This is a follow-on to my first testimony, “Freedom Found in a New View of the Cosmos”.
My parents were both atheist, and had never taught us kids any of the tenets of Christianity. At age 11, we moved next to a Christian family. The wife asked my mother if they could take her children to a vacation bible school. My mother was all too happy to have a few hours of peace, and relinquished her brood to the woman who would become “the sweet old Christian woman next door” in my “how I got saved” testimony. My parents would come to rue that day. As an adult, I found that the church we went to was the Plymouth Brethren denomination, a strict sect of Christianity with an oppressive doctrine concerning women. Of course, they tricked the young Daniel into reciting the sinner’s prayer (what 11 year old wants to go to hell?). For the next several years, I was indoctrinated with the Bible, and their interpretation of it. The church had many people who, if I met today, would be considered crazy. But back then it seemed like they were the more spiritual ones. Being a red-blooded American teenager in the 1970s, the cares of the world pulled me away and by age 17 was not attending at all. But the brand was made – I was a Christian, and was well-grounded in the Bible, and able to recite verses to the tune of evangelical fundamentalism.
In the Army Now
As a senior in high school, a friend got me to attend a church called Unity. The youth group had a lot of cool guys and girls in it, and it felt comfortable. But they did not teach the same Jesus as the Plymouth Brethren church. I wrote them off as a cult (like I would know?). But like I said, it was cool. I continued building friendships there until I joined the Army for lack of jobs for high school grads in the late 70s Midwestern America.
In the Army, I was just an average GI. I was easily influenced by the more experienced soldiers. I started drinking beer and hard liquor and smoking marijuana. In the mean time, I had met a sergeant, Enrique, who was known as an annoying Christian who took every chance to infect normal conversations with his religious views. I was assigned to work for him on a job, and he would preach and quote Bible passages to me. One day he was telling me that “by grace are we saved through faith.” I could not help but append, “Ephesians 2:8”. He was impressed, and started heavily targeting me for conversion, inviting me to the Bible study he led in his home. I attended a few, but eventually he got orders for overseas, and I was glad to get him out of my life. When he left, he sold a car to me.
Turning to the Straight and Narrow
I had a yearning to find a wife and build a life and family, and soon realized that getting drunk and stoned all the time was not a good strategy to attain that end. When I considered where I might find a wife, the idea of church and Christianity always entered my mind as the most viable approach. In order to make myself as attractive as I could for a potential bride, I decided I would return to Christianity and clean myself up. So I started hanging with the few Christians in my outfit, and stopped the drinking and smoking. After a year had past, I was in “full steam ahead” mode for Christianity, although still no closer to finding a mate. I heard from a coworker that Enrique had gotten out of the service to be a full time pastor (although he had no education beyond high school – but, as Enrique would point out – neither did Peter, James or John). I wanted Enrique to know that his efforts to bring me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ were not in vain, and that I was a bona fide born-again washed-by-the-blood-of-the-Lamb Christian.
A Man of God and the Doctrine of Grace
Enrique was staying at the home of a soldier in the same outfit I was in. I left several messages for him to call me, but he did not. I later found out that he suspected I thought he had cheated in the car deal, wanted money back (which was never the case), and he avoided calling me. An older and wiser Daniel now sees that he acted this way because he believed that he did cheat me (a clue that I should have ran the other way). Nevertheless, I persisted, and when Enrique found that I was calling for spiritual reasons, I soon was meeting with the small fellowship he was forming. Enrique had convinced me that the Christianity that I had been taught my whole life was based on a lie – the lie is that man can decide for himself whether to accept Jesus or not (Arminianism). The truth was that God chooses those whom he will save. As a matter of fact, this was decided before the foundation of the world was laid. You may recognize this as Calvinism. Here again, unless a Christian comes to a revelation that he/she is one of God’s chosen, then they aren’t a real Christian. The many Bible verses that support this doctrine were pounded into me. Since I believed this Doctrine of Grace, I must be one of God’s chosen. I felt special, even invincible. And our leader, now referred to as Brother Enrique, had a small contingency of followers with which to build his empire.
