My life of proselytization

August 4, 2007 at 9:13 am 26 comments

Up Arrow Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 (NASB)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matt 26:18-20 (NASB)

And if we really believe this, we will share this news with the world. Because Jesus told us to. Because he is the only way. And I did.

I witnessed with all the faithfulness and fervor that I could muster, because I believed it all. I would hang out at the bus depot and airport handing out Jack Chick tracts to strangers (this was the pre-9/11 world). I would pray outside bars and stripjoints, hoping to catch people as they walked outside and convince them of their sinful ways. I would tell my mother and father, brother and sister about the Jesus that I knew, our Savior who was the only way to our salvation.

I would try to convince my mother, once a committed Christian and now a practical atheist, the error of her backsliding ways. I even got her to go to church with me a few times, but not before informing the pastor that I was bringing her and if he would not mind directing a word or two of his message her way.

At work, I did my mightiest to live my witness for Jesus Christ. I prayed every morning that God give me the strength and the power of the Holy Spirit to witness to my friends. And I did every working day. Sometimes I would go to parties with my workmates, my strategy being that I could steer the conversation to the Gospel Message in a classic ‘bait and switch” maneuver.

I went on Church Missions, usually to the inner city. However, my most memorable missions trip was to south Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Sure we helped clean up, repaired what could be fixed, fed and comforted people. But again, in a classic bait and switch, we always presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these people. “The Hurricane has left you without hope? Jesus will give you your hope back!” Because that’s what it is all about, right? The destroyed houses are mere temporary things, but our souls are eternal. I invited homeless people into my own apartment, to feed them and witness to them. I liked them. They were usually my easiest converts.

I went through years of University work studying astrophysics. It was very difficult to be a witness for Jesus Christ in this setting because everyone would reject the Bible’s claim for a young Earth and a 6 day creation. Trying to convince these scientists and PhD candidates to base their faith on a book that claimed a very young earth, a 6 day creation, talking donkeys, fiery chariots from heaven and a sun that occasionally stops in its tracks was absolutely impossible. Phillip Johnson once came to speak at our campus. The question and answer period was very entertaining – the biology professors made absolute hash of his anti-evolutionary arguments. How could I continue to witness Jesus Christ in this context? I decided to live my witness. Everyone knew I was a born again Christian, but I did not go out of my way to proselytize. I soon discovered that ‘living a witness’ was a cop-out. I was acting like any other well-adjusted law abiding citizen. Living my witness meant being no better and no worse then anybody else.

When I left academic life I began actively witnessing again. Then I met the woman who would eventually be my wife. We started dating, and I soon discovered that she was Catholic. I needed some subtlety when witnessing to her, after all I kind of liked her and did not want her to think I was too much of a nut. I invited her to my Baptist Church, and she invited me to her Catholic. She told me about why she revered Mary, the Saints, what the mass meant, and everything else associated with mainline Catholicism. While I did not believe as she did, I learned to at least appreciate it. I told her about all my beliefs, and we tried and I think succeeded to see how our differing views could be compatible. After all, she still looked to Jesus as the only source for the forgiveness of sins, everything else is superfluous, right?

I then became exhausted from witnessing. I was exhausted and drained from believing that I and my small sect of Christian brethren have the exclusivity on truth and everyone else, no matter what their beliefs, are going to eternal torment. I was sick of believing that I was on the narrow path of righteousness, and my loved ones are on the wide path leading to destruction when in many cases, they are just simply much better people than I am.

For most of these individuals, it is not a matter of loving darkness rather than light as the Gospel of John claims. People believe what they believe from personal conviction and family tradition, or because they are not lead to by scientific, historical or philosophical arguments, or simply because their own particular, heretical beliefs lead them to lead fulfilled and productive lives. And yes, yes, I know what the Christian will reply at this point: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus is the only way, right?

I watched the movie Gandhi several months ago. In the movie, India was being torn apart by Islamic and Hindu factions which would eventually result in the formation of Pakistan. Towards the end of his life, Gandhi, who seems to have lived as Christ-like a life as any man who walked the face of the earth proclaimed- “I am HINDU! I am MUSLIM! I am CHRISTIAN! I am JEW!” He was sick of all the religious fighting. This was a universalist and even secular proclamation that we are one humanity, not religious divisions. That scene brought me to tears, because I was just as sick of it as he was. I lived the proselytizing life. I understand.

I have witnessed the Gospel of Jesus Christ for most of my adult life, guilt-ridden because I was afraid all of humanity was lost in delusion and in their sins, and if I did not witness to them, they were eternally lost. I could not have real peace with that burden placed on me.

