In now-abandoned corners of the internet I recently found some words from eight years ago. I was nineteen years old when I wrote them, living and working at a homeschool cult center, attending a fundamentalist baptist church.  

Reading these words now, it’s like peering inside the mind of a boy I hardly recognize – wrapped in chains of fear and doubt, a prisoner of fundamentalism. But I want to show them to you, because this is real. This is how religious bondage works. This is how fear works to silence the quiet whispers of hope. 

These words bear witness to chains. But also, they bear witness to the first day toward freedom. 

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March 6, 2006

Yesterday I read Blue Like Jazz.

I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, because I knew it would mess with my head and I was happy with the way things were. But I was curious.

I finished the book at exactly midnight last night. It messed with my head.

He talks about the questions many of us have about this “Christianity” that’s so important to us. A constant theme of the book is true love… love like Jesus. It’s one of those books that challenges every stereotype and prejudice I have about life and the way it works, and forces me to either reject it all outright or think through it all.

Yesterday as I was reading I was suddenly inspired to renounce Republicanism, move to Oregon, and sit around in coffee shops having deep discussions with strange people. This is the lifestyle that the author lives. It sounded interesting to me, and very…. refreshing?

But then while I was doing dishes last night I had an argument with myself:

“You believe what you’ve been told to believe.”

No I don’t, I believe what I believe because it’s true.

“The only reason you think it’s true is becuase you belive it, and the only reason you believe it is because you’ve been told to.”

“But if it wasn’t true I wouldn’t believe it, even if I was told to.”

“How do you know? The only reason you say it’s true is because that’s what you’ve been told, so that’s what you believe.”

(There are two logical traps that keep my mind imprisoned. This was the first one.)

In the end it was a pointless argument. I finally told myself to shut up, and finished with the all-conclusive statement, “Whatever works for you.”

After sleeping on it for six hours, I woke up this morning thinking it can’t possibly true.

“After all, he wrote portions of it in a pub, and he was drinking beer. It also says that he listened to rock music, and secular music. Furthermore, he attends a church where the people look like ‘rock stars and fruit nuts’. How could there possible be any truth in this stuff?

I mean, he even smokes a pipe! And he lived in a house with a bunch of guys, and one of them was a communist, and they went to anti-Bush rallies together.

Yes, the Devil is using the confused leftist writer to spread lies. Aha! I shall not move to the West Coast and sit around in coffee shops all day after all.”

While I was reading, I had thought, “Everybody should read this. It’s so good.” But then later, “Nobody should read this. It’s too confusing.”

This led to another argument with myself:

“You like life the way it is. Don’t ask questions.’

“But I don’t REALLY like life. What if there’s more?’

“He’s a leftist. He wants you to ask questions, to take you away from the truth.”

“Yeah, but the right-Wing fundamentalists don’t want me to ask questions.”

“You can ask questions. Just don’t find different answers.”

That’s a trap the right-wingers use to keep me trapped.”

“Well, what more do you want?’

That argument with myself really didn’t go anywhere. It was mostly confusing.

(This is the second logical trap that keeps my mind imprisoned.)

The author talked alot about love. Maybe he didn’t talk about love any more than he talked about riding his motorcycle around, but I noticed it. Something about “Love everybody, that’s what Jesus would want us to do. That’s what He did.” I think it’s inherently Biblical. How it is worked out is where a lot of people go wrong on both sides.

Does God really mean everybody? Does that include hippies and gays and anti-Bush people and Democrats and Third-World Country people and leftists and everybody? Does that mean that the Church really should love people, after all? That’s what Jesus said, isn’t it?

Does perfect love really cast out fear?

[ image: Danny Bradbury ]

If you enjoyed reading this post, I’d love to give you my ebook with more words I wrote around the same time. It’s called “Leave: Stories from a Restless Heart”, and you get get it for free right here

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