My first real “crisis of belief” began in 1988. I went off to a Bible College that I clearly was not prepared for. I met great friends, and also the person who’d become my wife. But my immaturity and what I perceived as an over-reliance on rules and focus on the outer man was a terrible combination. So, I walked away from my faith in 91 or 92 and it was out of ignorance and frustration. I just didn’t know enough about Jesus, mercy and grace to deal with it. So, I took the easy way out and just rejected the whole thing.
While we did remain “cultural christians” (attended on Sundays, had our children sprinkled, and maintained the form), there was no meaningful relationship with Jesus. By this point, I began working at Best Buy and after two relocations, we ended up outside of Columbus Ohio. Our daycare provided invited us to attend the church she was a member of, and even waited outside for my wife and kids to arrive on Sunday mornings. For the first time, we were introduced to the Jesus of the Bible absent the filter of Calvin or Luther or a denominational lens. And, we fell in love with Him. We were baptized in 1997 or 1998, and began would would be a “rest of life” journey of discipleship.
We moved to northwest Iowa in 2000, where I’d face my next “crisis of belief.” Having grown up believing certain things about certain things, it got a little interesting when these things stopped fitting together so neatly. I returned to college in 2004, and in one of my biblical interpretation classes, there was a section in our textbook (Grasping God’s Word) that discussed the American Revolution in light of Romans 13. The text speaks about our cultural assumptions that we “bring” to the biblical text. I would soon teach this material in an adult Sunday school class, people were on the spectrum of confused, frustrated and angry that anyone could even question that the American Revolution was anything but God-ordained. Another incident stands out in my mind- it was close to the 4th of July weekend and Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American” was all the rage; it was added to the Sunday morning worship set. I watched adults “proudly stand up” when the time came, the same adults who would often sit in defiance of singing a praise chorus, or if they did stand, did so with arms crossed and mouths closed in some sort of protest.
I took all of this in and became more and more disoriented as the faith of my youth collided with the reality of my experience. This all sounds so basic, perhaps even childish. And now, as I type this, it seems very arrogant, maybe even condescending or cynical. Perhaps.
The reality is, I’d consider myself more of a “skeptic” so I turned the magnifying glass of that skepticism onto the very faith I clung to. As Stephen Covey would say, “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”
And, that skepticism led me to study the views from the other side. this study led me to embrace some of “their” views and confirmed some of my own understandings.
Next up: “When the ‘other’ is a brother (or sister)”