Then I became sick of that guilt, I became sick of that arrogance of exclusivity, I became sick of looking at our life as a trial from God to see if we believed the correct doctrines, and I refused to accept it anymore.

- HeIsSailing

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , , , .

Which God is “clearly seen” in creation? Perfecting God’s “Perfect” Law?

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Zoe  |  August 4, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Thank you for sharing this HeIsSailing. :)

  • 2. Heather  |  August 4, 2007 at 10:06 am

    HIS,

    Do you think much of why you can’t accept these claims is because you studied astrophysics? As in, if you had gone into a field like accounting or something, that you’d still be in the same mindset?

    I invited homeless people into my own apartment, to feed them and witness to them. I liked them. They were usually my easiest converts.

    Your entire post made me think, but this point in particular gives me pause. I think we’ve all seen fundamentalists of all religions go with the “ends justify the means” approach. As in, terrify someone with hell, or browbeat them, or do whatever you have to so long as they accept your religion in order to go to heaven.

    But that’s almost like preying on the vulnerable, if that makes any sense (and please know this isn’t an attack on you, HIS, or saying “how dare you do this!”) Or even helping with concealed motives. I think I read somewhere that there were some Muslim countries that didn’t care for Christian help, because it was never just help, it was help with strings attached. You can’t just have the food, you have to listen to things about Jesus. With the homeless, it would be like — under this approach — no one is actually listening to the homeless, or sympathizing or even really helping them. The situation is being exploited, in a way. Do you think that’s part of why you were drained/exhausted?

    However, I’m glad that you’ve let go of the guilt, and seem a lot happier and peaceful now. Granted, I didn’t know you before your de-conversion process, so you could’ve been happy and peaceful then. It just sounds like you weren’t, and are in a much better place now.

  • 3. Thinking Ape  |  August 4, 2007 at 11:39 am

    I admit I liked the first title better – maybe it was more boring, but suited the sober message here. When Jean-Paul Sartre states that “life begins on the other side of despair,” this is the kind of attitude he is speaking of (yes, it was Sartre, not Thoreau). The de-conversion experience can often be a very “spiritual”, for the lack of a better word, experience. The joy and peace I found afterwards was astonishing, and the ability to grow as a human being has been liberating.

  • 4. The de-Convert  |  August 4, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Heather,
    HIS is on vacation so he won’t respond until he returns.

    TA,
    I re-renamed it :)

    Paul

  • [...] Another post at “de-conversion” got me thinking.  The post is called “My life of proselytization“, this time from [...]

  • 6. Samanthamj  |  August 4, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. It always helps me when I see posts that I can relate to. Until fairly recently, I never knew there were so many stories out there that I actually COULD relate to.

    I quoted you a couple ties, and provieded links back to you in my latest post on my blog (http://savemenot.wordpress.com/2007/08/04/all-is-fair-in-love-and-conversion/).

    ~smj

  • 7. karen  |  August 4, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Wonderful post, HIS. I can totally relate, as you can imagine. So many years of (mostly failed) “witnessing” and the constant feeling of guilt that I could have and should have been doing MORE.

    Hope you have a wonderful vacation, and thanks for sharing so much of your journey with us. I know it can be heart-wrenching to go over all of this stuff. I hope it’s therapeutic for you also.

  • 8. StaCeY  |  August 4, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    HIS…

    Your story was very sobering and compelling, and should give anyone claiming to follow Jesus deep pause to think. Like Heather… I am glad to see that you have found peace on the other side of the exhausting and impossible cruisade of saving the world.

    The churches have made an absolute mess out of Jesus… His message … meaning and life. So people just live, believe and pass on all the garbage they’re taught… and it becomes their very life. It’s a great sadness. So much loss.

    These conversations are so very important.
    They are real.

    in peace and love…
    Stacey

  • 9. Jon Featherstone  |  August 5, 2007 at 1:05 am

    I found this post very moving because it describes my own journey so well. What freedom to be finally free of this lifestyle of fear – fear that the “unsaved will go to hell”, fear that “I must guard my doctirne lest I fall into error”, etc, etc. What freedom to be rid of all that trash!
    Jon

  • 10. Lyndon Marcotte  |  August 5, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Thank for sharing this part of your journey. There’s probably more of us that can relate to it than you realize. This particular quote from the movie The Big Kahuna seems especially relavent:
    “It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.’ That doesn’t make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are – just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep.”
    Best Wishes

  • 11. heartyheretic  |  August 5, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s the exclusivity part of Christianity that bothers me, too. Seem that it’s just the opposite of the message Jesus taught: love God, love others.

