My addiction to the biblical Jesus cost me my faith (told ya). You could say my love for Jesus drove me to learn the truth about him which in the end exposed him. He was a misguided man who was a victim of his own popularity. He couldn’t save his own soul let alone the world’s.
I have spent the last forty years of my life obsessed with studying the Bible in an effort to uncover the truth about who Jesus was. It started when I was converted to evangelical Christianity at age seventeen. Then, the only literature I had ever read were, “Encyclopedia Brown” stories. I immediately started reading through the Bible desperate to learn about my new faith. Soon it was apparent I needed help, so I began purchasing large amounts of Christian commentaries to aid me in my pursuit. It wasn’t enough, so I attended several Bible schools overseas, then Moody Bible College (Chicago, Il.) and finally Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I graduated from seminary more unsure of my evangelical faith than the day after my conversion.
I began are arduous investigation into the foundations of evangelical Christianity that inevitably lead to the dissolution of my entire Christian faith. It wasn’t over. My obsession grew. Now that I knew Christianity was a farce, albeit started by sincere men, I was determined to painstakingly deconstruct Christianity. I wanted to know how a fabricated religion started as a Judaistic sect and turned into the biggest (non Jewish) religion in the world. And most importantly, “Who was Jesus, really?”
Jesus was a disillusioned Jew whose messianic dreams ended with his death on the cross. The misconception he was a lover of all mankind grew out of Paul’s invention of a Gentile gospel. His version required a universal Savior. The real Jesus who walked the earth was a devout Israelite whose sole purpose was the salvation of his fellow Jews, the lost sheep of Israel. Gentiles were to be harshly judged by Yahweh along with all unrighteous Israelites.
Knowing the truth about Jesus is the key that unlocks the Bible’s meaning. It reduces it to a collection of writings generated by the religious imaginations of ancient men. The New Testament writers, desperate to validate their claims, scoured the Hebrew writings in search of esoteric truths beneath the simple surface meanings. So persuaded by their own mystical encounters with the risen Jesus, they were certain God had filled his inspired prophetic works with troves of hidden gems to bolster Jesus’ heavenly messianic claims.
A thorough literal examination of these texts yield the inescapable conclusion Jesus was not their primary fulfillment. Furthermore, in some instances. like the nativity accounts, stories were crafted around various texts in an effort to establish Davidic lineage and divine virgin birth.
My research over these years has been similar to hunting for the pieces of a thousand piece puzzle. I have labored in an effort to fit the many biblical “pieces” together in a cogent and natural way by accommodating the religious beliefs of the writers and figures without accepting them as factual. The depth of their devotion is undeniable but so is their delusion.
My work is not a personal attack on religious faith. It is a rational attack on irrational faith. As one who was immersed in the evangelical culture for fifteen years, I am fully aware of how evangelicals intransigent belief in divine inspiration supersedes science, reason and common sense whenever convenient. It may not be irrational to believe in the existence of God, but it is to believe in a perfect Bible full of errors, contradiction, incongruences and implausibilities. Faith is not an excuse to ignore facts and logic.
It has been my experience most evangelicals are born into the faith, which is to say, one or more of their parents was an evangelical. Others are converted through personal crisis, desperation, fear, loneliness or need making them vulnerable to exploitation. Those deeply invested in evangelicalism to this degree have a spiritual experience that overrides external influences which seek to undermine or deny it.
Right or wrong, religious faiths like evangelicalism provides their followers with real benefits like peace, comfort, strength, guidance, joy and most of all hope. Asking a person to give these up for intellectual honesty is asking them to commit spiritual suicide.
One might ask, “What’s the harm in letting evangelicals believe what they want if it makes the happy and gives them hope?” The stakes are high especially the future.
Evangelicals have gained unprecedented access and influence due to their unholy alliance with President Trump. Mixing religion and politics is a recipe for disaster history has witnessed many times, yet some Americans seem all too willing to repeat. The sacralism of the American political system has had deleterious consequences in the lives of many which may only worsen if Trump is reelected.
The damage caused by evangelical ideology in restricting or removing individuals rights and freedoms has increased in recent years. The LGBTQ, women’s advocacy groups, immigrants and minorities are among its favorite targets. I would add to this list, resistance to environmental regulations and influence in Middle East politics among its threats. Also, the fact evangelicals largely rely on repopulating the faith from within through conversion of children must be addressed. Socializing a child in the evangelical culture amounts to indoctrination. Furthermore, it can cripple a child’s intellect and retard his or her social development.
Finally, I have paid the price to be heard. I sacrificed the best years of my life as an evangelical Christian only to give it up because reason dictated I do. For years as a believer I was told doubt is good. It is meant to deepen one’s faith by forcing one to investigate the source, thereby, driving one closer to God. Implicit is the conviction doubt means one just doesn’t understand enough. However, the more knowledge I acquired, the harder it became to suppress my uncertainties until I had to resolve them.
I left Christianity but it did not leave me. The years I have spent on this exploration for truth have been painful. I have suffered immensely both financially and emotionally, but so too have those who have entered and exited my life. The agony of my quest to unearth the truth has been immense and too personal to share here. Nothing can ever make up for what has been lost. I have learned a great deal at a great cost, but if it has not been in vain, I will gain some comfort.
My hope is others might benefit from my efforts. Some who are looking for a reason to leave evangelicalism might find the answers here to take the first step. For others, perhaps I can plant a few seeds of doubt that one day may take root. We are all on a journey at different points along the path. Those who may not be receptive today might be inclined to listen tomorrow or the next day.
Our minds are our most prized and reliable resource. Faith is firmly rooted in an emotional experience that obscures rational objectivity. Each Christian embraces belief in the resurrection of Jesus to escape their fear of death and perhaps eternal torment. Many are unwilling to surrender this hope even if it costs their own intellectual integrity.
Sapere aude is Latin meaning “Dare to know.” Originally attributed to the Roman poet Horace (20BCE), it came to symbolize the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment. I pose it as a challenge to those imprisoned by fear to be emancipated by reason.