Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf is springtime. -Martin Luther
Today, I tweeted an interesting statistic that I read at Christianity Today link.
This year, LifeWay found that "just over half of self-identified Christians say they will attend Easter services. Protestants (58 percent) and Catholics (57 percent) are most likely to say they plan on attending Easter services, followed by 45 percent of nondenominational Christians."
Easter celebrates the pivotal event in the history of the faith. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then there would be no Christianity.1 Corinthians 15:13-19 NIV Bible Gateway:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Yet, it appears that, on the day when our churches are supposedly full of people, nearly 50% of the self-reported faithful do not attend this glorious celebration. Why? TWW has documented the rise of the Nones: those who leave the institutionalized church and claim no membership in the organized church. However, about 40% of these "nones" have not left the faith, merely the church buildings.
Sometimes, however, people leave the faith altogether and become the subset of "Nones" who are agnostics or atheists. For many years, I have read the stories of those who walked away from the faith and tried to understand the reasons for the loss of faith. I do not want this discussion to turn into a doctrinal diatribe about the "perseverance of the saints" or the "once saved; always saved."
Instead, I would hope that all of us would examine ourselves to see if we are truly prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have. Also, we should ask ourselves if we are willing to listen to those who have been kind enough to share with a bunch of Christians why they no longer believe. Frankly, many of them could blow us off and be quite content never to speak with another Christian for the rest of their lives. Some, however, want us to understand and I do not take that for granted.
Sheldon and I have been communicating via email and I find him to be a thoughtful and kind person. His blog is called The Ramblings of Sheldon link. I found this bio of him posted on My Secret Atheist Blog here
Sheldon Cooper is actually a pseudonym – an homage to the character in the popular US sitcom Big Bang Theory. So this is a real person using the name of a fictional television character to hide his real identity.
Sheldon was born into a fundamentalist Christian family. He made his profession of faith at only five years old and went to a Southern Baptist College for a year where he worked on a Biblical Studies minor.
A nervous breakdown cut his studies short after one year and he still suffers from OCD and depression.
A crisis of faith lead him away from Christianity back in 2010 and around 2011 he began to consider himself Agnostic.
He is also a moderate libertarian politically, very anti-war, pro-civil-rights and pro-small-government but he seldom handles political issues on his blog.
Warning YEC rant: I would also like to point out something. I know many of you tire of my concerns about Young Earth Creationism(YEC) as it relates to the loss of faith. I want to stress that I did NOT tell Sheldon to discuss this issue and yet he does. I truly believe that an insistence on YEC is one of the main factors in the loss of faith. End rant.
By the way, this story has a little something for everybody including patriarchy, IFB, Bill Gothard and the evils of birth control.
Thank you, Sheldon, for sharing your story. I need to return the favor.
Jumping on Cassettes: My Experience in Fundamentalism
I attended a small private school from kindergarten to 5th grade, that was a part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist organization, a group that I today have no qualms about calling a cult.
If you wonder why I call them a cult, check out the page on my blog, Exposing the IFB, dedicated to this organization, and you will find out quickly why I use the “cult” label when referring to them, they more than deserve it.
This exposure to the IFB, since my sister also attended this school during her high school years, led my sister to go to one of their colleges, Hyles-Anderson, where she met her husband, she didn’t leave the IFB until three years ago.
The school used a fundamentalist curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education, a curriculum that is pro-Creationism (and uses very faulty reasoning and "facts" to support it), and agrees with the IFB in their views on the world and the family, especially their belief in a highly patriarchal sub culture where women have no rights, and birth control is forbidden.
The school was small, as ACE schools typically are, usually averaging 25-30 students a year. It was run then by a pastor and his wife (it is now closed, but they do still sell ACE curriculum for home school families through the church).
The pastor was an old style minister, constantly preaching about hell and judgment, and just about anything imaginable was a “sin”. He had quite a flair for the dramatic, especially when he believed it would get the attention of his students and/or congregation. He had this obnoxious habit of not only raising his voice during speeches, but slamming his hand on the podium, open handed, sideways (with the thumb facing up). The constant thumping would echo through the room, and on his microphone, it was almost enough to cause a headache. I had heard shortly after I left the school, that one Sunday morning, he had to be taken to the hospital during one of these pulpit pounding routines, because he hit the edge of the pulpit at an awkward angle and broke his wrist.
He would do anything that he thought would get his point across, including walking across the tops of the pews. There’s one incident I remember quite well. One morning, the students were assembled to hear him give an opening speech for the day, it usually wasn’t much of a speech, mostly announcements him or his wife felt were important to say that day, mundane details about upcoming events, etc. On this particular morning, he said that he had found a Janet Jackson cassette (this was the early 90′s) left behind on the floor, somewhere in the church/school building.