  • 12. Abhay  |  August 7, 2007 at 1:24 am

    I understand the extend to which you have gone in your faith. You were trying your best to witness but failed miserably when it comes to those who reason.

    The simple fact is that you failed to explain a Young Earth and few days of creation. I wish you studied a little better so that you don’t think Bible in letters (2 cor.3:6) like those scientists and doctorate Ph.D students. .As a preacher and the one who witnesses you should have known the Bible better, if not you could have studied from Biblical scholars.

    The Bible did not give us the number you and I count as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. And the Bible begins like this, “In the beginning… So, where is the beginning….?

    Therefore, 6-days of creation also could be interpreted as 6 big giant steps.. it could be billion of years for man… The Earth is not young we all know…

    If you will stop reading Bible in letter but in Spirit, those problem will go…

    I feel sorry that you failed to understand and thus failed to explain to Greeks – those who love knowledge…

  • 13. joejames  |  August 8, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Again – just listening to the conversation. I love your honesty and transparency here.

    I think the two verses you gave need some context… Christians are always screwing that last one up big time!

  • 14. preechaman7  |  August 9, 2007 at 8:48 am

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are going through the same journey at the same time, ain’t the internet great? I have been where you were, living in guilt, constantly concerned about the rest of the world going to hell, what a way to live! But oh the peace that comes with realizing that you don’t have to live a life of guilt based on a fundamentalist viewpoint of exclusivity in salvation.
    Cheers!

  • 15. john  |  August 11, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Hello, I have to say I dissagree with you. I don’t know what happened in your life that finally changed your way of thinking, but let me propose a few points/ideas. First do you realize that you married unevenly yoked, which is discouraged in the Holy Bible. (Her doctrine was quite a bit different if you were baptist and she was catholic.) Which brings me to the first point.
    The first point: (Now I don’t know if maybe there was something else, but from what you write I can surmize that this was one issue that will be used by satan to affect your faith.) Do you realize that one little thing can cause the damnation of your soul if you let it? EXAMPLE: Jesus Christ who condemned so many times the Pharisees of that time for being hypocrites also told them while eating dinner with them once that if they were not greedy that everything they did would be right. That one thing, greed, was responsible for all the other things that they did evil, it changed thier whole way of thinking from God centered to tradition centered, and thus opened their life to satan’s way of thinking. Satan doesn’t play to see how far he can go with a win some lose some attitude, he plays for keeps doing his best to destroy your God given right to choose. Why do you think it’s so easy for a man to leave God, but should he ever decide to come to God, he is his own worst enemy. It will be a struggle that lasts till God pulls us up to heaven.
    Also I have a couple of questions for you to ponder: How many of those doctrines that you were religously following did you measure up to the Word of God to see how accurate they were. I haven’t found a church yet who’s doctrine is perfect. Yet I’ve found many who are in fact teaching the Word of God however thier church doctrine may be too leanient while others impose too many restrictions and heap unessesary burdens upon people. Did you even seek the Lord on what church He wanted you to serve in. That is also an issue, where does God want you to serve.
    Which brings me to my other point: What the Bible says about a man without vision. It sounds like you were serving God, but did you have vision. Not revelation, vision. By vision, I mean did you have a goal, had God given you a purpose other then saving people, such as bringing the Word to other people or setting up church or churches in specific areas, or to preach to a specific people. I.E… prisons, schools as a motivational speaker, pastor in a specific area, growing further in the Lord so that you can do other things, healing people as the deciples did. I mean, God calls people for so much. What does the bible say about a man without vision. Did you have the kind of vision that keeps man going, if not, did you even seek God for it.
    In short, I understand your wanting to give up, and let go of the concern that causes you to think everytime you see someone who just won’t believe, and then those that suffer that could have so much hope to know when it’s over, true peace will be their’s with Jesus; and that doesn’t even cover family and the friends that you care about so much who still struggle with things like homosexuality, and you just don’t know what to do. Jesus himself asked how long he would have to put up with people’s lack of faith. It must’ve been torture for him. He understood it even more then you or I did that people were going to hell who didn’t follow the narrow path as you stated. And in that time the people who should know the most about God were the worst when it came to the hypocracy, not to mention they had been the leaders of these people now doomed to hell if they didn’t listen to Christ. And thus my third point has been explained.
    And my final point: God gave us a choice, and in reality, it is the fact that people prefer to do thier sin. I can tell you the truth, I do not want to follow God. I want to have sex, I want to look at hot girls and desire them. I want to hate those who do me wrong. I want to take revenge and destroy them for their lack of respect. I don’t want to care at all about my sister.
    I don’t want to concern myself with others at all. Jesus recognises this about us, and lets us know it. In revelations it is stated that we prefer to sin. And I tell you, look at the world, look at young people and old, see thier lives and what happens. Even children, we wouldn’t even know what was right and wrong if it weren’t for us knowing how we want to be treated. God only states the truth as it is, without sugar coating it. I know I would be a good man without God, but I realize the truth, in reality I don’t even know what good is if it weren’t for God allowing me to see what was going on around me and how it affects others in relation to me. And that’s why we are not animals. We teach animals right and wrong, but they are as clueless with us as we are with God.

