Confessions of a former, former Christian

The 4 phases of my Christianity – Pt. 1

At this point in my 37 year old life, I can see 4 distinct phases in my spiritual life. Here they are about as succinctly as I can put them.

Phase 1:

I was raised in a Christian home, Christian school, preacher’s kid, missionary kid, Christian college grad, MA in theology, first job was youth pastor, second job was high school bible teacher. This phase lasted until I was about 26 years old.

In this phase, I was, to the best of my ability, a model Christian. I was exactly what the church today is trying to produce. I did what I was supposed to do, I lived how I was supposed to live, I acted how I was supposed to act, I (to varying degrees) avoided evil and repented like crazy (eventually) when I messed up. I wasn’t necessarily pro-active in the cause of Christ, but I could certainly volunteer when a ministry vehicle was provided. I did missions work in the Philippines when I lived there, did a summer missions trip to Europe, another summer in India (and for the record, those trips were the only times I really felt any connection with God).

Although I loved much about this period of my life, this is the phase of my spiritual life I hated the most. Absolutely hated it.

Two reasons for this:

1. By the end, I saw Christianity as nothing more than a behavior modification tool. It was only used to control thinking and activity, teach what actions were right and wrong, and for the love of God, scare the hell out of people to keep them away from the wrong. Everything was good or evil and it was your job to find it, label it, and avoid the bad. If you could just not sin, then you were doing ok. Hell is real and the rapture could happen ANY MINUTE! Just make sure you’ve prayed everything you’re supposed to have prayed, and then, whatever you do…. DON’T SIN. Oh, and if you happen to get some joy or sense of purpose along the way, good for you.

I remember very clearly my first job in a secular workplace, an advertising agency. There was an older guy named Jerry who I remember as being one of the happiest and funniest guys I’d ever met, and he’d regale us from time to time with his misadventures of navigating through internet porn. It was actually very funny to listen to him, and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe he’s admitting to this! I would never admit to that, much less make it a funny story”.  I kept thinking this should be his dark secret (like it would have been for me) and feel bad (like I always did). I remember the distinct feeling that he had something I didn’t (besides an experience with a hooker). I had never been as happy, as comfortable with myself, as honest about my life, as content with what I was as sergeant smut over there, and something about that ate away at me. My life was a giant show, a carefully managed charade to hide everything bad inside that I was working to get rid of.

2. The second reason for my eventual disdain of Christianity was that it felt like a giant lie presented in 60 minute infomercials every Sunday. The claims of what would happen to your life if you only applied “Product Jesus” were thrilling, and I never experienced any of them. I don’t know exactly what I was going to experience when I liberally applied the Jesus cream to the wound that was my life, but it was something akin to magic. I was supposed to be complete, I was supposed to be fulfilled. I was supposed to be aware of his will and follow in it. I thought my skin would feel tingly all the time and my face would glow like Moses. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but there was a promise out there that if I were faithful enough, Jesus would fill that God-shaped hole in my heart and I would, I don’t know… arrive.

But I never “arrived” anywhere. It was like ordering the colored marker that takes scratches out of your car from the TV guy, going out any trying it, realizing you got screwed and thinking “What the hell is this?”, then watching again the next week and seeing the magic powder that will take every stain out of your carpet and getting suckered again.

The analogy that kept coming back to me was seeing the diet plan infomercials with testimonial after testimonial of the person who lost a gazillion pounds by following program X, and you say, “They’ve done it. I’ve followed the same plan. Why haven’t I done it? Why do I not have what they have?”, and at the end of every show saying, “It’s me, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but it’s me….”

And the worst part was that as a teacher, I was one of the salespeople up on stage selling people on the great, great life they could have with Jesus. Of course, I’d never experienced a bit of it, but was sure that if they would just do what I was saying, they would have better luck than me and actually get where I’d always hoped to go.


December 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments