I grew up in church. Church is not God ~ and thank God for that!

Like a lot of kids who grew up in church, I “got saved” many times. I believe I was sincere each & every time. I also think that it was a mark of my own insecurity & the awareness of growing up that led me to seek salvation anew; after all, I was just a kid last year; I was much more mature this year, right?

I got baptized even more than that. I’ve been dunked forwards, backwards – I’ven even been double dunked. Most of these immersions, admittedly, had something to do with the possibility of relief from the summer heat and with the attention gained by such dunkings, but a few were serious. I recall one particular incident in the winter that was either very serious or just not well thought out. In any case, wise to our possible intentions, those adults administering the baptisms took to a habit of justifying our deed by holding us down until we REALLY repented!

While all of these events tend to muddle together into one distorted childhood memory, I do clearly recall the last time I got saved as a child. My family lived in a trailer somewhere in WV. I couldn’t sleep that night, because I just kept thinking, “If I die before I wake… Is that a joke?!?” Every time I closed my eyes, an implacable force both pressed down upon me and made me wieghtless all at once. It felt as if I were being dragged off into the void of Deep space, while someone tried to crush me out of existence. I was afraid that if I died that very night that this would be my fate! My mother assured me that this was only a nightmare, for there were only two possible post-mortem destinations: Heaven (which sounded pleasant enough) and Hell. Yes, Hell. Not a metaphor. Not a bad acid trip. A real place of torment and agony, full of flames and sinners, where you never, ever wake up! Given the options, I chose the less painful one. (Fire insurance anyone?)

At the age of 16, I began going to a Christian school. My father had felt the call to preach that year and had decided that his children should receive better Christian instruction than we’d received previously. We’d always been VERY active in church. I’d been singing in church since I was four. We’d helped with tent revivals and the like. My extended family is jam-packed with gospel singers and preachers. I digress. Yet Dad didn’t feel a Christian education by proxy was adequate. He also wanted us brought up with a Biblical rather than Darwinian worldview. My public school science teachers had openly mocked my parents’ Biblicist views on Genesis when I brought it up in class [so much for a student’s rights to voice his religious views and for scientific freedom of inquiry!].

Being in a Christian school doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll be a SUPER CHRISTIAN, even if it’s a fundamentalist Christian school. It doesn’t even mean that you’re a Christian. (Marilyn Manson went to a Christian school.) I was serious about Christianity, but many of my peers thought the whole thing was a joke.

I learned about such faith giants as DL Moody and George Meuller. I learned about Jim Elliot, and other missionaries and martyrs, who paid the ultimate price for their salvation. I memorized entire chunks of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I discovered not only my Biblical roots, but also the rest of my spiritual and historical heritage. I felt a sense of pride to know that I was a Christian. This is my heritage! This is what I believe! This is why I believe it! While at Christian school, at the age of 16, I felt the call to preach God’s Word.

I’ve related all fo this to make a point. If I had remained a Christian from that day forth, an argument for belief due to social conditioning could potentially be made. I was deep into fundamental Bible-believing Christian culture. This is full disclosure.

So is the rest of the tale…

While part of my reasons for abandoning my faith had much to do with my disillusionment with the church (Sorry, that will have to wait for some later post), Darwinism was the wedge that eventually shattered that faith. After a couple years of formal Christian education, my parents relented to my younger brothers’ pleas to go back to public school. In high school, Darwinism pervaded nearly everything they taught us. It was clearly indoctrination. My problem is that I wanted to be thought of as smart. After my first few skirmishes with condescending pro-Darwin teachers, I kept my mouth shut. Then in the absence of an alternative or even a critical look at some of Darwinism’s flaws, I began to slowly but surely slide into a belief that perhaps God could have used evolution [since all of the authority figures in my life seemed so convinced of evolution as a fact].

I didn’t know it at the time, but the things I found so convincing back then were all mostly lies and propaganda. Pictures of peppered moths [glued] on tree bark. Haeckle’s famously fudged embryo drawings. The Tree of Life drawing which never once hinted about its notoroiusly missing links; why didn’t someone tell me it was mostly speculation? The geological age strata cutaway chart showing the ages [“a gazillion billion years ago”] and a neat march of macroevolution from microbes to man laid out in the fossil record. Colorful pictures illustrating the mythological evolutionary tree of life. That over-used Ascent of Man chart showing a monkey at one end, a human at the other and a bunch of ape-men which never existed in the middle. The now-disproven vestigial organs canard. I was told in no uncertain terms that Darwinism [macroevolution, though it was never termed as anything but evolution] was a fact [as proven by… microevolution!?? Wait a minute! That’s a bait-and-switch!] of science and science was how we’d gotten technology like video games, microwave ovens and cable. This equivocation of macroevolution with microevolution [it was always just called “evolution”], [this amalgamated] evolution with science and science with progress and intelligence came with a not-so-subtle equivocation of the Genesis Record with myth or superstition. Science [and the amalgam evolution concept] was juxtaposed with religion [as pre-scientific and superstitious explanations of the world]. Of course, I didn’t realize I was being indoctrinated to buy this scientific evolution versus Biblical myth false dichotomy. But eventually it began to have an affect on my beliefs.

At first, I satisfied myself with some sort of uneasy compromise between the two origins worldviews. I didn’t bother asking deep questions.  What I hadn’t considered was that, like Adam and Eve, I was listening to Satan’s question, “Has God really said?” I’d decided that one part of the Bible wasn’t true based on the wisdom of men, most of whom were dead.  That led me to question whether other parts of the Bible were true. It led me to toss out much of Genesis, most of early Israel’s Biblical history and Jonah’s fish story. I carefully kept away from criticizing the Gospels, just in case. But I began equating the Bible and religion and even God as increasingly irrelevant to modern life [being pre-scientific explanations of the world], to my life. It didn’t help that I’d come out of fundamentalist subculture who’s increasing hostility to the culture, vividly undeniable hypocrisy [Baker, Swaggart, TBN in general], isolationism and crazy rule-mongering led me to see the church as increasingly irrelevant as well!

I should’ve kept my eyes on God. I realize now that all of this internal conflict was evidence that I had a commitment to a religion rather than a relationship with Christ. After all, if I had truly known Him, how could I have ever left Him? The busy-ness of church had blinded me to the fact that I was doing a lot for Christianity, doing everythinf in His Name, but that I simply didn’t know Him.

Instead, I dropped out. Unwilling to hurt my parents’ feelings, I continued to go to church for a while, to sing, and oh-so-rarely to preach, but the fire was gone. By the time I graduated high school, I had dropped out completely.

I gloried in my ability to “think for myself”, and couldn’t stomache the carbon copy cool conformity of Christian society. I also couldn’t stand my own hypocrisy when I was there, white-washed on the outside, but hollow and rotting on the inside.

Finally, I turned my back on God. How could I trust the Bible if it was so full of holes? I accepted some sort of fuzzy notion about God and would readily identify that God as Jesus if pressed, but He wasn’t really MY God. I became a back-sliding stereotype. I began smoking, cussing, and drinking. I grew my hair out. I threw wild parties. I used God’s name as a swearword every chance I got. I experimented with the occult, particularly runes. I loved the works of H.P. Lovecraft & similar authors. I even perverted my God-given drawing & writing talents, creating morbidly occult fiction & often demonic artwork for band fliers and mere personal amusement. I was the meanest, most spiteful, most cynical person I’ve even known. Even though I was cocky & arrogant in public, I often suffered horrible depression & the aforementioned rage in private. I tried not to let any hint of my true emotions slip through my armor, but I was hurting horribly inside.

I was at my worst when I was the lead vocalist/songwriter for a hardcore/rapcore band called Midian, which I more or less founded. Certainly, it wouldn’t have survived without me, for I wrote almost all of the lyrics (we wrote nearly 100 songs in our brief year & a half of existence; less than 10 of these songs were not written by me), made all of the contacts, promoted the band via fliers, radio, and various publications, booked our concerts, and put together multi-band concerts. Midian was my choice for the band’s name, which is perhaps ironic, since this was my time “on the backside of the desert”. Later, we briefly changed the name to Hate, I Preach. We did covers of Marilyn Manson, Korn, Rage Against the Machine, & others of our genré, but 95% of our shows were comprised of originals, some of which made those cover tunes seem tame by comparison. Aside from the previously mentioned bands, our influences & idols also included Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Doors, Cypress Hill, The Misfits (later Danzig), Megadeth, Faith No More, & Type O Negative.

Anyway I simply wanted to give you a glimpse of who I was for a decade. Some claim that once you get saved, you’re always saved ~ that you can never lose your salvation no matter what you do. I seriously believe that had I died during that time, I would have went straight to Hell. Do not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $100. I know that now. I knew it then. In any case, I was definitely no longer a Creationist. Social conditioning via scholastic indoctrination had the intended effect. This, by the way, is why we need to teach the controversy in public schools.

It took a bit of old-fashioned EXTORTION to get me back into church. I was poor. I had no food. I hadn’t eaten in several days. Since I didn’t have a job, it didn’t look like there was gonna be any food in my future either. They say that sin is fun for a season. My season apparently was up. God had had enough of my running.

