Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

The Freedom to Search

In Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe on April 21, 2010 at 5:18 am

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”  Acts 17:26-28.

Imagine growing up without the Bible, without Christianity, without a creedal dogmatism that demanded your submission, and without its threat of hell.

Imagine being free to search for meaning, value, and purpose in life.  Imagine being free to ponder your temporally and spatially limited existence in the context of the vast universe and the vastness of time.

Freed from the dictates of your parent’s or your culture’s theology, what would you reach for?  What might you find?

Confronting the profound silence of the universe, would you imagine – or expect to find – Yahweh?  The jealous, violent, and mercurial war deity of an ancient Bronze Age tribe that commanded the slaughter of Amalekite infants and children (I Samuel 15), who burned with lethal anger against Uzzah for reflexively touching the ark in an effort to steady it (2 Samuel 6), who commanded Israelites to stone a man to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36), and whom the Bible documents with either carrying out, or approving, 154 separate killings?

Would you expect to discover a Creator of our vast universe that demanded a human sacrifice to atone for sin and placate his wrath?  Would you expect to find a deity that created billions in “His image and likeness,” but “prepared” most of them “for destruction” and “wrath” in a place of eternal conscious torment in order “to make the riches of his glory known” (Rom. 9:22-24)? 

Would you reach out for that deity, worship it, surrender your whole life to it, and explain away all that violence and madness as a manifestation of the deity’s “holiness” and “higher” and “mysterious” ways?

Well, I did, for decades.  And most evangelical Christians do too.  But even the Biblical God – according to Acts – deliberately placed some people in circumstances where they would not be exposed to his sacred text, because he wanted them to seek God in their own way (Acts 17:26-28; see also Acts 14:16).  Even the Biblical God gave them that freedom.

As a believer, I pondered Acts 17:26-28 and grew increasingly jealous of their freedom.  I never had that freedom.  I was relentlessly taught, from an early age, a gospel of salvation by creedal commitment.  I was forcefully taught that the Biblical God would condemn me to eternal conscious torment if I did not believe.

Why, I thought, did the Biblical God give so many not exposed to the “special revelation” of the Bible – but not me – the freedom to search God in their own way?  Why did I, and billions of others like me, have to slavishly embrace an ancient dreadful text that purportedly has all the answers to the deep questions of life, and whose answers I had to humbly and unquestioningly accept?   Why would the Biblical God love to see the millions who never heard be free to seek him freely, but constrain me to seek him in a text?

What if Paul had it half right?  What if God really did value mankind’s freedom to search?  What if God valued all of mankind’s freedom to search?  What if God kept Himself equally hidden from all, and wanted us all to be free? 

How long I envied that freedom! 

I now claim it too.  I will have that freedom to search for meaning, purpose, and value.  I leave behind the chains that bound me to an ancient sacred text and its brutal theology.  Take flight, my soul, take flight!

  1. Wow, thanks for writing this….I understand.
    Kudos for processing & writing your experiences. Many probably feel the same way but have stuffed those feelings, you know “die to yourself” & “sacrifice” dogma.
    Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I think that is the fundamentalists mantra.
    I think a lot of pretending & hypocrisies going on too.

    I’m glad the internet has come along because people are actually speaking about their experiences & maybe, just maybe some folks will get the courage to finally free themselves from the shackles of that abusive religion.

    I did & I’m glad you did too!
    I wish you the best!

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