Sent in by G
Up until a few years ago, I was heavily involved in “the church.”
In college, I got involved with a very small storefront church that focused primarily on college age people. It was there that I was exposed to the Charismatic “gifts” of the spirit and such. It was also where my life started to get twisted.
I didn’t associate with anyone other than those I went to church with. Even other Christians were not to be associated with as everyone was going to hell but us. And when we DID get to know people outside the church, it was strictly for the purpose of getting them to become believers and then to attend our church. We weren’t interested in getting to actually know anyone for the sake of developing real friendships, but only as “trophies.”
As time went on, we actually began to see how messed up we were and realized that we needed to be more “in the world” if we were going to have any impact for “The Kingdom.” So we began to read much more widely and broadened our outlook. We were reading stuff by Reconstructionists and Dominionists (David Chilton, Gary North, Rushdoony). They wrote about how the United States should be governed by Old Testament law (stone unruly children, abolish public education, democracy is heresy). And we ate it up. It was like a whole new world for us after being so focused on ourselves for so long. And it portrayed Christianity as the ultimate solution for the worlds issues. Over the course of time, however, things started changing.
You don’t participate in such a group without eventually noticing that things aren’t going the way they should. People’s lives were heavily controlled, not through direct manipulation but rather by more subtle means of hints and intimidation. Basically, if the pastor didn’t approve of something, it was a problem. Eventually, I left the group when I couldn’t take it anymore. This was the hardest thing I ever did as I basically left all my friends behind. You see, no one ever left this church on good terms. If you left, you were shunned. Consequently, I was basically on my own, no friends to fall back on.
Up until that moment, I hadn’t missed a church service on seven years. The first Sunday after leaving the church I stayed in bed… and it felt FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC!!!
Though I had left that abusive church, I still considered myself a believer and eventually began to visit other larger churches that were large enough to allow me a level of anonymity I hadn’t experienced in the previous church. I eventually started regularly attending a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church and made a diligent effort to get a real foundation under me and try to determine how much of what I had been taught was legit and what was crap. As a result, I eventually came to embrace Calvinism and I also became a deacon in the church I ultimately joined.
But even then, I was also struggling with the issue of my being a closeted homosexual and trying to deal with it in the context of the Christian outlook. I tried an ex-gay support group (which weirded me out), and I also tried a sex-addicts group for men. Nothing seemed to work.
I eventually relocated to another state for a job opportunity and decided to not bother going back to church as it wasn’t helping anything. I kept trying to tell myself that I was just needed to try harder “abiding in Christ” but I just wasn’t able to relate.
I also came to accept myself as I am and come out of the closet to my friends and deal with life as it was, rather than how I was told it should be. I also began to seriously investigate the claims of Christianity and also to read books I had always been afraid to touch (regarding philosophy and arguments against the existence of the supernatural). When I started to actually examine what I believed for so long, it didn’t stand up to the scrutiny of well-thought arguments and legitimate questions. The first book I purchased was FREETHINKERS and it set me on the road to more books and serious examination of the claims of religion.
I would be lying if I said it was easy. It was like cutting off my own hand or leg.
But for the first time in my life I can honestly state that I am more content now than I have ever been in my life. I’m no longer worrying about pleasing some invisible mind-reader. I no longer worry about trying to find God’s “will for my life” but live the life I choose and take responsibility for the decisions I make and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. I no longer worry that something is happening in my life because God wants to teach me something and I then agonize over what it might mean. When I make friends, I no longer see them as “prizes to be won for the Kingdom.” I actually get to know them for who they are and appreciate them for their individuality.
If you’re a Christian reading this, you won’t understand any of this until you actually make the decision yourself to legitimately and fairly consider the claims of those who’ve rejected supernaturalism. But you most likely won’t do that. If you’re anything like I was, you’ll be too wracked with fear for just seriously examining whether what you were taught as a child is legit or if it’s simply what your parents taught you and leave it at that.
The world is more wonderful with all its various shades of gray than it ever was in stark black and white.