Mom made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said, “Son, you know the church I go to has a FOOD pantry. If you come to church, we’ll fix you up couple bags of groceries. But if you don’t… well, it’s your decision!” she finished cheerily. Talk about an incentive to change!

So I went to church.

But I didn’t make it easy on them. After all, I had made up my mind about how I felt about Church and Christianity.

Yet to my shock and surprise, they actually listened to my gripes and accusations about the Church & its Christians. No one judged me. No one wrote me off as hopeless or “too far gone”. They treated me like a person ~ not a no-good, dirty, rotten sinner. Nor did they treat me in that patronzing “I-told-you-so” manner that is usually reserved for backsliders. In fact, a few became good friends of mine before I started attending regularly. Needless to say, I’m now VERY big on “friendship evangelism.” Through half a year of conversations, i began to realize that I had somehow decided how I felt about Christianity and church culture without really evaluating how I felt about God. As they patiently answered my questions and objections, I stumbled upon the fact that I’d never really known the Jesus who was portrayed in the Bible. I knew a stained-glass Sunday school version of Him that we were all supposed to emulate, but the bold, out-spoken, controversial Christ of the Bible… This guy was amazing! How had the church managed to keep this scandalous God-man a secret?

A year after my first co-erced visit, I gave my life and my heart my life to God on March 23, 1997. The preacher talked about the “Blood Covenant” we make with God upon salvation, as if the Invitation on Heaven’s Door reads: “Whosoever Will may Come” but upon entering we find that the other side of the sign reads: “Foreordained from the Foundation of the World!” I somehow knew that this was my last chance. I’m not a fool. I went to the altar crying (something I hadn’t done in years) and got up preaching (I had to let it all out) and ultimately changed.

Now I had a problem. I had come back to Christendom based on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and fulfilled prophecy, but I still had a fuzzy notion of Biblical authority. How could I trust it for salvation but not for what it said about why I needed to be saved in the first place, that we have all sinned in Adam? As Jesus asked Nicodemus, How could I trust him concerning heavenly things if I couldn’t hear him on what he said about earthly things?

So I began re-examining Genesis. Most of http://DefGen.org is a written exploration of my conclusions. The issue of origins isn’t one of faith versus reason, but rather which reasonable faith [Darwinism or Creationism] is ore reasonable given our shared pool of data and our common capacity from reason.

You see, I’m a thinker. At long last. I thought I knew how to think for myself when I reject the social conditioning of my religious childhood for Darwinism, but I really just fell prey to the more immersive [and therefor more comprehensive and conditionally compelling] social conditioning of scholastic indoctrination in public schools. I didn’t learn to think for myself by believing what they told me; I learned independent thought by daring to critique and question what I’d been told [an art never taught in public school] and making my own decisions. The Bible’s account simply better fits the facts of the observable world.

-Rev Tony Breeden

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Comments
  1. Aram McLean says:

    You just can’t help but brag can you? Everything you write has a subtle bragging tone to it. And by subtle, I mean it basically kicks the reader in the teeth.
    You sound to me like someone who went to an ACE school. You sound to me like someone who got as far as the rebelling part, but because you’re such an ‘extreme’ dude, you didn’t actually get to the part where you seriously deconstructed and reviewed your religious indoctrination from a neutral standpoint. You simply rebelled like a typical teenager, and then came back to the fold and declared it was good. What a cop out. Of course your secular life sucked. You were stuck on the yin to religions’ yang. Of course you weren’t happy. Your lifestyle was destructive and coming back to the faith was a good choice, all things considered, for you. But you were never really free of it to begin with. That much is obvious. And therefore your talk of having been to ‘other side’ is just so much malarkey. As such, so is all the rest you say on the matter.
    But whatever. Keep on preaching to the choir. They shall hear your arrogant words and rejoice that you ‘returned’. But for those of us who actually made the last real step away, the one you never managed, we shall simply look at your words and shake our heads at your apparent idiocy.
    Well, carry on Tony. I’m sure you’re ‘cool’ to the impressionable Christian teenagers you hang out with. I can see there is no point arguing with you (as your last ridiculous rebuttal showed me). In fact, with that in mind, let me give you a quick analogy of what exactly you managed to do by ‘turning the argument on its head’ the last time engaged, as you so dumbly declared.
    I said, ‘God is dead.’
    You said, ‘Nietzsche is dead’
    Basically, this is the extent of your ‘brilliance’.
    Well Tony, as I already said, I know there is no point debating with you. So have a good one. I’m going to go now and see if I can find Midian’s back catalogue on YouTube.
    Cheers
    Aram

    • Aram,

      The tale I’ve just told is merely meant to serve as an overview, a skeleton upon which we will hand further detail later. You may wish to reserve your judgments until you have all the facts.

