5/29/2014 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Rev. Ex-Evangelist ~
My friend Kary owns a pub.
It's a place that persons of my "mature" age can go and enjoy.
The pub also attracts a lot of undergrad and grad students from a nearby, large, state university. They come to have a drink, enjoy live music and play pool. It's the nearest thing to "church" that I have going on in my life these days.
I go to Kary's pub several times a week and sometimes get into some very interesting and intelligent conversations with total strangers while sipping his many fine brews and wines.
Recently I was hanging out there when two attractive young women came in to order a drink. They were dressed provocatively and, as "Providence" would have it, sat down next to me at the bar.
Well, being an ex-fundamentalist Christian minister, I quickly judged them - based on their outward looks - as being of a heathenish sort: they were displaying ample amounts of flesh, numerous tattoos and clothed in black leather and lace. Oh, La, La! I felt "the gods" were finally showing favor to this old, burned-out, ex-fundy preacher who now happens to be an atheist. ;>)
One was puffing away on one of those new-fangled E-cigarettes. I asked her how it was working for her? She felt it was going great: she had not smoked any regular tobacco for weeks. I told her I was ex-smoker. We had a delightful conversation about the joys of becoming tobacco-free.
They were both very friendly, vivacious, funny and out to party for the night. They were celebrating the fact that E-Cigarette girl had just graduated from college that morning with her BA degree in Anthropology. She wasn't sure what she was going to do with the it but felt it had been a very transformative educational experience for her on many levels. Primarily, she felt it had helped her to shed many of the ideas she had been taught growing up in her small, backwater, Florida town.
The two women said they have known each other since the 6th grade. They had attended the same church and were high school graduates of their church's "home-school" program.
My ears perked up!
I asked, "What kind of church?"
"First Assembly of God in ________________, Florida."
"So you have both been baptized with the Holy Ghost as evidenced by speaking in other tongues?"
My question made them giggle. They sheepishly said: "Yeeeeeesss!"
They were surprised I knew about speaking in tongues. I explained I had a pentecostal church back-ground too and had once been an ordained minister.
The E-Cig woman explained that their departure from their pentecostal faith started when - after graduating from their home-school "high school" - they both found work as 9-1-1 dispatchers for their county EMS services.
Their new jobs shocked them as they got to see life in its most raw form. The faith they had been taught since childhood was no longer making sense as they responded to tragedy after tragedy. The "God" who was suppose to be there never showed up to stop meaningless deaths and tragedies from happening. Their work as dispatchers started to erode the easy bumper-sticker theologies they had absorbed from church and school. They started asking hard questions and looking for answers.
After high school, I left home and discovered that what I had been taught about how the world works just was not reality. My parents can't understand where I'm coming from. They think I've backslidden and I am in the clutches of The Devil."My parents and siblings are still involved with all that church stuff. After high school, I left home and discovered that what I had been taught about how the world works just was not reality. My family still attends the same church, listens to the same preaching programs and television shows. They have never questioned anything they have ever been taught. They've lived a very sheltered life. They've never been exposed to anything that would cause them to question what they believe."
She lamented that she could not share what she had come to learn from her university studies with her parents and siblings:
"When I go home I avoid anything about religion or politics because it just causes an argument. All they know about the world comes from their preachers and what they see on Fox News. My parents can't understand where I'm coming from. They think I've backslidden and I am in the clutches of The Devil."
E-Cig finally came to realize that their main difference between herself and the rest of her family was this:
"The problem is their world is very simple and so they believe the solutions are simple. They don't understand that life is not simple but very complex. They think that if you just chant a bible verse about a problem then that solves it. It's maddening to try to have a discussion with them about anything that's happening because they automatically have the right answer without even studying the problem."
I asked how she would now identify herself?
"I consider myself to be an Agnostic-Pagan." Her friend also agreed.
I explained a little of my de-conversion story and how I had formerly served as a "full-gospel" preacher and Army chaplain and that it took me three years of study at a liberal seminary to enable me start thinking my way out of the fog of a lifetime of religious indoctrination. I congratulated them for being able to question things and to escape at such a young age.
E-Cig girl added:
"I think what we went through as kids in our church - and by being homeschooled - was a total mind fu*k. It took us a long time to sort things out." She is still angry about being so misinformed about so many things, such as science, history, the bible, etc., by her church pastors and teachers.
They invited me to shot pool with them. We all continued to drink and were having a great time and then it happened: their dates for the evening showed up!
They introduced me to their dates. They effusively told their dates what a great time they had been having with me. They bid me farewell and left.
I was happy I got to have this encounter. It warmed my old skeptic's heart to hear their story of how they escaped from the mental prison of Christian fundamentalism and were doing something constructive with their lives.
Oh well. The night at Kary's pub was still young. I returned to his bar counter, got back on a stool and ordered another beer and waited for "providence" to send someone else my way.