FAITH YEARS AND THE BEGINNING OF DOUBT
PART ONE: COLLEGE FAITH YEARS
A little more on my journey and what caused me to begin to doubt……..
I haven’t talked much about my journey yet but I can tell you where I am today. Today I am happier and less angry than I was a few years ago when felt I had reached my breaking point with Christianity and religion.
I became a born-again Christian when I was 18 during the spring of my first year of college. After being born-again I was water baptised by immersion and baptised in the Holy Spirit, complete with the gift of tongues.
For the next four years while earning my bachelor’s degree, I worked and served as a student evangelist in every free moment. I attended multiple weekly bible studies, led many evangelistic student groups, attended church at least twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday night!), and devoted an average of (at least) 1 to 3 days a week to evangelistic outreach. I helped run and man an outreach table in my college student union providing bible tracts and engaging students in conversation about God and Jesus to evangelize. For about five years I studied the bible for *at least* an hour a day, on average. I don’t want to belabor the details here. It makes me tired just thinking about it.
My college church was a church that had been part of Maranatha Christian Ministries or Maranatha Campus Ministries, which had been a denomination until the national group agreed to disband. Many of the ministers and some of the churches continued on in ministry after the denomination folded. Maranatha was known for its brand of an exuberantly committed type of pentecostal Christianity that focused on radical commitment to Jesus and making disciples of all nations who understood and obeyed Jesus as “Lord” of all. As I recall and understand it, we also believed that Jesus was Lord of just about everything: the individual (regardless of whether he or she was aware of this), college campuses, regions, governments, nations and every authority great or small.
In my church community I received teachings from Bill Gothard, Derek Prince, Winkie Pratney, Ray Comfort, Bob and Rose Weiner as well as other teachers affiliated with Maranatha Christian Ministries. We were taught that America had been a Christian nation until the secular humanists began trying to undermine the Christian fabric of our nation through the educational system and the government. We learned about these issues from Dr. David Noebel and Summit Ministries. My student group hosted a campus visit by David Barton! In terms of child rearing, we were taught that toddlers can and should be spanked if they show signs of rebellion, thanks to the teachings of Richard Fugate, “Biblical Child Training” and “Growing Kids God’s Way” by Gary Ezzo. (I am pretty sure that I was taught that babies can and should be spanked if they show willful disobedience, or at least that is what I understood the message to be!)
Then I went to graduate school. By that time, I doubted whether I could trust any educator that did not have a solid grounding in fundamentalist Christian faith, though I wouldn’t have described my feelings that way then. However, at the same time, I was also feeling increasingly uncomfortable with some of the aspects of the type of Christianity I was following.
Eventually I moved to another state to pursue my J.D. In law school, I also tried to live real life again apart from my very close-knit church community. I felt that I had become part of a strange christian subculture and that I had forgotten how to connect with others and relate to them and truly love them. I felt trapped by a relational structure that saw “us” the “true christians” in a war against everyone else and the decaying culture itself. I couldn’t list and explain all the elements of my christian identity and community that were bothering me, but I knew there were many things in my life that felt completely wrong and I set off on an adventure to change my life.
In law school, I attended a large well-known pentecostal church which was racially diverse but followed the style of an African-American pentecostal mega-church with an awesome gospel choir. I didn’t know it then, but this church was affiliated with such “prophets,” “bishops” and “apostles” such as Rick Joyner, Lou Engle and Cindy Jacobs who are associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, Morningstar Ministries, IHOP (International House of Prayer) and The Call.
I am sure that I attended such a large church in law school because I was going to the other extreme from my college experience. My college church had been a very small church where it felt like everyone knew everything about everyone else and going to a large church allowed me to blend in with the huge congregation and no one could tell me what to do. I needed my own space to try to figure out what sort of Christian I wanted to be. Under the surface though, I felt rumblings of discontent with much of evangelical christianity but I thought I just needed to separate the true way of following Jesus from the false ways that I thought many Christians were following Jesus.
(Continued in Part Two, Next Post)
FAITH YEARS AND THE BEGINNING OF DOUBT
PART TWO: POST COLLEGE AND REAL LIFE
LIFE IN THE REAL WORLD
I worked hard in law school, obtained my J.D., passed my state’s bar exam and got my first job. It was there that I met my future husband. *Smiles* I am so thankful every day to have such a wonderful husband! Fast forward a few years, and my husband and I got married and two years later had our first child, our precious daughter.
Becoming a Parent
My daughter’s birth would be one of the biggest catalysts causing me to begin to re-evaluate my Christian faith. As a Christian of a Pentecostal Fundamentalist sort, I had been taught that children are born with wicked hearts. My Christian discipleship had included instruction on child rearing from Fugate’s “What the Bible Says about Child Rearing” which (as I understand it) teaches that parents must drive out disobedience from children through use of “the rod” from the time the baby reaches the age it can crawl. I had been taught that children and babies have evil hearts and will try to “control” and “manipulate” the parents. I was taught that it was wrong to have a “child-centered” family.
However, when my daughter was born and I began to form a relationship with this beautiful, precious new life, I realized that everything that I had been taught about human nature and children was wrong. This child was not evil! She was not hell-bent on gaining control of her parents and commandeering the family! If anything, this child was the face of God. This child was a defenseless, needy infant with an instinct to survive who desired to stay close to the only person she knew- her mother! This child was a human infant that cried when she was hungry, wet or uncomfortable and slept peacefully once her physical needs were met! As I learned about infant development from child specialists with real medical degrees and developmental training, I realized that much of what I had learned from self-appointed religious child “experts” and religious “teachers” was wrong and had no basis in science and reality. It made me ask myself, “If I have been fed a load of crap about human nature and child rearing, what else have I been misinformed about?”
Suddenly I began to listen to my heart again. I reawakened to the voice of my conscience. I felt that I could no longer trust the fundamentalist “teachers.” As I began to parent from my heart and my motherly instincts, I began to re-evaluate every aspect of my life and values. During my earlier years of Christian discipleship I had built a fortress of christian values within which I thought I could live my life. However, the foundations of this self-imposed fortress had already begun to crack.