I was recently contacted by one of my cousins who is still a Pastor of a Fundamentalist, Charismatic Church. After spending some time with my mother and brother (also a Pastor), he decided it was time for him to try and bring back the backslider (me). Below is one of our exchanges. It really relates how fundies think. I wish that I had Sconner and Boomslang sitting with me in my office as I wrote (I could just imagine the Bible concordance ruffling and the phrases flying from two great minds), which would have helped me with my arguments. I think I held my own, but it's hard to not just start railing against such stupidity. But, he is my cousin, and I love him.
Please read this exchange and voice any helpful opinions that I may incorporate into further discussions that I will surely have with him.
Stunned and overwhelmed at your level of hatred, animosity and rancor is what I am. Though your precious Mom and my dear Aunt L. and your brother T. (my best friend) had spoken to me about their deep heart rending concern for you, I was nonetheless unprepared for the depth of cynicism and disgust which you display toward "the faith that was one and for all delivered to the saints."
Even in this letter, your words are nothing more than a stereotypical diatribe against anything religious as though any one of us who believe in God are deluded, ignorant and ill informed.
I disagree with virtually every accusation, every caustic word you use as a weapon. Do you mean for your hatred, anger, arrogance and pride to come across as it does...or am I misreading you?
So I sit here this morning in The Presence of Christ who is my life, the One whom I love, whom you have now disavowed, and I struggle with what to say that would make a difference for you.
I cannot promise that I will continue this kind of exchange Danny. Why? Because I've written you off? NO, a thousand times NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But rather because I don't believe the level of argument you want to engage in works. All it does is galvanize each of us in our already deeply held convictions. I've come to this conclusion after nearly four decades of wonderful, love and laughter filled Christian ministry. On each point you accuse, on each point you conclude, and on each point you rail against religion of any kind (especially my kind) I don't hear that you are at any level open to my appealing to you, are you? Correct me if I'm wrong about this Danny.
All I hear from you is what I hear from the nightly godless news on NBC, CBS and ABC, and from the endless array of wealthy Hollywood stars who rail against anything Christian. Oh to be sure, I am ashamed (and have publicly preached that shame) over much of what I've seen on Christian TV and what is sadly charicatured in the whole realm of organized Christianity.
But dear Danny, what you stereotypically and across the board acuse any and all of us concerning (including your Mom, T. and Me is untrue because: You ignore the vast numbers down through Christian history who have lived and died in love and truth and integrity all because of their love for Jesus. Jesus Christ is my hope, my salvation, my joy and my song. Just as He has been for numberless multitudes over the past 2000 years. Were men and women of The Faith like Hudson Taylor, Francis of Assisi, Poycarp, Amy Carmichael, CH Spurgeon, David Livingsgton, Billy and Ruth Graham, etc. etc. etc. all deluded, deceived and wrong? Dan, with all my heart, with every cell of my being I plead with you, we are not the ones deluded, deceived and wrong.
But I honestly don't think, I am going to "out argue you" if that is the approach we take. Some men, more gifted and inteligent than I, whose books I do read, and a calling to "Christian Apologetics" which you informed me you were completely closed off to. Yet you yourself are simply choosing godless and atheistic apologetics, using their arguments, accusations and caustic unbelief in every accusing question you set forth.
Dan (and this is my opinion) I believe that the last 20 years of "your de-conversion" as you call it, you have set out to find evidence of God's absence, not His Presence. And what you've gone looking for you have found.
I have gone looking for evidence of His Presence, not His absence, and I have found it.
You said, "Haven't you ever wondered why Prayer does NOT work?" Oh Danny prayer is my continuing conversation with Jesus. Prayer is not a "thing" that works or doesn't work (like a formula) prayer is the language of relationship between me and my Lord.
You said, "Have you ever wondered if the Bible was really the 'inspired' word of God?" Oh Danny, His Word has been my daily Source of help and hope and peace and direction. It's inspirtation (non-apologetically speaking) has attested to in my heart and soul over and over again. Years ago, HE prtomised me in Psalm 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach in the way you should go. I will guide you with my eye upon you." And He has been faithful to that promise.
