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The Ten Legalistic Suggestions

By Steve Dustcircle ~

I don't remember a time where we weren't going to church. My mother was very religious, and my dad seemed to tag along to keep her happy. I don't remember much about going to church, or Sunday School, or prayer services, or meetings (surprisingly). I do recall sometimes where at 7 or 8 years old, drawing Godzilla, or secretly peeling the varnish off the pew handrails.

What I do remember--and cringed at when I became "born again" in my young adult years--is the doctrine we were taught. The stories were usually always happy. Noah and his smiling family, with smiling animals, and unsmiling drowning demon-looking sinners. I remember pastel painted, Caucasian Jesus passing out uncleaned fish to masses of smiling white people. I remember clean-clothed Jesus having various races of kids sitting on his lap, accepting even the Chinese and Native American in 25 AD Israel or Judea.

But what I remember most is the LAW! The Ten Commandments! No one gets to heaven unless they are "saved" and keep these commandments. As a child it's easy to keep these commandments. I didn't covet my neighbor's wife because she was too old for an 8 year old. I didn't murder people, unless doodling Freddy Krueger counted. I didn't work on the Sabbath - my dad wouldn't even let me have a paper route. I never cursed, or said the name of "God" without reason. I was a good boy. But I did have sticky fingers. I stole occasionally, but that one commandment could be worked on. 8 or 9 out of 10 commandments, I felt, was pretty good for 8 years old, and I've got a lifetime to work it out.

Only when I was older and was immersed in a non-denominational church did I find out that the Old Testament was the Old Covenant, and wasn't to be literal. The Commandments were to be 10 "suggestions," or to show how sinful we are as humans. By the way, as an adult, I pretty much broke 8 or 9 of the commandments, and relied on grace and forgiveness in my struggling walk.

However, the walk of struggle was long. Legalism continued to creep into my Christian life. 13 years I struggled with worship leading on Sunday, and screwing the neighbor's wife on Wednesday. I'd give to the homeless on Friday night something I stole Thursday morning. I'd hug demons out of people on Wednesday night prayer services, but kill people later that evening in my heart if they would drive 25 in a 35 MPH zone.

Recently, with struggling with GRACE vs. LEGALISM, and LITERALNESS vs. ALLEGORY, I ended up finding my way into non-belief. Actually, I'd call myself an "evangelistic" or "militant" atheist. I constantly try to challenge others and their religiousness. While it's off-putting to many, I think it's a reflection of who I am: Challenging the status quo. I want people (religionists or agnostics) to know WHY they believe what they believe. I don't want people to know WHAT to think, but HOW to think. I still struggle against legalism, and fight sometimes the urge to be a tattle-tale or judge of character. I'm just as kind, yet decrepit, as the next guy.

But I'm trying. I like the freedom FROM the Ten Commandments. I like the freedom from getting approval from a deity. I like being able to _be me_ without feeling like I might be misrepresenting "God" or ruining a possible witnessing Jesus effort. Being me, without doctrine, is like having a weight lifted off my shoulders.

I can just . . . be.

Steve Dustcircle is an online activist and runs The Dissenting Heretic, a political news aggregation and human rights site []. He lives with his wife in Columbus, Ohio, and reads between guitar-playing and coffee dates. This excerpt is from his upcoming book, LEAVING WORSHIP.