To be a wandering Jew

Sent in by Marcus Johnston

Having come across your website by accident, I first thought this was just another "evangelical atheist" page in which I'd see the same tracts and arguments that I've seen many times, thanks to my rabidly atheistic friend. However, searching for the "about us" part of this page, I found myself fascinated while reading the site founder's "anti-testimony," because in many ways, it mirrored my own story.

I can't claim the same level of theologic scholarship that the author does, but I can relate to his story very well. When my parents divorced when I was seven, I first started going to the Presbyterian Church in town. I became a regular church attendee after being baptized at eight, but didn't really think much about the details of the church until later. Up until then, I loved the ceremony and the stories, but I didn't think much about what I believed, apart from the pat answers that every Christian gives. I have a good voice, so I sang in the choir once I joined junior high; male singers being exceedingly rare.

Anyway, when I was 12, I was reading a book during a sermon, obviously not paying attention to much else, when I looked up at the choir loft ceiling. Now back in the 70's, someone painted "tongues of fire," representing the Holy Spirit and its descent on the apostles during Pentecost. I looked up, I looked down, and WHAM! my life changed in an instant. Instead of wanting to be a cartographer (since before I can remember - yes, I'm that nerdy), I wanted to serve God and become a minister. I really felt as if God had reached down and called me to service.

So I began the process of "testing the call." I talked with my minister, I read the Bible from cover to cover (although I read the New Testament three times to the one time through the Old), I looked into attending seminaries, and I read countless tracts and religious books. I attended youth group, finished confirmation class, taught Sunday School, and remained in the choir.

Two major things also happened that year. Because my mom had remarried someone in this church, someone sent them a nasty letter saying that my mom wasn't good enough to raise my stepfather's kids, et al. So they decided to go to the Church of Christ (the "non-denominational" denomination, musical branch) in the town next door. I didn't want to leave, but because I was part of the family, we worked out an arrangement where I stayed at the Presbyterian church while the choir was in session, but attended the non-denominational Christian church otherwise. So I got the extremes of mainline conservative Protestant Calvinism to liberal Arminianism every year until I left for college. Because I had to defend my particular brand of Protestant Christianity every week (often to ministers who bugged me), I became a firm believer in the Calvinist tenets, infant baptism, and predestination.

The other thing is that I finally hit puberty, being a late bloomer, and having to struggle with my hormones at the same time being told "wait for marriage;" not really a problem, since God hadn't "found a life mate" for me anyway, so I didn't date much. So I felt insanely guilty about my sexuality, at the same time being told everytime I did something wrong that "a minister wouldn't do that." There were nights I would wake up scared that I wouldn't be taken in the rapture! So I'm not surprised that I finally gave up the call at age 17.

Well, having lost my calling, I floundered for a sign in college. I attended two youth groups, InterVarsity and an American Baptist group, continued to read the Bible, and got involved with worship teams. Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with guilt and becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that God hadn't sent a woman for me to love, and that other Christian women looked at me like I was chopped liver. At the same time, I discovered the hypocrasy of "Christian Values," saying things like "no sex before marriage," and seeing active Christians bonking each other like crazy.

In college, I attended a more evangelical church of Presbyterians, where I loved the people, but disagreed with a lot of their more drastic tenets. I got my teaching certificate and taught at a Christian school in Korea, where once again, a single person was considered anathema, and a single man's motives suspicious even among single women. When I came back to the States, nothing had changed, save that I was even more frustrated with Christianity. It was only when I started rejecting those tenets, that I started progressing. I got laid at 25, thanks to a willing female friend, and got my first girlfriend soon after. Certainly I felt guilty, but it had become less and less thanks to an overdose of Christian morality growing up.

I soon taught at a Christian school in India, where no matter how many worship experiences I sought for, I kept feeling disappointed with Christianity. I believed that God exists without a doubt, but I certainly didn't have that "relationship with Jesus" that everyone talked about. I always started my prayers to my "Heavenly Father," but Jesus was an abstraction. I believed in God as taught through the Bible, but Christianity didn't make a lot of sense to me.