Danny, I am out of time before a dear friend of mine named M., comes in a few moments. She has not long to live in her battle with cancer. But she is radiant, joyful and ready to go home to be with her Savior. I will not, I cannot believe that the grave is the end for her. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11:25-26) Yes I do. I pray that you will once again too.
With all my heart of love in Jesus my Lord, T.
Don't forget, you contacted me. I hoped it would be a chance to discuss issues in an intelligent manner, but alas, it seems not to be. You Christians don't seem to have the ability to see FACTS when it comes to your silly superstition. You compartmentalize your brains. You can see reality in every other aspect life, but when it comes to seeing truth as it relates to belief in your god, the blinders go on.
I did have some animosity and bitterness over WASTING 40+ years of my life, but I don't hate, I have no rancor. I am extremely happy and fulfilled. I don't judge anymore. I am not a bigot anymore. I have forgiven my mother for what see did to me. I love her, she is my mother. I understand why she turned to God. I understand why she lived in fear and guilt (and then passed that on to us kids). I know that there are some terrible skeletons in the Family Closet. I understand why uncle H. tried, numerous times, to commit suicide (while still in the ministry).
My wife and kids love me again. Just ask them; which person they want in their life. The born-again, spirit filled, pastor Dan or the man that I have become since I have been BORN AGAIN into REALITY and TRUTH!
I have tried to get you to see where I was coming from. I asked you some of the questions that I wrestled with for decades. You have refused to even entertain these thoughts (although, I know you have had them). You come back with Christian clichés. The same ones that I used for many years. Instead of taking these questions head on, and spending the energy to THINK about them, it is much easier to just throw a trite apologetic at it and then say that the person asking has something wrong with them, ..."your faith isn't strong enough, you must accept by faith, you have hatred, you are using stereotypical arguments, etc., etc."
Guess what?! You are using stereotypical arguments and your arguments have no foundation or FACT to back them up. Anyone can have (and they do have) a subjective experience. I had hundreds of them while I was a Christian. The Muslims also have subjective experiences. The Mormons have them (a little aside - our cousin, B. D. contacted me many years ago while I was still a devout Charismatic Christian, and 'testified unto me' that Joseph Smith was the true prophet of God and that she was praying for me to 'come to the light' of the 'truth'). The Jews have them. Witch doctors in Haiti have some doozies (so do their victims, i.e.. Voodoo). Native Americans have some amazing experiences with their 'god', while chewing on Peyote.
Indigenous humans around the globe, throughout millennia, have had incredible, subjective experiences and drew pictures, told stories, and eventually wrote about them.
Don't you ever get tired of trying to support your beliefs by telling about a subjective experiences or quoting a DEAD book (take some time and find out how we came to have the 66 books we now call 'god's word') that is no more god's word than the Book of Mormon, the Koran or the Bhagavad-Gita?!
Just be HONEST! I know how scary it can be, but don't you ever just want to
know TRUTH AND FACT?
Please don't judge me as something that I am not. What is wrong with seeking TRUTH no matter where it leads? Can I help it that I just want to KNOW. Can I help it that I have always wanted to get answers to my questions, that made sense and rang TRUE. Can I help it that I was born with a high IQ and a drive to Learn. Can I help it that I discovered the difference between FACT and FICTION??????
Here is a paraphrase from Corinthians "...when I was a child, I thought as a child... when I became a man, I put away childish things!" You no longer believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, do you? (I'm not sure what you will say to that, when I put it to mom, she said "yes, I do believe in Santa!").
Don't lump me into the "heathen-who-want-to-sin-all-the-time-atheist" Camp.
I am a much better person today, as a secular humanist, Agno-atheist, than I ever was as a 'man of God'. I love lots! I don't cheat on my wife! I don't judge others! I continue my search for truth! I probably have less 'SIN' in my life than anyone you know. I just don't call it sin and I'm not ready to relegate people to HELL for the crime of not believing a ludicrous, myth.
I would love to see you and T. and my precious mother come to the beauty of TRUTH and REALITY before you die.
I Love you all,