Confessions of a former, former Christian

The 4 phases of my Christianity – Pt. 3

Phase 3:

After about 5 years of happily living in phase 2, wondering if I would ever have any interest in calling myself a Christian again (but never for very long), my brother Todd, (whose life and impact on mine will be a blog entry unto itself) told me about how he had begun talking with men he’d meet around his neighborhood and kids’ schools, and getting them to meet together at his house where they would talk about life, and faith and God and what to do with them all. And they would come….voluntarily….repeatedly….

“You’re doing what?”, I would ask, “With who? … why? Are you ok?”. If my life had been nothing more than fantastic display of Christian facade, I have to say, at least it was still 10x better than Todd’s.  I wouldn’t exactly call him the black sheep of the family… ok, yeah I would. So what was he doing? What was he doing having something that sounded suspiciously like a home bible study (although it did include beer and a campfire, thank God) and talking with guys about Jesus?

He told me in his own search for figuring out what to do with God, he had been introduced to a writer named John Eldredge who had written some books called The Sacred Romance and Wild at Heart. He said this guy was talking about Christianity like he’d never heard it talked about, and it was resonating with him, and he was trying to figure out how to do it. He also said I needed to get these books and read them.

Because I respect my brother, I immediately proceeded to totally ignore this advice and continue living in my happy debauchery.

Then he insisted that he, myself, our other brother, and dad take a little road trip to Colorado to attend a 3 day retreat with John Eldredge. Said it would be great. I said I was busy. Said we should really go. I said I was broke. Someone suggested we drive out there together and stop and play golf at multiple courses along the way. I said I was in.

It’s impossible to concisely sum up what Eldredge was teaching, but it was like hearing about Jesus for the first time. It was about a story that started before the bible did, ran through the scriptures and continued right to today, and extended on past us to a great final ending to happen in the future. It was a story that was bigger than I had known, and I was being invited to play a part. I was realizing that Jesus was a) interested in setting me free and b) calling me to join him to free others. It was so simple, but for some reason struck me as so powerful and real. How had I missed this? How had I spent so long in the church world and never seen this? How had I been so firmly convinced that it was all about recognizing and avoiding sin, and if I could do this well enough for long enough, that eventually I would attain some level of higher existence, where peace and purpose and holiness radiated from my glowing face, and I would say things like “…and God bless you too, brother” with a straight face? Who had taught me this crap!?

Now you would think that an experience like this would have sent me running back to God saying, “I’m back! Let’s get this train rolling! We got things to do!” And it did….for maybe a month. Maybe two. Yeah, at least two.

Instead of pursuing God, instead of letting the fact that he loved me sink in, instead of looking to make ties with people, like I had in phase 2, in a total non-judgmental, “let’s talk about life” kind of way, I used my new found knowledge to totally turn on the church and appoint myself, “Head BS Detector”.

Because (I believed with full conviction) I knew so much more about the bible and truth and faith than these idiots in the pulpits or authors writing these crap Christian books, and these people in the church that contribute to the creation of these mindless Christian automatons, I would make it my mission to show them how far off they were, how much they’d screwed it all up.

I started teaching an adult Sunday School class, and my favorite line of thought always went something like, “You’ve always heard it this way….. BUT I TELL YOU IT’S LIKE THIS!!”, and nothing warmed my heart more than someone saying, “Wow, no one’s ever said it like that before”, “I never heard that story told like that when I was growing up”, “You are the greatest teacher I’ve ever heard. Here is all my money” (Ok, I made that last one up, no one ever said that).

Although I was as genial as I could be about it on the outside, inside I was sneering at everything the church was doing. I was walking around thinking, “Well that’s just wrong”, “This isn’t right”, “That makes no sense”, “What a load of crap”, “What did that guy just say? Holy cow…”

Now, just to be clear, this was all only aimed at church types. I was still in my phase 2 man-crush with all the people who didn’t claim to be Christians. They could do no wrong. They were super great people just trying to get through life. Of course, there was never a thought of trying to tell them about God and how much he loved them (maybe because I still didn’t understand all that myself), but I was eager to talk with anyone about how Dave Ramsey helped me with money, or how Body for Life helped me lose 15 pounds… but I digress.

No, my anger was focused only on the church who had lied to me and been dragging all of us into a Phase 1 bull crap existence for so many years. I especially had (have? Is it totally over?) a special thing against pastors (see my Facebook 25 random facts page, #19). They were idiots who knew nothing of the real world and real people and were the chief salesmen of product Jesus, and kept the hamsters running on that wheel week after week thinking this week they’d get the cheese.

But in all this righteous zeal, I was really no closer to knowing God than I had been before. I still didn’t know what to do, I just knew what was wrong with what the church said you should do. I still would (internally) grimace whenever someone would talk about loving Jesus or other similarly cheesy concepts because I was not at all comfortable in those kinds of conversations.

Knowing all the details about a successful diet plan, or knowing what is wrong with a hundred other popular diet plans, doesn’t mean a thing if your are actually still living on a diet of burgers and milkshakes. No one ever lost a pound on knowledge alone.

In a nutshell, that’s what my Phase 3 Christian experience has been for the last 6 or so years. All knowledge, all talk, no love, no action, no relationship. At least I was still not living a lie, as I had done in my youth. But now I wasn’t really living for anything at all. My current life has been pretty much summed up by three words – anger, apathy, and boredom.

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December 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment