A Brief Dave Religion Timeline
age 8: I convert to evangelical Christianity by reading the Jack Chick tract classic, "This Was Your Life!", which someone left in the schoolyard. This conversion squares with other members of my family's own experiences (especially my father), and we start going to charismatic and Pentecostal churches.
age 8-early teens: I am introduced to the concept of using the Bible to solve problems and to correct errors, because dad quizzes us in the car after every church service: "Did you notice that the sermon today took Acts 5 out of context and mishandled Isaiah? What he said is almost directly contradicted by the book of James..."
age 19: I enter college, intending to major in Religious Studies and become a pastor---and, I feel sure, a great writer who will be the evangelical version of religious writers like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Flannery O'Connor
In college, in no particular order:
* I start attending religious studies classes and discover that non-Christian religions teach things that I thought Christianity had a lock on (such as grace).
* I also discover that other religious traditions read the Bible very differently, and that in many cases, their arguments better explain the text.
*Ditto for liberal exegesis, which takes away the holy aura around the Bible, but definitely gives me a better understanding of how texts are dated, where certain errors lie, and why, when dealing with works from antiquity (religious or not), it's always best to be skeptical about claims of authorship.
* I discover that, in visiting the Catholic student center, that it's possible to worship every week with people whose politics are completely opposite of yours (in MY church, everyone was a Republican), to read the Bible unworshipfully and still get things out of it, and---most interestingly---to understand history, warts and all, without making excuses for your church's past behavior. (In MY church, when you brought up the Crusades, my people would always say, "Those people weren't really Christians like us." The Catholics tended to say, "We really fucked up that time. Christians do that.")
* I notice, with some suspicion, that the only things evangelicals have ever accomplished in literature is science fiction and fantasy---especially books for children. By contrast, almost every other major Christian tradition---especially Catholics, but the Russian Orthodox and Lutherans have good run---is capable of writing actual classics that people of all belief systems return to again and again. Why is it, I wonder, that evangelicals don't seem to understand or tolerate art and ambiguity?
*I begin dating a woman whose brother is gay. (And, I should add, a wonderful guy I don't feel right about judging.) A few months later, in a single February, three of my best friends in the world all come out of the closet. I do the research and discover that, while I've been TOLD that science has an anti-religion, pro-gay agenda, in reality scientists, like evangelicals, assumed that homosexuality was a mental disorder for years. Then someone asked them to test it, and damned if homosexuals didn't come out sane. I realize that, in a similar situation, I would have done the same tests and reached the same conclusion. In a suddenly chilling moment, I realize that the Bible has made me a bigot and is actually morally unreliable.
*In the midst of all this, I also discover that I have a major psychosexual hangup. Praying and obeying the Bible doesn't help. Modern psychology (and porn) does. Who'd a thunk?
*Then I have the Best Sunday School Lesson Ever, which pretty much seals my impression that, by wanting to be good, and joining other good-desiring people in the evangelical church, I have unintentionally wound up in the church of the Pharisees.
Those last two points beg to be expanded, and I will. But now my workday has started. Maybe I'll write more at lunch.