Strangely enough, it wasn't until I met my wife, who was a convert to Judaism, that things worked out. In order to marry her, the rabbi insisted that 1) we raise the kids Jewish, 2) we join a temple, and 3) we only celebrate Jewish holidays in the home. I didn't have a problem with them and my wife accepted the fact that I would attend services on Sunday; occasionally she joined me.

Anyway, my fiancee moved to India with me, and I would go through the Jewish prayer service with her on Fridays, then she would occasionally join me on Sunday's at the CNI (Church of North India: former Anglican, Prebyterian, Congregationalist, etc.) church at the top of the hill. I slowly realized that for the first time I had a choice in what I believed! I believed that the Christian God was who I worshipped, so where else would I go to worship and learn? I loved the Jewish service, began to understand how their theology was different than Christianity, and was fascinated.

I wanted to convert, but I had nagging problems; after all, I had confessed that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, how could I turn my back on everything I had believed for 30 years? It was only when I analyzed the prophecies about the messiah in the Old Testament that I realized how foolish they were. Especially Daniel 6, which to make it fit with Jesus, you had to calculate the first part one way, then just forget about calculating the second part and convince yourself it was on call waiting. WHAT?! That broke my doubt. If the prophecies didn't add up to Jesus, then Jesus was NOT the Messiah. When I realized that, I "went back" to being what Christianity truly was, a reformed Judaism.

I felt so liberated after that. Mind you, being in the back of nowhere India, nowhere near a synagogue and in a Christian community, was the worst possible time to make this decision, and my wife and I eventually had to leave because of our religious beliefs (they wouldn't give us permission to observe Yom Kippur in Delhi). This led us to Bangkok, where we taught in a Seventh-Day Adventist school (which is the closest you can get to Judaism and still be Christian, discounting Messianics, of course), and I had the unique opportunity to be a Reform Jew teaching Adventist Christianity to a group of Thai Buddhist students. :) After getting snubbed by the Chabad house (evangelical Jews - well, getting Jews to actually follow orthodox Jewish practice), which unfortunately, was our only synagogue access for a year, we returned to the States and I'm finally on the path (2 1/2 years later) to formally converting.

What I've discovered is that converts don't suffer from a lack of faith, but rather a surplus of it. We believe so much that have difficulty comprehending the contradictions. When we ask a serious question, we want a serious answer, and often times we get the standard FAQ in response. You don't tell a missionary that "Jesus loves you" and you don't ask a new convert to be a missionary. When the answers no longer satisfy us, we don't go running somewhere else, we usually end up agonizing about it for years because we DON'T see anything else.

I'm proud to be a Jew and I'm grateful that the founder had the good sense to make a great website.

B'Shalom, Marcus Johnston

16 comments:

twincats said...

Great post, really enjoyed it! I don't think we get too many ex-Christian Jews here (I've only been here since last September myself, and I'm pagan now) and it should be interesting to have that point of view, so I hope you'll visit often.

infidel666 said...

Glad you posted your story Marcus. It is refreshing to have someone come in here and be open minded, respectful, wise and honest. Kudos

Madame M said...

I think if I ever went back to Biblegod, which is unlikely, but we are talking "if", I would probably choose Judaism. Of all the christian denominations I was involved in, Messianic judaism made the most sense. If Biblegod were real, he probably didn't abandon the Jewish religion that he founded for the mish mash of nonsense known as christianity.

Welcome to the site!

Anonymous said...

If your comments were any more insightful, less evengelical, less self-righteous, supported by facts instead of vague references, I am almost positive the webmaster would post your comment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Marcus Johnston,

Welcome to ex-Christian…
There are many Judaism sects out there (from secular to ultra orthodox).…
So I have some questions. Just curious…

1) Do you believe that Jews are chosen people?
2) Do you believe that Jews are superior to other people?
3) Do you believe that Jews are the “predestined” ruler of the world?

Shalom…

Nvrgoingbk said...

I am glad you left the insanity of Christianity, but I don't see how you are on any more of a positive track.