He tried to get one of us to confess to losing the cassette, but either none of us was willing to confess to owning it, and it is likely that it belonged that it belong to a bus kid, which is what we all thought was the case (it was Monday morning, and the church, like many fundamentalist churches was obsessed with bringing more people in through bus ministry).
We figured that’s what he would assume, and move on, or more likely that he would go on a rant about how “sinful” that kind of music was. Neither happened. His dramatic side kicked in. He set the cassette on the floor, moved a metal folding chair closer to him, stood on it, and jumped off onto the cassette, crushing it.He wan’t content to leave the whole incident at that, he had to keep stomping on it as well (as if the weight of a grown man jumping on it wasn’t enough to destroy it) Contrary to what most people reading this post might assume, none of us was surprised about this, because of his past behavior, some found it amusing, others just brushed it off.
After the 5th grade, I left this school, and my sister graduated from there. It was this time that the home schooling began, with ACE as the curriculum. From here, the isolation just got worse, going from 20 or more students to interact with, to just my family. This began a life long struggle with depression, (which I still have to deal with to this day). From the time I was about 9 years old to about 16 years old, I just shut down, I buried myself into my my classwork with ACE, and didn’t like to associate with most people, especially others my age. I didn’t want to be around them, and I didn’t understand them in the first place. The opening paragraphs of Jonny’s guest post on my blog sound rather similar to my experience, but not only was I socially awkward, I just did want anything to do with other young people, period.
This started to change when I was 16, due to two good friends I call Sam and Rose in my writings (not their actual names, I’m trying to preserve their privacy and mine), and a persistent girl who would end up becoming my girlfriend of 3 years. This gradual reaching out to people around me, wasn’t enough to prepare me for what would come next: college. The isolation, combined with preexisting depression (and many people have told me that I show signs of high functioning autism, I need to get tested), made for a miserable experience that led to a nervous breakdown once I entered college.
The college I attended, even though it was a Southern Baptist college (after my experience with the IF ended in the 5th grade, I was in the Assembly of God denomination, then the Southern Baptist churches), the class room style was much like a US public school, and there was a wider variety of people than I was used to. People from any different places, and not all were fundamentalists (chapel attendance was required, but no profession of faith).
It was just too much to handle, it wasn’t at all familiar, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Despite what Christian fundamentalism will claim their home schooling/private schooling world does not prepare people for actual life. I went home, back to fundamentalist family. I had to try to pick up the pieces, while facing their wrath over the nervous breakdown. It was my fault, I didn’t actually have depression, it was nothing more than “guilt” or “not having a right relationship with god”.
Regrettably, I started to believe it. I buried myself deeper into fundamentalism, spent many hours begging god for forgiveness, and started to sincerely double down on fundamentalism, reading the Bible more, reading and listening to like minded ministers, trying to get back into my faith. It seemed to work for about 2 years, until around my 21st birthday when doubts hit very fast.
Part of these major doubts were the fact that I was raised with the belief of divine inspiration, the belief that all of the Bible is divinely inspired, that god personally directed the authors of the books of the Bible. Nothing was written that he didn’t personally tell them to write. This creates some dilemmas.
A major one is the Old Testament, and its barbaric law code. I was told by many fellow fundamentalists that it was “only for that time period”. First of all, let’s not mind the fact that they like to quote from the Old Testament when it suits them (such as condemning homosexuality), but ignoring what they don’t like (don’t eat shellfish, women should have to marry their rapists). My thought was that if god had approved the Old Testament law at any time in human history, that was deeply disturbing, and it made him a god not worth worshipping. This was only one of several major issues, but one of the most important that led me out of fundamentalism.
Today, post fundamentalism, I’m a blogger, who has managed to find some success in the atheist/agnostic blogging world (far, far more, than I could ever imagine), telling my story, and giving people a first hand look at what fundamentalism really is like for someone who has lived through it.
The response has been good so far, many of the posts that I have written about my past have been the most popular on my blog, and I’ve been able to connect with other former fundamentalists who are great people to be around, some are still Christians even, like Lana, a survivor of the Bill Gothard branch of the IFB, she has been a big supporter of my blog, and did a interview for my blog about her experiences.
If you want to know more about my past, read my blog Ramblings of Sheldon, or follow me on Google +, I’m Sheldon Cooper over there, and yes, the name is after the character from the show The Big Bang Theory.
Lydia's Corner:Judges 11:1-12:15 John 1:1-28 Psalm 101:1-8 Proverbs 14:13-14