My Faith Journey: Research
Armed with a new display Bible I walked out. I went home that night and began to read. I didn’t know that there were different ways to read the Bible, so I started the way I would any other book, “In the beginning…” And I read. And read. And read.
I read a lot, and was totally confused. Is this the book that talks about Jesus? Where the heck is he? Finally after reading three-fourths of that stinkin book I got to the part about Jesus, who was the only person that anyone talked about. Then I had to read about him four times! I was tired of him by the end of it. Then people went and started churches. Then there were some “epistles” whatever those are. Then, I finished Revelation. I sat on my bunk bed, about three months after I started and closed the book.
“That’s it? That is the Bible? This is the book that everyone is freaking out about? There isn’t more to it than that?” I knew I must have missed something. So, I read it again. Just as before, cover to cover.
Three months later, I closed it again. I wasn’t confused anymore. I knew what it said. And I was sad. People believed that. People read that book and believed it. Every word. Did they know what it said?
Obviously, they couldn’t right? They had only been told there was a loving God. Someone lied to them, because he wasn’t in this book. This God killed people, not only that, he killed his son. Where was the love? God sent bears to attack people who made fun of people for being bald. There wasn’t a loving God at all.
And why was Jesus so important to these people? He really only takes up about fifty pages of the book and in the end he dies. Why not spend more time talk about the other guys that didn’t die like John or Elijah. Those are the cool stories. Jesus is just one more dead guy in history.
In that moment, I was not proud of my wisdom, I was sad because so many of my friends were dooped. I knew that I must let them know.
I kept reading and kept studying. I read my Bible all the time, not to learn more about Christianity, but to better equip myself to argue against these dooped people. I listened to Christian radio. I read Christian books. I knew my history. I read extra-Biblical and Apocryphal writings. I bought a Catholic Catechism to study, then listened to Jerry Falwell talk about why the Catholics were wrong on the radio at 1 a.m. I studied the Bible more then than I have since (which is sad to say). I knew their beliefs and I knew how to argue against them. I built up an arsenal of arguments.
I even went to church sometimes just to listen and argue in my mind. I was a regular attendee for a while at an Assembly of God church. I would engage in conversation with some of my Christian friends just to find out what they believed, then we would begin to argue and I would always win. Most of those arguments went like this.
Friends: God loves you. He really does. Isn’t that comforting at all?
Me: I just don’t see a loving God in the Bible. He killed a lot of people. He sent bears to eat people when they called a guy bald.
Friends: I don’t know that story. I don’t think that is in the Bible.
Me: It’s in 2Kings 2. Go read it and then you can come back and talk to me about this.
I realize now that was a stupid argument. I have now taken communications classes, logic and debate. I know that was an act of character assassination on God, and in debate is a cheap shot. But in high school when everyone is stupid, that was pretty damning. I was good at what I did. I think I talked some people out of their faith. Honestly. I feel terrible about that.
I would say at that time to a lesser degree I was also researching Christians. Not their beliefs, ideas, theology, doctrine or anything like that. But the people. Were they any different? Did they have something that I didn’t? Did they have anything to offer me aside from some misplaced beliefs?
At that time I would have said no. There are few harder places to find visible Christians than in a high school in the south (quote me). Someone else said (basically) that where everyone is a Christian no one is a Christian, and that is how I felt. Sure, everyone was at Church on Sunday but on Saturday night everyone was also getting drunk at one of any four regular parties around town. Sure they were at church on Sunday, but they would all talk in the locker room or the girls room about who had sex with who the weekend before. And sure they were all at Church on Sunday, but they all picked on or excluded the awkward kids.
I couldn’t see any difference. Of course, I am over-generalizing. There were some people there who were living differently, but in a high school of five-hundred they were a sever minority, and perhaps I did not want to notice them because it furthered my point. I am also not suggesting that I had any moral high ground on these people. I wasn’t getting drunk or having sex, but I could have gone all-state if picking on people was a (recognized) high school sport.
This would remain the status quo. I kept learning to better educate myself on why I was right and they were wrong. I surrounded myself with Biblical literature and Atheist writings alike. I knew my opponent.
Of course, God appreciates irony, and what is ironic about all of this is that all of my work for evil (and this is what it was) ended up getting turned on its head when I became a Christian. I now knew how to argue against my arguments. I could point at the things that I said before that sounded so convincing and say, “that is a stupid argument.”
I could also talk to anyone from basically any denomination and knew what the believed and had a good understanding of their doctrine and theology. So, I am comfortable when people at the Assembly of God put their hands up and start yelling things that no one can understand. I can talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses on their theology on hell when they come knock at my door. I can talk to my friend Ryan the atheist about his very real and very understandable hurdles in believing in any God, much less the Christian God. I can celebrate and talk Saints with my Catholic friends. I even have my favorite (Patrick, of course).
All of this knowledge in my head that was once just wasted on evil is now an exhaustive bank of knowledge for good. I can use it to have deep and meaningful conversations with basically anyone from any faith walk, making my world a much friendlier place. God loves turning things upside down on his people. I love letting him.
But none of this change would have come about had I not needed a change. My next topic is Need.