Let me be frank. The "Old Testament", Tenak, Torah, WHATEVER, is plagued with contradictions and absurdities. We all know that insects do not have four legs and that the earth does not revolve around the sun. We all know of the countless stories of a major flood that are older than the Jewish account. The laws are ridiculous. Do you follow all of them? I mean, really, do you? Wouldn't you have to, since the "Messiah" hasn't arrived on the scene yet? Do you consider yourself dirty after having a semenal emission? Do you consider your wife dirty after she has given birth or had her period? Do you truelly believe that Noah got two of EVERY creature on Earth (there were even more then), even those from the far reaches of Antarctica, South America, and Australia? Which account of the "Creation" is true? Do you really justify Yaweh's orders to dash babies upon rocks? Does it make any sense that God would allow a man to sacrifice his daughter when Jehovah explicitly FORBIDS human sacrifice? How do ANY of the stories make sense to you? Are you okay with Lot's daughters raping him? Why weren't they punished for such an act that is repulsive in the eyes of your God, when he repeatedly punishes for far less offenses? ARe you aquainted with the Zorastrians, the Summerians, the Egyptians, and the Babylonians and the influence these people had on Hebrew beliefs?

I am quite confused. I mean no disrespect toward you, but I just happen to find the Old Testament even more offensive than the New, and can't concieve of ever holding it up as "The Word of God", no matter what books you take out or add to it.

Perhaps I am out of line. Perhaps I am not being politically correct, but this is an Ex-Christian website and the Bible IN IT'S ENTIRETY is generally shunned around here, so I feel the freedom to speak my mind. Pardon any insult, but I am unmoved by the praises you sing to Bible God. How can you possibly feel "liberated" by converting to Judaism?

Anyway, I will agree with you whole heartedly regarding Dave and this website. I will agree whole-heartedly regarding the stench given off by Christianity. I loved the comment you made about converts having a surplus of faith which causes confusion as to the many contradictions found in "The Book". The thing is Marcus, the New Testament doesn't claim the monopoly on contradiction scripture. Your "Holy" text is riddled with them.

pitchu said...

Marcus, I'm glad you're here, and I'm looking forward to your participation.

Why Judaism produces symptoms of stroke in some ex-Christians is more than I can fathom. The relationship of Jews to their scriptures is so very different from that of Christians to theirs, yet many Christians and ex-C's don't seem to grasp this.

Sometimes I think the bizarre reaction is a matter of holding the mother religion responsible for (unwillingly, btw) birthing the one that made us crazy -- kinda like blaming a lousy spin-off on the original TV show.

Plenty of Jews are in my life, including a husband and a son, and I've yet to meet a Jew unaccepting of me as a gentile atheist, nor have I known a Jew who tried to live his or her life by any principle more fundamental than "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

Again, welcome, Marcus.

jim earl said...

Whether someone is a fundy, middle of the road moderate, or nice as they can be anything, that changes nothing. There is no one true god or one true religion. Delusions all. Once I broke the chains of religion, I was finished with religion. I don't need or desire any part of any religion. To be deluded by any belief system is not my idea of a liberated lifestyle. Sorry if this offends anyone here, but it is the way I feel. You may be just one thought away from returning to your former belief system. I want no part of religion, except to bash them all. Just in case you don't see the point of this post it's this: RELIGION SUCKS!

eel_shepherd said...

I'm with nvrgoingbk and Jim Earl on this one. In fact, I'd say you missed your big chance already, having had a chance to be listening to, rather than talking to, those Buddhist kids you were teaching. You could have gone to Buddhism, then Zen Buddhism and finally nothing, if you didn't feel up to taking the express lane straight to nothing.

Before too many other people get their irons in, and you feel you have to respond to some of them, I feel that I should point out that every once in a while we get believers coming in here who are not of the rabid sort but who yet will consistently duck a key question that is put to them unrelentently. So before too much more water flows under the bridge, let me be the second person to put the same question to you: Do you consider the Jews to be the Chosen People of "God" (or "G_d", if you prefer [which is just God with the vowel bashed flat from above, sort of a degenerate "o" as y'might say])?

That was a question.

I have another question or two, but don't bother answering it/them if you haven't first answered the first one [above].

Do you believe that people like Noah and Methuselah etc etc lived to be hundreds of years old? (Not "the tribe/clan/family of" that person, but the person him/herself.)

Lastly, are eels fish?

Nvrgoingbk said...

Before anyone gets his hooks in me, I have to make a correction. I meant to say that everyone knows that the SUN doesn't revolve around the EARTH, as the Bible suggests when it claims the sun stopped in the sky.

Anyway, Jim Earl and Eel are riots. Loved your questions eel. We have asked quite a few, but don't expect to have them answered. He seems nice enough, but in the long run, believes the rest of us are heathen. I mean, when I look at others, I might have a knowing that the way they think is screwed up or misguided, but I don't have the philosophy that some imaginary god is going to burn them in Hell for it. THat's the difference.

I know, I know, Jews don't believe in Hell, but they have a long history of inflicting rape, murder, genocide, infanticide, plundering villages, etc. on their enemies. At the end of the day we are the enemies of their God. You see, they don't stop at thinking we are just misguided. No, that's not enough. You see, because if a Jew or a Christian thinks you're wrong for believing a certain way, than God does too. You see, they have the backing of the Wizard of Oz. so they MUST be right.

If we tell them they are wrong, we have no higher authority to go to (since THERE ISN'T ONE), other than scientists, who we all know are just the antichrist anyway, so you can't believe anything they say. It's a losing battle. They chose to stay ignorant.

.:webmaster:. said...

The thing about Jewish believers that I like is that I've never known any who pushed their beliefs onto others.

I personally could care less if someone identifies themselves as a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, etc., etc., etc.

Me? I'm an atheist. I like Epicurean Stocism to a point, but I'm confident there are no deities. However, others who do believe in deities don't concern me.

Except...

There's always an exception, isn't there?

Except, when the believers in those deities insist that it is their right to jam the doctrines, dogmas, and sacred doodles down the throats of everyone on the planet. Fundie-type Christians and Muslims are the worst. They are firmly convinced that any and all who reject their deity will be roasted in everlasting flame. With that belief firmly entrenched, they honestly think they are being compassionate by cramming their crap into everyone's cranny. In reality, fundie believers are annoying, frequently rude, and ultimately dead set on establishing some version of theocratic rule over the lives of others.

Do whatever you like in the privacy of your home or club. But if you decide to in any way force your mythology on me or into secular society at large, that's when I'll be upset.

Zen said...

Yes, I agree with the WM... It's ok as long as they run their religion in private. But if they force their cult/myths on us, well, it's a big big trouble..

pitchu said...

WM expresses my sentiments completely.

Additionally, I would add my own opinion that those who believe in any damn thing, but don't push their beliefs on others, and who approach others with openness, civility, and obvious vulnerability, don't deserve unprovoked attacks on themselves or sophistic assaults on their belief system.

pitchu said...

WM expresses my sentiments completely.

Additionally, an opinion of my own is that people can believe any damn thing, and as long as they don't shove it down single or collective throats or work to legislate morality, and as long as they approach others with courtesy and openness, they don't deserve sophistic assaults on their belief system.

I, personally, don't walk in any particular manner with the god I don't have, but I'd sure rather that those who do have one "walk humbly" with him than march "as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before..."

Epicurienne said...

Marcus, welcome, and good luck to you.

This website is Ex-Christian, not "all atheist, all the time," so I would echo those posters who said, you're welcome here as long as you're not trying to get other people to adopt YOUR beliefs.

I consider myself to be an agnostic Taoist Wiccan. (seriously!) There are times when I feel agnostic/atheist, times when I feel Taoist, and times when I feel pagan/Wiccan.....but you won't hear me trying to tell anybody they should agree with me.

freedy said...

The Jewish faith indirectly comes from the Zorastrians and Egyptians as "nvogringbk" stated.
In my studies,some Jews of Jesus day were tired of the oppression of the old testament God,...thus came up with a more loving and gracious diety.

*The loving Jesus was later made into more of a hellfire and brimstoner by the Catholic church.

Archived Testimonial Pageviews the past 30 days