Dear Rhett (and perhaps Link also) —
I have been an Ear Biscuits listener since the podcast started, and watched GMM as a daily routine for years prior. I consider myself a mythical beast; I am one of the “spin the wheel of mythicality” outro people. I am the person which curates the “Stevie from GMM” playlist on YouTube, and have been a youtuber since 2007 and gone thru its various iterations like the stars system and annotations options.
I am also your age; I would have been in your grade and graduating class had I attended your school, and my birthdate occurred between yours and Link’s (Winter ’77). I didn’t live in/near Buies Creek, but I did go to a scout camp in Bowie Texas (pronounced the same minus, the s) which had a memorable creek. I have a tremor condition where I need to avoid using knives, which I suspect Link also has, based on a few mannerisms we share that are common to the condition. A great many memories of your era of school and college match up with mine really remarkably, and I understand perhaps more keenly than others, when you mention it was ‘a different time’ at those times. I did campus ministry things, tho not with CCC as we referred to it (also trying to avoid using ‘Crusade’) but with BSM/BSU (Baptist Student Ministry/Union).
I also grew up going to church, and believed I was a Christian for as long as I can remember; I got baptized at 8 years old, made the statements of faith in front of people, and all of the terms like ‘church home’ and going on missions, and etc, all ring familiar to me. I also believe you’re riiiiiight on the cusp of something enormously great spiritually but just not seeing it, and I hope I can at least point you in that direction, even if you’re unwilling.
I am also an arguer and rather enjoy(ed) unraveling others’ positions for them, which I think we can find brotherliness in. I feel like we could be graduating-class-mates who simply didn’t have the same ‘home room’ or matching individual classes as each other.
You mention in your follow-up podcast episodes that a lot of the responses seem dismissive that this is a very long process of deconstructing your faith which was previously so dear to you, and I don’t want likewise to seem dismissive of your lengthy journey, so I want to preface this letter as being in the spirit of, “as iron sharpens iron” and both having equal footing, and not being a situation in which one position is being spoken down upon. I just want to throw out some ideas, and feel at liberty to encounter them as you may.
Our stories are also similar in that I was also once a former-Christian, having cast aside the faith in a likewise lengthy process. It would have been very offensive to me to suggest that I hadn’t been one to begin with, as I had done bible drills, attended VBS in the summer, did the memory verses, baptized at age 8, I had made the statement of faith, was in the childrens choir from 1st thru 6th grade and got trophies for each year for sticking with it each year, and most of my friends were also Christians so I had the social shibboleths to say “yes, I really was a Christian before.”
Part of my deconstruction process however, included what I later realized was a necessary step (despite my not wanting to go down that path), of a really clicked-in realization that, if I am to fully commit to my agnostic or atheistic position, that I must also believe that since all of that is not real then therefore also I definitely must not really have been a Christian before, since there is by extension no such thing as Christians and that they’re all just fooled into it, and that I was fooled into it also.
I was “as far as anyone else could tell, myself included” a Christian, according to my understanding/standard of what made someone a Christian< -- I believed myself to be one previously, and turning from it and becoming not-one as a new identity, would necessitate also realizing with a clicked-in “I get it now” moment, that I also never was one since they can’t exist either.
I didn’t believe in the evidence supporting God’s existence, etc, and therefore by extension, I could also therefore not reliably claim to have been one either, since they themselves could not exist because the evidence for their belief system didn’t jive either.
They existed as people who believed themselves Christians, sure, but the underlying evidence for their belief is now suspect, and therefore their being-Christians is also by extension suspect, and therefore my own evidence for having been one is also suspect. I was only one, in the sens of, in context, having played the part well enough.
I did not want to return to Christ; I was not interested in being a prodigal son; I could not have returned to it, because as a point in my own deconstruction, I did finally realize that I had not even been it to return to.
I’m not saying you weren’t ever one, but the realization of the concept that “I never was one” was never something that could have clicked to me, for so long because I had all of the proof necessary to fully justify having been one, including all of the right buzzwords to say, all of the John 316’s, the Roman Roads, the dispensationalism, the post-/pre-trib yammering, calvinism, whatever.
I had all the evidence of being a Christian — in the same way that you would be able to visibly see all of the mouse ears, the ticket stubs, the word-for-word recitation of Lion King, Little Mermaid, etc songs, all of the theme park knowledge and experience including the retired Goofy-themed ride in Orlando that told about how electricity is generated, as evidence for me being a “Disney fan” and all of those experiences were real to me, but realizing that Christianity is not real by extension must include that I was never a Christian to begin with.
