As I sit down to write, I’m reminded of this line from the movie Dune. Starting a new venture, one never knows what the final outcome will be. My hope is I will chronicle a journey. Not that I’m just beginning a journey now, but feel that the journey I have been on for many years has reached a critical turning point. With luck and some effort, I’ll be sharing my experience and thoughts as I work through this process.
First, let me tell you a little about myself. I was raised in an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist church, a church that believes the Bible to be the literal, inerrant Word of God. We went to church three times a week: twice on Sunday, and once on Wednesday nights. I understood that Jesus died for me, and I chose to be baptized at the age of 11. (What I thought I was repenting of, I can’t think now at the age of 43.)
Early on, I knew something wasn’t right. Little details here and there didn’t add up about our interpretation of the Bible. And it quickly became obvious that scientific theories — the big bang, evolution, etc. — AND the story of creation in the book of Genesis couldn’t both be right… could they? Maybe my faith wasn’t strong enough, or I didn’t understand the Bible well enough. I believed, but I also doubted. My doubts kept me from becoming a sunday school teacher or preacher — I wasn’t convicted enough or at least felt I didn’t know enough to teach what I would be expected to teach.
Despite my doubts, I continued to attend church services and participate in my congregation. Finally, in 1999 or 2000, I reached a breaking point. I could no longer accept what I heard taught from the pulpits and in bible study classes, and took a break from regular church attendance for about 8 years. During that break, I continued to read the Bible, read books about the Bible by a variety of authors, and meditated on the things I was reading. I felt that the religion I was raised on had missed the message of Christ, despite having given me a basic education in the Bible and a solid moral and ethical framework for living my life.
I reached a real watershed moment just over a year ago, when I read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. This is a very funny book, but it addresses the problem that fundamentalists have in our modern culture. And Jacobs quotes Marcus Borg, which led me to Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally which led me to Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture by John Shelby Spong. Finally, as the title of this blog may suggest, I have come through to The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. This is a lot of material to absorb in a short period of time, but my intuition tells me there is a better way to read the Bible than the way I was taught as a child.
Many people move from a devotional reading of the Bible to a historical-critical reading only to lose their faith. I feel there is a truth central to the message of Christ that transcends the literal words and the imperfect humans who have handed that message down over the centuries. By holding onto that truth, I’m hoping to chronicle my journey as I work my way through life, reading the Bible and applying my understanding of it the best way I can.
If you want to see a list of only my life story posts, click on My Life Story category.