    A couple last things to ponder: If everyone were to follow Christ, and the Bible, then all would be well. But because you have decided not to follow God keep in mind that your children are likely also not to, but with them, unlike you, the sins that Satan could not convince you to do or go as far, your children will be coaxed to do them or go further then you did. And you can do nothing to stop any one of them after your dead. Only the influence of God’s rightousness on thier hearts can. And you will not overcome satan by teaching your children goodness without God, he’s had so many years that if it weren’t for God, we’d likely all be dead and in hell.
    Last ponder point:God has devined you a choice, all of us have this choice given by God. You can choose to follow God or not to. Satan however will not give you that choice. Why do you think it is so easy to be a drug addict, yet so hard to kick it. Physical addiction. okay, well, to be an alcoholic, yet struggle day and night not to drink. The same. Okay: a pedophile who will admit he’s wrong, feal terrible, suffer for the terrible things he’s done, and given the time will be unable to stop himself from doing it again. Also a spouse beater will characteristically be worse to another spouse abuser because they understand better the damage they’re inflicting, yet will go home and beat up their spouse yet again. And often these issues will start on the children as well. Sexual issues are some of the hardest issues to overcome, almost seemingly impossible. That a society will become rebellious to the way of Christ, but give them another way, and the whole country will embrace it generations, yet it is not the newly saved that rebell, but there children’s children. Those who have known the way and have decided they’d prefer to do thier sin. And that is where we are at as a country, yet I still don’t think we’re as bad off as the european countries.

    Well thank you for your time and patients reading my entirely too long of a post.

  • 16. Thinking Ape  |  August 11, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I read up to the third sentence in John’s essay

    (First do you realize that you married unevenly yoked, which is discouraged in the Holy Bible. (Her doctrine was quite a bit different if you were baptist and she was catholic.)

    Can someone please tell me if the rest is worth it or does one of more theistic regulars want to take this one?

  • 17. notabarbie  |  August 12, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Sorry Thinking Ape, I can’t really help much, I nodded off at, “Do you realize that one little thing can cause the damnation of your soul if you let it?” I rallied for a second and read, blah, blah, blah, Satan and I was down for the count. Maybe I’ll drink a triple espresso and try again later.

  • 18. blackst3  |  August 14, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    I skimmed the whole thing. It’s not worth it. More guilt, satan, and accusations of weakness. It’s a step backward from HeIsSailing’s post.

  • 19. The de-Convert  |  August 14, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Well, hopefully it was a cut and paste job if no one is reading it :)

  • 20. neo2  |  August 14, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Hello Again,
    It has been months since I posted my deconversion story from the baptist church while my wife continued on her great religious ferver. As much as I hate to say this I am currently seeking a divorce attorney, I can’t take the nonsense anymore. I have had two injuries since I have left the church and stopped tithing. I stopped tithing a few months before I actually left the church. I ended up tearing my calf muscle and having a double hernia. The surgeon told me that from the symptoms I described that I probably had had the hernias for almsot 10 years. The calf injury happened becuase i am becoming older and have been a couch potatoe for a while. I ended up being talked into playing a football game in 30 degree weather, I cut and my calf snapped. Of course I was told by my wife the reason why I had the hernia’s and tore my calf was because I had quit tithing and left the church, wow. In our five year marriage we have been in four corrupt baptist churches and she still does not get it. Actually one of the financial persons at a church we left just told us that the pastor is on his way to becoming a milionaire. This is the same pastor that put on a skit about a guy buying a boat and that it was a sin because he should have used that money to furtthrer the work of God. The people in his church have no ideal of the wealth he has aquired because of the church, he has no other job. His flock cannot buy boats but he can become a millionaire, go figure. The other three churches have not been any better. You think after being burned by every baptist church you have been to that you might learn but her answer to the solution is to go to a different baptist church. Of course when i bring up all the corruption and evil things that we have wittnessed in our church life she runs to her fellow baptists for an answer. Of course they always have some cockamamy answer or excuse. Here is a list of the acts I have witnessed in five years, using your church to make yourself wealthy, illegal money laundering in 2 different churches, one pastor stepped down due to child molestation charges, not allowing members back unto church property by force of the law for no reason except they disagreed with the pastor, every single pastor has been caught in outright lies, and 5 other baptist church splits in our area for which I do not know the reason. You think after all of this me wife might get the ideal but as always the next baptist church will be different. Of course she said that about the last 4 churches also. One word, brainwashed!