Think of the “Berenstein” Bears Mandela effect where people collectively have a false memory, according to evidence to suggest that was never even a thing. I could never have read a ‘Berenstein’ Bears book, if there had never been one, despite my belief that I had read one (a particular childhood memory I distinctly remember having was a classmates banter discussion about the pronunciation of Berenstein as being “steen or stine” and there would have been no discussion had it been spelled “stain”). The belief that I had been a participant of the thing, must also correspond to the evidence supporting the existence of the thing. That banter memory must also therefore be false or have false elements, but I still have that memory for some reason, so it is difficult to CLICK-IN that I never had that memory.
The cusp that I think you’re riiiiight up on, is that my newer understanding of “what it means to be a Christian” actually is compatible with most agnostic/atheism bullet points, and with science being a matter which better informs us about scripture, rather than conflicting with it.
Two things in scripture lead me to that idea: (a) what creed-style positions (virgin birth, pre-trib, etc) and what works could have the thief next to Christ held or performed, in order to be granted ‘paradise’, and (b) a reading of Galatians in a more figurative sense.
(a) The thief hanging on the cross next to Christ could not have done any works because he was literally nailed in place and couldn’t move. The only words we know, to his “credit” as being a Christian, were basically a paraphrased sentiment “think of me when you get there” and zero other information — and that’s ALL of the information we need to know about him. He had nothing whatsoever to contribute, and was not a Christian in any sense that I identified myself to be in the past to my credit as being one.
(b) If you read Galatians, Paul is basically RANTING about how the Galatians have established a kind of required-belief pattern, in order to prove you’re a Christian. In the particular Galatians case was that you must ‘accept’ Christ and also be circumcised. Paul blathers at length about how the circumcision is not needed anymore, because it’s not about proof anymore in the way that the law proved them righteous up until then; I read that at one point more figuratively as Paul being against the belief that, in order to be a Christian, you must (1) trust Christ’s merit in place of yours, AND (2) something else, like a creed of some kind.
The figurative style of reading of Galatians, spoke to me as being “what beliefs do I hold, which would fall into the category of, ‘in order to be a Christian I must trust Christ’s merit instead of mine, AND what else’, and how can I work toward removing those ‘what else’ bits.”
I have been in a long process of removing all of those what-elses from my faith-related thinking, that tag along like a cancer to faith, undetected by the immune system.
What other concepts are riding motorcycle-sidecar along with trust in Christ’s merit instead of trust in my own merit, that can be discarded as ‘required’ bits, which bog it down? What beliefs do I have that appear to be well-established buzzwords and always passed around as true, that can be eliminated, as previously being ‘just part of the faith’? Virgin birth? Bible inerrancy? Gays are evil? Abortion is wrong?
Did the thief on the cross next to Christ, need to hold a position on any of the creed-style elements popular today, or did Christ grant him paradise simply for recognition that it would be entirely Christ’s doing for getting the thief to the new place? The thief didn’t even need to believe in the resurrection. The sentiment of when you get there, regardless of whether I believe you can, or whether I think that is even possible, then think of me, is all we knew he had.
Each of those ‘you must also believe xyz’ bits to me are a cancer of faith, pretending to be part of it, but actually moreso establish ‘i deserve paradise, since I xyz’ concepts rather than it being fully Christ’s merit and zero of mine. In what ways can I moreso recognize that I am nailed up and can contribute nothing to the saving?
Is it required for a Christian to believe that Adam was a single person, rather than a generation of early humanoids, and why is it? If it is required, what was the thief on the cross next to Christ’s position on that subject, and since he didn’t have one, how did that thief gain paradise without having that position? Because it’s not necessary.
To me, therefore, I have deconstructed what it means to be a Christian to be far less membership-style and “hold xyz ‘also’ belief”, and more like the thief with no known positions on anything, incapable of contributing, and just having a single, “in the context of the story you’re saying to me, think of me when it’s accomplished” — he has no way to commit to it, no church attendance roll to sign; he can’t be baptized, he can’t kneel in a closet, had no knowledge of hell..
To me, you are becoming more and more like the thief, by throwing out all of the “required” bits, and I think that’s great. Also consider, however, ways in which science offers a clearer understanding of scriptural concepts, by challenging how it had once been interpreted. In your genetics discussion, did you encounter that males have a Y chromosome, and females have an X chromosome, therefore males are missing a “rib” in the XY vs XX sense? How would a person of Moses-era hunter/gatherer education level, have known to say something like that?