Skip to main content

Out of the Lion’s Den and into the Fiery Furnace

By Daniel out of the Lion's Den ~

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.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two