Image by stevesheriw via FlickrMy name is Randal and I'm currently in recovery. I'm a recovering Baptist. My sponsor told me to stay away from anyone who is condemning and judgmental, so I immediately quit going to church.
I'm not really sure when my 'de-conversion' process reared its beautiful head. I would love to tell you a great story about an "A-ha!" moment, but I don't have it. I did, however, wake up one day and just kinda get it. But it wasn't, and isn't, an overnight process. For years, I've been tirelessly and religiously chipping away at my theological prison wall like Andy Dufresne. To be the person that I wanted to be, I had to dig as deep as I could possibly dig. Rest then repeat. Rest. Repeat.
But if I had to pinpoint a time, in my life, I would say it was when I started reading. Reading "other" material.
My dad was an intellectual student of theology and received his Master of Divinity at a conservative seminary. From there he became a Baptist preacher. He left the ministry when I was around 5 and we moved back to Texas where he was an interim minister for various churches, preaching when he could. No matter what, we'd still go somewhere for church every Sunday. If we didn't go out, he'd have a few people come in our house for the service. So growing up, I wasn't technically a preacher's kid but I certainly knew the drill. My orange juice was spiked with the "Five Points of Calvinism" and I had divine-selection doctrine as icing on my cake. However, unlike most preacher’s kids, I never felt the intense pressure to be perfect 100% of the time...just 99.
My entire living family, Mom, Dad, Grandmoms and Granddad, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nephews, Nieces, Second Cousins, Third cousins, Great Aunts, Great Uncles, and everyone else in between claims some form of "Christian" belief. Most of it from the proto-orthodox channel. In fact many, at least 8, have some formal Divine education with experience in the ministry field. We are ass deep in a “Protestantial,” conservative, institute-like “theolosophy”.
I had to memorize and recite Bible verses until I was 13 years old. I went to all the camps, knew all the songs, and probably got "saved," literally, 6 times. I think I might have even been baptized twice. I was a good little Christian soldier. I remember going around telling stories to my childhood friends about our imminent doom if we didn't "ask Jesus to come in to our hearts." I tried to save them. I look back now and wonder, "Save them from what? Happiness?"
I remember specifically sitting in Sunday School when I was around the age of 8 and the teacher was yammerin' away at some story. Then he said something that whipped me around. He said, "That's why putting any kind of Christian, or Jesus-like bumper sticker on your car is not a good idea. Because if we do or say something that we shouldn't while we are driving, we don't anyone to know that we are Christians."
Jesus, meet doubt. Doubt, this is Jesus.
That mighta got the ball rollin' in my head a little. Things like that were probably, looking back, the beginning of the end. My mom thinks that what started my walk away was how I had disdain for the church itself. Church, Inc. if you will. I had the opportunity to see the church as a business. Not good. While this is true, it's not entirely true. I have more legitimate, deeper beefs with Christianity than this. However, it is what I used, and still use, to legitimize my view that Church, Inc. is actually at polemic odds for which is stands.
The way I saw Christians talk and act at church was, and is, different than the way I saw them talk and act...not-at-church. Time after time, I was witness to jealousy, mind-manipulation, pettiness, verbal abuse, self-victimization for self-benefit, guilt extracting, spiritual one-upmanship, gossip, fear mongering, and lying. I'm not sure if all kids pick up on this kinda stuff, but I was acutely aware of the hypocritical nature of "my people." But what was I to do?
Since it was all I knew, I swam with the sharks. And since I was always on the attack, I was always in defense also. I lived life in a shell of jealousy and pettiness. Fear, shame and guilt (all as giver and receiver). I was better than you. It was your fault that I didn't get what I needed and I was going to step on you to get it later. I was the best gossiper and if you turned your back, I'd stab it. And unfortunately, I did the mother of all offenses...I danced.
I don't want to imply that I was sheltered. My parents didn't pretend that other stuff was out there. I was free to do as I please. I was not prohibited to read certain books. See certain films. Listen to certain music. It wasn't prohibited; it just wasn't talked about or presented as an equal. I had free will.
I was like a free range chicken being raised for slaughter. A “free range” chicken is a chicken that has the "option" of leaving the coup and ranging on a small designated piece of land outside. What this technically means, is that the chicken has the “option” of leaving the overcrowded, mainstream chicken house through a tiny door in a corner that he doesn’t even know exists. He is "free" to do as he pleases...but he has to get there on his own. But dig this, the chickens aren't allowed to go outside until they are 5 weeks old. Then they're killed at 7 weeks, so, really the chickens have only 2 weeks to find a small door in the corner, walk through it, and go to place they have no idea exists. So guess what? No chickens roam outside because none of their chickens are either so how would they know. In my case, the outside was Satan. And the door was secularist material.
If the philosophy, music, art, literature, science, history, or poetry wasn’t in the Bible, or it didn’t have that spin on it…it was not presented as legitimate, and discounted as faulty or sinful.
After the birth of my first son, I began to unconsciously deconstruct my faith by an innate feeling. I read "other" material and talked to anyone who would listen. Life, the questions of such, philosophy, God, does he or does he not exist, the Biblical contradictions, the trinity, did Jesus really exist, they all became a passion of mine.
I was tired of trying to win arguments by always yelling “ 'Cause the Bible says so!” I knew it wasn’t’ so but it was still an uncomfortable moment when I realized that the foundation of my faith, the one that I was inoculated with, the one that was “built on a rock,” was actually built on sand.
Reading, studying, meditating, contemplating, talking and listening allowed me to pull back the curtain on the mysticism of religion, specifically Judeo-Christianity, allowed me to see reality. The mythological roots of Judaism are true but that's what they are myth. Stories were lifted, stolen, enhanced, and edited from other religions. The Israelites were just trying to make sense of their suffering in their times with their people. They were not writing "The Bible." After the Bible became errant and the religion of Judiasm a myth, then the cloak of Christianity dropped and beauty stood before me. Everything now made sense and fell into place. I had a rebirth.
In my years since my turning away from Christianity, I am less anxious and fearful, and more calm. I am less petty and jealous, and more encouraging. I am less shameful and guilt filled, and more prideful. I am less judging and condemning, and more empathetic. I have better morals, higher character, and stronger integrity. I’m a victim no longer and I have no need for justice. I don’t hoard my stuff so you can’t take it away. I don’t idolize fancy labels, nice cars, or real estate. I have no reason to get ahead because it’s an illusion. I live life more in the moment and when I mess up, or when something goes wrong, I know it’s exactly as it should be. It always is.
I’m like a free range chicken, making the esoteric idea of freedom a reality.
I found the door! It’s over here everyone, it’s over here!