  • 21. Zoe  |  August 15, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Hi Neo2,

    *sigh* Brainwashed is a good term. I use to hate the term. One day I understood why. Because I too was literally being brainwashed. I fought it tooth and nail and eventually got out.

    Interestingly enough, before leaving the church (the 3rd Baptist church I had attended) I went to a Christian therapist who just happened to be a prof of mine in Bible college.

    When we discussed church things he’s the one who used the term “brainwashing.” Fancy that, eh? He described how this past church of ourse just kept playing the same records over and over again and how that just gets so implanted in our heads, we can’t hear anything else. Replacing the brainwashed mantra in one’s head is very difficult even when you have good help.

    I’m sorry she isn’t seeing the light regarding these churches you have been in. Sorry about your injuries as well. It’s typical in many churches to blame illness, disaster, & tragedy on your leaving the church. It’s a way of keeping people under their control and in the church. Fear, fear and more fear!

    *sigh*

  • 22. athinkingman  |  August 15, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Thanks. I enjoyed your post and found it moving.

  • 23. HeIsSailing  |  August 15, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Oh dear, I go on holiday and ol’ de-Convert snags an old article I wrote, changes the title and slaps it on this site. Well, I did give him permission to do so *smirk*

    Heather sez:

    Granted, I didn’t know you before your de-conversion process, so you could’ve been happy and peaceful then. It just sounds like you weren’t, and are in a much better place now.

    Believe it or not, I was very happy. Right up until the end there, I was a very content and satisfied Christian. But I was also stagnant. When I started stirring the pot again, ie Bible studies with my wife, confronting non-Christians again – that is when my faith started to collapse. As far as inviting homeless people into my home so I could evangelize to them, I did it because… .I don’t think guilt is the right word. I was genuinely concerned for them, and even made some friends. I usually fed them and let them sleep on my couch for the night before they moved on. And I made a point of evangelizing since I felt I had a captive audience. The only time I think I truly felt guilt when evangelizing was when I preached to my own family. Don’t ask me why.

    ****************************************
    Abhay sez:

    If you will stop reading Bible in letter but in Spirit, those problem will go…

    Abhay, I would love to respond, but I did not understand a word of your reply. Sorry.

    ***********************************

    joejames sez:

    I think the two verses you gave need some context… Christians are always screwing that last one up big time!

    Hi Joe. Perhaps you could provide some of my missing context. If you do, would it clarify matters any?

    *****************************

    john sez:

    Hello, I have to say I dissagree with you.

    and quite vociferously you do!! I will have to read your response and reply to it later!

    Thanks to everyone else for your replies!!

  • 24. Frreal  |  August 19, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    New Lurker from HotAir. I suggested a Blogging the Bible from a Conservative viewpoint (minus the Rove & Rumsfeld references as in Slate) to conincide with Spencer’s blogging the Quran. Nice site. I am a fairly new (07) deconvert. Though I am not antitheist I am very pro truth and critical thinking. Just what the Conservative base needs. Catch me now while I am still in the militant phase of deconversion. Who knows how long it will last. Maybe we can get AP to jump on?

  • 25. The de-Convert  |  August 20, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Frreal,

    Thanks for lurking. Many of our contributors are not anti-theists but consider themselves more apostates.

    Check out our sister site ( http://www.de-conversion.org ) where there’s a forum for open discussion.

    I haven’t read Spencer’s blogging the Quran site so I’m not sure what the format is but here’s a blog I’ve been doing on Bible verses:

    http://literalbible.blogspot.com

    Paul

  • 26. bipolar2  |  August 26, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    The “One Way” is a dead end.

    All that matters: which way is your way . . . ones you’ve made by yourself for yourself.

    bipolar2

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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