some minor suggestions for developing the worship team, but beyond that, I was interested in hearing what my pastor had in mind.

He began talking about the current crunch financially that the church was facing.  It was before the housing bust and stock crash, but the pinch was beginning to hit a lot of families and giving was down, the church was in the red most months and was beginning to dip into savings just to cover it’s weekly expenses for pastors and facility costs.  I asked how the church had gotten so far behind in the budget.  He told me that they recently had moved locations (a move instigated by my pastor) and that it increased their expenses  by 20%.  I gulped when he told me that number.

“You committed the church to a twenty percent increase in expenses?” I asked.

“We did…I figured our new location would bring in more families and giving would go up to cover the costs” he said.

“If my boss told me I needed to increase my sales 20% with only the same customers, I would have told him he was crazy.” I replied. “Unless God specifically told you to do this, how could you have done this without letting the congregation know?  It just lacks wisdom..” I continued.

It was at this point that he pulled out the silver bullet from his bag of pastoral tricks and told me “Well, I think we just need to teach people to give…I’m planning on a 6 week series on giving and tithing.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Old Testament tithe was an offering of 10% of all sorts of grains and foods that were given to the Levitical priesthood to provide for offerings, feast days, and for consumption by the priests and sometimes the poor.  But the one thing tithes were not, was money.  But this hasn’t stopped many a Christian pastor from insisting that his congregation tithe (give 10%) of all their money to the church.  Even using ominous verses from Malachi, which warns that those who do not tithe are robbing God.

And now my pastor was suggesting he needed to hit our little congregation over the head about tithing, because HE had decided to obligate the church for 20% more money than was typically given to the church.  I wasn’t buying it.

He asked what I thought about the idea for his upcoming sermon series…I flat out told him that I HATED the idea.  First off, because tithing is not even taught as a requirement for Christians and that secondly, it seemed to me that he was using tithing to guilt trip people into giving more money for a decision in which they had no say.

I literally thought he was going to jump out of his skin.  He looked both angry and panicked that I was not going to have his back on this.  He began to desperately try and convince me that Jesus mentioning the tithe in Matthew was justification for teaching it to the church.  I countered that Jesus mentions it in passing to those still under the law and that he used it as a negative example.  Hardly the wringing endorsement that justifies using it to cover up his own financial follies.

I don’t remember all the specifics of our conversation after this point, but I do remember that it was tense and that my pastor decided he was still going to teach on giving, but maybe do a little research on tithing.  But there was one more thing he wanted to discuss….two services.

Even though we didn’t fill out the church with one service, he figured more people would come if we had two services.  Again, it seems that the decision to go to 2 services was based on the hope of growing the church quick, to help cover the bills.  It seemed that very little thought was given to the fact that the worship team and many other volunteers would now be doing double time on Sunday morning.  I didn’t like the idea, but I held my tongue.  I had frustrated him enough already and two services was not a given at this point…

I am sad to report, that he did go ahead and beat the sheep with his tithing and giving series.  He also laid out the church financial crisis without ever taking any responsibility for the decision, and he did finally get his wish of two services.

He decided to begin two services on Easter Sunday.  So, he fished his wish.  But he also lost a worship leader that Sunday….it also happened to be my last Sunday as an active church member.  It will probably be the Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

Alcoholism and Unanswered Prayer

8 Apr

Prayer simply does not work.  It just doesn’t.  I know this to be true…let me tell you how I know.

My sister is an alcoholic.  She has been abusing for over 25 years.  Frankly, I’m amazed that she is still alive.  The sad thing, is that she is incredibly smart and clever.  Unfortunately, her alcoholism has just about ripped my family of origin to shreds.  Her disease has stolen countless holidays away from my family.  I have spent hundreds of hours on the phone, praying with her, listening to her, only to discover that she has been lying to me.  It’s hard to describe the absolute alternate reality that invades your world when an addict chooses to target you for daring to call a spade a spade.  Truth and addictions do not mix well…

As the old joke goes, “When can you tell when an addict is lying?  Anytime their lips are moving…!”  Except, it’s not really funny.  In fact, it’s heartbreaking.

When I was in college, I would pray for hours for my sister’s recovery from drugs and alcohol.  Literally for hours upon end, interceding on her behalf.  Asking, seeking, knocking, crying, begging, ….I was exhausted from the effort of trying to hope and pray my sister out of the devils grip.  And this is how I know prayer doesn’t work.  It didn’t matter how many people I asked to pray, or how many times I prayed….it didn’t help.

Looking back , I realize that either God had the power to do something, but chose not to….or He isn’t there.  If He is there, but has chosen not to help, than He is a cosmic jerk.  If He’s not there (which is what I suspect), than I was just wasting my time.  Either way, it was a waste of time.

I have many more thoughts on the subject, but I’m too tired and emotional to continue…but I will.  I must, because although the truth sucks rotten eggs sometimes, it’s better than living a lie. Whether I like it or not, this is my truth.


Since I Gave Up Hope ( I Feel a Lot Better)

3 Apr

Recently I spoke with an old friend.  He is a pastor and I am now an ex-christian.  It was the first time we had spoken since I had made it clear on Facebook, that I doubted the Scriptures and no longer considered myself a Christian.

To be honest, I felt bad telling him that I had lost my faith.  It seemed like I would be letting him down.  After all, we had done some ministry stuff together.  We had even helped sponsor some Christian concerts back in the day and I had been a guest on his college radio show that featured Christian rock.  Telling him I no longer believed felt like I was betraying him.

But as we spoke, he genuinely listened and did not try and argue with me… in fact, he agreed with many of my textual criticisms.  He also said it didn’t surprise him that I had lost my faith.  This surprised me and I asked him why he said this about me.  He replied, that given the abusive church situations I had witnessed, and my intimate dealings with the Christian Book and Music industry and the underbelly of much of it’s purveyors, he was surprised I hadn’t lost my faith years before this point.

I understood what he was saying, but I could honestly state that these things had not been the reason I had given up on faith.  I told him that my lack of faith in the scriptures as the word of God, is what drove me away from faith.  He listened and as we neared the end of our conversation, he did say that while he understood where I was at, he did not feel I was in a better place.  Meaning that my loss of faith in God was a bad thing, and something that concerned him.  He wished me well and we ended our conversation.

Some time has passed, and I have to report that since giving up hope in God or the Bible, I feel a lot better (thank you to Steve Taylor for this clever little phrase)…  I know it sounds cheeky, but it really is true.  I feel a lot better about life.  I no longer have this wondering doubt if I am doing the right thing for God, a God that is silent and whose scriptures are flawed.  Trying to figure out God’s will  felt like trying to do a Rubiks Cube with both hands tied and my eyes glued shut.  I no longer play this game.

I am also resolved that I will cease to exist after I die.  Much in the way that I was unable to feel or experience life before I was born…I will eventually fall back to the earth and cease to experience life around me.  I will remember no more, and eventually I will be remembered no more.  It’s not a romantic picture, but I believe it is true, given the evidence all around me.  And it motivates me to enjoy life, enjoy those who are dear to me, and appreciate the gift that every new day gives, while I still have the health and resources to enjoy it.

While I am still concerned for the poor, the downtrodden, the weak….I no longer waste time praying.  If I can act or help, I do.  If I am unable, I do not.  I no longer feel the pressure to be some sort of ambassador for a country I’ve never been to, and can no longer even believe exists.  It was always a heavy burden to believe another persons eternal choices were affected by me.  Again, I model kindness and love when given the chance, but I do not feel obliged to be a doormat for those who are willing to exploit our better nature.

Just my two cents from someone on the other side of faith….