With Us or Against Us
Brother Enrique taught that the Lord God required our full allegiance. So giving allegiance to anyone or anything else was considered idolatry. You can imagine the conflict then for a member of the armed forces who has given their allegiance to the United States, manifested in the form of a salute to a flag. Yes, a seemingly innocent salute to the United States flag had become an adulterous act against the Almighty God of Creation. It wasn’t long before I was convinced that God wanted me out of the service of a godless nation. Brother Enrique taught that America was the Great Whore of Babylon, and that her destruction, detailed in the Book of Revelation, was imminent. I had to get out of the military and work in full time service of God, building the ministry so that God’s people would have a place of refuge when certain destruction comes upon the nation. But instead of asking for a discharge based on conscientious objection, I dove in head first with refusal to salute the flag based on religious views of idolatry.
Modern Day Third Chapter of Daniel
You can imagine the reactions of my First Sergeant and Unit Commander as I explained to them my dilemma, essentially calling them idolaters, asking them to approve my discharge. I honestly thought that I could explain it so well and their response would be, “Oh, well that’s a horse of a different color! Thank you for your sincerity – goodbye and good luck!” After all, it could not be more clear. The parallels to the third chapter of the Book of Daniel were absolutely uncanny. It could not be a coincidence. Babylon was America. Nebuchadnezzar’s 90 foot golden statue was the flag. The “sound of the cornet” was the Star Spangled Banner. The bowing was the salute. I was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I was one of God’s chosen and in the middle of something eternally sensational.
Persecuted for the Sake of the Gospel
But the Army did not let me go. In fact, quite the opposite. I was sent to an Army psychologist, whose diagnosis stated that I suffered from a personality disorder which left me unable to use my emotions properly, driving me to religion. He also said I was borderline psychotic and that lines were blurred between what was real and what was not. One morning shortly thereafter, a “surprise” open ranks inspection was called in a parking lot that happened to be in full view of unit headquarters. But for some reason, the flag had not yet been raised, even though the work day had begun. While the officer in charge of the open ranks inspection was going about his duty, two soldiers exited the HQ building with the flag. They attached it to the flag pole draw rope and raised it. The officer in charge called the unit to attention and gave the order to salute. I stood my ground and “obeyed God rather than man.” When it was over, the Army had what they needed: the troublemaking soldier had deliberately disobeyed the order of an officer, with more witnesses than they needed. I was tried by court martial, found guilty, sentenced to loss of all rank, forfeiture of all pay, and to four months confinement with hard labor. After I served the prison sentence, I was given a general discharge. But to me, I was in the fiery furnace, and the Son of Man was there with me. In the mean time, Brother Enrique received more than his 15 minutes of fame, appearing on radio shows and being interviewed by TV stations. Upon my discharge, I was free to be a servant of The Most High, and lived and worked in the middle of the Mohave dessert at the ministry compound which consisted of one 60x12 mobile home with no electricity or running water. I stayed in that situation for the next 8 months. That’s how long it took me to see Brother Enrique for who he really was, see his real motives, and realize that unless I left, I would never be the person who I could potentially become.
Weeding out the Truth
When I left, I had to come to terms with what had happened to me, and sort out what was real and what was made up. I feared for my life because after I had announced that I was leaving, Brother Enrique had a dream in which I was a lifeless, ghostly figure. Was he really a Man of God, and was I in rebellion? Would God end my life to protect me from Satan? In the end, I convinced myself that Brother Enrique was a false prophet, but that all that I had learned from studying the Word of God was truth. So I embraced Calvinism. Also, I could not believe that God would have brought me through the flag ordeal for nothing. After joining a “real” Calvinistic church, I thought that I could explain my flag revelation to “real” Christians, and help them to learn truth. After several years of that, I learned to keep my mouth shut about it. It took another 30 years to begin to doubt the reality of Christianity and come to terms with my own foolishness over the flag issue.
Played the Fool
I recently read “The Gift of the Blessing” by Gary Smalley. I was stunned to learn that people with poor relationships with their father, such as the one I had with mine, left those people susceptible to joining cults. The cult leader cunningly provides the elements missing from the real father, and the gullible fool gets bamboozled. In looking back at the multiple instances where I had the opportunity to either continue convincing myself that I had faith on the same scale as Abraham, or to shut up and get real, I see now that I was the fool. Today, I can recite all the ways that my life has been enhanced by Christianity, including an ideal marriage, successfully raising three great kids, the influence to pursue higher education, and the list goes on. Would I have these things without Christianity? I will never know. But I do know I can also point to a massive, embarrassing stain on my life, and now an awakening from a 30-year delusion, all thanks to Christianity.