Let’s start at the very beginning
(A very good place to start)
Or: “How I Learned to Start Worrying and Got Where I Am Today”
My parents were both raised in the church but were what we church folk refer to as “casual Christians,” meaning that they attend church but aren’t devout, good Christians who do everything they should. My dad left the church in his teens and 20s and explored various other religions before “finding God” again at some point before I was born. My mom, as far as I know, was always just a casual church goer up to that point.
After my dad’s conversion experience they both became active church members in a local Southern Baptist (SBC) church. My dad became a deacon in the church and the two of them became Sunday School and “Training Union”1 teachers. My sister and I were raised in a Christian home, complete with home Bible study and worship times. We were at every church event we could be at, attended church three times a week (Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday night) and were involved in the children’s activities. When I started 1st grade they began to home school us, feeling God calling them to do so. I was home schooled all the way through high school.
When I was 10 my father felt the “call to ministry,” quit his very well-paying job, packed up our family, and moved halfway across the country to attend seminary. We left behind lots of family and friends and moved to a place where we knew nobody, a place with an entirely different culture from where we had lived before.
Now, I don’t resent any of this. My parents were only doing what they felt was best for our family. They felt, and still feel, that this was where God had led them. If we hadn’t left the small town where I was born then I may not have ever gotten to the point where I am today. I may have gone to college but I am unsure as to whether I would have gotten a graduate degree, it isn’t something most people from that town aspire to. I may instead be working some dead-end job there in that town, attending that same church I grew up in, with a wife and two kids who I would probably be indoctrinating into the same religion.
However, that future didn’t happen and I may have ended up in exactly the same place I am now. I don’t know. (And at least that version of me would be employed!) I had many opportunities to explore my music after we moved, thanks to living on the campus of a graduate school (since a Southern Baptist seminary is an accredited graduate school) with a music program, and living in a large metropolitan area (not that the area we moved from is tiny, but it is small, and the town we lived in is itty bitty). Also, some of my best friends, with whom I still keep in touch, were met in the ten years we lived there. (Including, I might add, the friend I mentioned in a comment on my first post, through whom I found the blog of PZ Myers.)
My dad eventually got a master’s degree and has become a pastor. He has pastored two churches over the past ten years. I went on to attend a christian university, get a bachelor of music, and lead music part-time in four churches over the past ten years. My sister has married a friend of ours from college who is now in seminary himself. As you can see, my immediate family is very involved in the church and very devout in their faith. It would break their hearts if they knew that I was on the path I now find myself, writing this blog.
For the first twelve years or so of this life, I believed firmly in everything that I was told by my parents, teachers at the churches we attended, and the ministers of those churches. God created the world in 6 days, rested on the 7th, destroyed it with a flood a while after that, and then a while later sent his son to die for our sin. I believed this all happened a few thousand years ago. Of course, I also believed the things I read in my books about dinosaurs (I was a huge dino-fanatic back in the 80s) about their having lived on earth several million (quite a few several) years ago. My child’s brain didn’t worry that these two “facts” could not logically coexist. At some point, however, my brain did begin to see that these two things could be reconciled to each other.
The doubt creeps in…
Now begins the most confusing part of my life, as if puberty needed anything to make it more confusing, right? For most of my teen years I struggled with feelings of guilt for things I thought or things I did. For the natural urges that overtake you in your teen years, and for any doubts that I might have about my religion. I was deeply conflicted and I tried to channel this into some sort of fervency for my religion. I studied the Bible, I prayed, and I tried to change myself to match what I had been taught a Christian should be. I made sure that I acted the way I should act, sometimes to the extreme (because, quite often, those who appear to be most a particular thing are actually over-compensating for not being quite that thing).
This continued until probably the end of my sophomore year of college. At some point in this period I began to doubt the truth of what I read in the Bible, and began to question the existence of God. I didn’t tell anyone this, and I barely admitted it to myself. If only I could hold onto my faith and study more then I would be able to dispel all these doubts and be a happy Christian once again, I thought. Being surrounded by super-religious people in my neighborhood at the seminary and at my college didn’t make things any easier. Taking a church job allowed me to push it to the back of my mind, at least.
And that is all that I will share, for now. I’ll finish the history lesson of my life in the next post.
1For the unchurched and non-SBC folks reading this, Training Union (now known as “Discipleship Training”) is basically like Sunday School but at night. Both are supposed to be times to study the Bible on a more intimate level than you can in the worship service, with group discussions and such, but more often they both use the same tired literature put out by the convention (Southern Baptist Convention) which is, mostly, the same lessons regurgitated year after year, but I digress. These are both the tools of the church to instill their dogma in the people.