Where I Come From: My Religious Journey, Part 1

Now for a series in which I share my spiritual journey. I mention I’m Evangelical but disagree with much of Christian Culture(TM). As I mentioned in my homeschooling post(https://seekeroftruthweb.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/where-i-come-from-homeschooling/ )I was christened AME Zion and raised Charismatic. We were taught the most literal version of hell and a book called A Divine Revelation of Hell circulated, in which a woman claimed Jesus gave her a tour of the horrors of hell. This contributed to a few pacifist phases, as I wanted people to have every possible chance to escape the fires of hell. For part of my teen years I had a fear of hell, such that there was a time I was afraid to close my bedroom door at night. This fear decreased upon reflection on the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith(though I did wonder about works, especially with some of my teenage rebellion).
Another teaching we had was the pre-Trib Rapture. Unlike many of my cohorts who grew up Evangelical/Fundamentalist, I didn’t fear being left behind; in fact, I thought it might be a bit of an adventure, and was willing to remain behind for the sake of those left behind. I did, however, fear Jesus would return before I got married(which means had sex) and lived life.(This is something a lot of people don’t understand — some said, “If you get Jesus in person, why do the other things matter?”)
I also developed an interest in Judaism, as Christianity comes out of Judaism(and our church had interest in the biblical feasts). This was period one of looking into Judaism, the phase in which it was viewed with a Fundamentalist Christian filter. Later I concluded this was an expression of individuality, of an identity crisis. With this being a such a strict environment the only way to express individuality was to be stricter.
There were a few times I had questions about things, like the terror passages in the Old Testament. I didn’t question hell or the Rapture during this time, but if a thought occurred questioning God I’d bind it up.(Say something like, ” I bind you, Satan” and quote a Bible verse or two.) At the time questioning God’s existence was as unthinkable as saying the sky is green. (However during strict periods in which I got a lot of spankings I’d wish I could leave, and at times wished I hadn’t been raised in the church.)
It was after finishing school in 2003 at the age of 18 that I really started questioning my upbringing, that I started considering the possibility of life outside the church bubble. The only way I could explain it was Plato’s Cave Allegory: I began to see myself as one of the guys on the cave wall, and wondering how much of my upbringing was just shadows on the wall, resulting from growing up in USA, and in my social environment. I began to think that I’d be Muslim if I’d been Saudi and Buddhist if Tibetan. I wanted more than just my little bubble; to go places. Plus I was horny.(This, for Fundamentalists, is the Real True Reason[TM] for my doubt.)
This kinda felt liberating(which surprised me as I grew up hearing how freedom is in Jesus). In the words of Lamin Sanneh, “We remember our coming of age on the fateful occasion when the devil, who had stalked us all through our childhood, finally committed suicide from having witnessed the impregnable achievements of science and technology.” (Whose Religion Is Christianity: The Gospel Beyond the West, p. 1). Well, not exactly, but I did quit seeing the devil behind every bush. I no longer needed to fear the devil.
I developed an interest in psychology, especially as I saw the theories applicable for my own behavior, like when I myself couldn’t explain myself. (There were times when questioned about behavior I could get in trouble for I’d be drilled on why, and people didn’t believe my “I don’t know.” Freud’s “defense mechanisms” after I finished school vindicated me on this.) I began to see my interest in cultures as Erik Erikson’s “Identity Crisis.”
I also lost my fear of other religions enough to begin to learn about them, starting with encyclopedia articles. I learned about a 19th century Hindu thinker named Ramakrishna, who after trying Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity concluded they all have the same goals. I began to question the harsh view on Islam. I even read a  National Geographic article(published in 2002) on Islam that included the story of a convert. This convert mentioned that she was at peace for the first time in her life(something that contradicts the Fundamentalist narrative that only Jesus brings peace). When I went to Borders(which sadly closed in 2010) I flipped through books on various religions. It was during this time I first read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, a novel that really resonated with me.(I plan on doing a review of it.)
Probably the system I looked into most was Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their literature was the most readily available. Although I had never questioned the morality of hell, I found their case that hell makes God to be a sadist to be very compelling. I also enjoyed their stories from around the world, giving a sense of a global perspective lacking in my upbringing.
At church the young adults were studying The Purpose-Driven Life. Chapter 8 really resonated with me. The chapter explains worship is anything we do that brings God pleasure and if you say, “I got nothing out of worship” it means you worshipped for the wrong reason. This is because worship is not about our feelings but about God. Beforehand there were times people would say things like, “God is really moving today, can you feel Him?” And the answer for me was, “No.” Thus I got from the book, “If there are no feelings don’t worry about it!”, something I found liberating. Other chapters talked about God’s smiling when we use our abilities, that we could have a conversation with God at any time. All this really excited me. This occurred simultaneously with my questioning and considering other options. But, this has been a lengthy post, so I’m going to get into that more in later posts.


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Christian, freethinker, believer, skeptic, seeker.

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