      As for turning your argument on its head, I merely meant to demonstrate that making such “I’m better than you” assertions without backing them up can always be turned around, thus revealing them to be empty rhetoric.

      Regards,
      Rev Tony Breeden

      P.S. Let me know if you find Midian or even Hate, I Preach on YouTube. I never posted them and I doubt any of the other band members have posted our songs either. In fact, I don’t have a copy of any of our recordings at present [ah, the perils of moving a lot], though I’m sure there a few of them floating around out their somewhere. The titles were Darker, Time and Towards Zero. Good luck.

  2. Aram McLean says:

    I found no less than three bands named Midian, and one legal dispute over the name. You picked a popular title. I don’t think any of them are related to you though. Although it’s all pretty heavy; must be something in the name.
    As for the rest of our chat, I say we leave it at that. I don’t actually care what you choose to believe, even if I think it is silly. And I never stated that I’m better than you. It’s just that as convinced as you are that you’re right, so am I convinced that you’re wrong. I know the Bible quite well. I was an ACE kid myself. I also read and memorized the entire Bible during my time there. And how you manage to make sense of all the contradictions and flaws and illogical nonsense in the book, well, I guess that’s your very own personal miracle. Have a good life.
    Below are a few links to bands who stole your name. Cheers,
    Aram

    http://www.myspace.com/midianmusic2

    http://www.myspace.com/midianblackshadows

    http://www.midianband.it/

    • Aram,

      I’ve yet to encounter an alleged contradiction, flaw or instance of “illogical nonsense” in the Bible that did not have a reasonable explanation.

      As for Midian, I was afraid you’d find your efforts fruitless. There were no other Midians listed at the time we chose the name. Oddly enough, the logo from the last link you supplied is remarkably like the one I created for my band. Small world.

      Anyway, I hope you change your mind and consider visiting us from time to time. You and I may have more in common than you suppose.

      Regards,
      Tony Breeden

  3. therivernilejordan says:

    Perhaps it is wrong of me to keep picking on Aram, but here goes:

    “You just can’t help but brag can you? Everything you write has a subtle bragging tone to it. And by subtle, I mean it basically kicks the reader in the teeth.
    You sound to me like someone who went to an ACE school. You sound to me like someone who got as far as the rebelling part, but because you’re such an ‘extreme’ dude, you didn’t actually get to the part where you seriously deconstructed and reviewed your religious indoctrination from a neutral standpoint. You simply rebelled like a typical teenager, and then came back to the fold and declared it was good. What a cop out. Of course your secular life sucked. You were stuck on the yin to religions’ yang. Of course you weren’t happy. Your lifestyle was destructive and coming back to the faith was a good choice, all things considered, for you. But you were never really free of it to begin with. That much is obvious. And therefore your talk of having been to ‘other side’ is just so much malarkey. As such, so is all the rest you say on the matter.
    But whatever. Keep on preaching to the choir. They shall hear your arrogant words and rejoice that you ‘returned’. But for those of us who actually made the last real step away, the one you never managed, we shall simply look at your words and shake our heads at your apparent idiocy”

    The tone of these words presumes that reality is intrinsically dark and joyless. From that comes a spew of sub-beliefs:
    Rebellion is more in tune with the natural order of things than communion is
    Deconstructionism is more productive than restoration
    Reality is “really” tragic; happiness is a pretense otherwise
    Taking “that final step” into the outer darkness (sounds like suicide) is intrinsically nobler than running for the safety and familiarity of the light
    And that anyone who claims to have found joy, and exudes joy, must be inauthentic; something else – something ugly, like bragging – must be the “real” sentiment disguised by the words
    It kicks at your teeth because it is a testimony to a real, good, loving God
    It strikes at the core of the lie that you’ve used to empower yourself – namely, that negativity works, good is evil, light is darkness, only the “strongest” (read, skeptical) survive.
    But you can’t resist it because even as the vision of God’s love absolutely scorches you, have a pervese desire to be destroyed by the very thing you use as fuel for your infernal misery – and it thus reinforces it. So you keep visiting and commenting on sites like these.
    “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? Well that’s alright because I love the way it hurts” is probably your favorite song line of all time. It’s also stamped on every invitation from hell.
    God bless. I mean that.

    • Aram McLean says:

      I’m just getting this reply to me now. What’s a few years, hey.
      I admit I could have written my reply somewhat more politely. But other than that, no Mr River. You’ve managed to completely miss my point.
      Have a nice day.

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