My Struggles With Faith
My earliest recollections of religion involve going to Charles and Myrtle Eisenbacher’s house for Bible study. They were wonderfully, beautiful people who always had time to share a smile with us neighborhood kids, all of whom loved them for their gentle natures and sincere interest in how we were doing. If being religious meant being like them, it would have been easy because who wouldn’t want to be like them?
Once a week they would gather the neighborhood children and share stories about Eve talking to a snake, Moses parting the water, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, David killing Goliath with a stone, and many other stories that we gave little thought to since we were with people we adored, eating cookies and drinking juice.
Then my little brother David died.
We started going to church where I received my first Bible. We were told the same stories, but it wasn’t with the same love Mr. and Mrs. Eisenbacher had for us. We also had to learn Bible verses, some of which made me wonder if my little brother went to Heaven. I was assured he was in Heaven because we are to be as pure as the babe, but there was another requirement for me: believe in the Lord, and accept Him as my Savior.
I wondered about all the people in the world who were seven, like I was, who might be really good people, but who may not have heard about the Lord because they did not live near Mr. and Mrs. Eisenbacher. Are they doomed to hell? Apparently so because, I was told by the churchfolk, that belief in the Lord is the way to Heaven. They said this despite one of the verses we learned was "judge not, and ye shall not be judged."
Eventually, the recency of my brother’s death passed, and so did our devotion for going to church.
The next time I tried religion was in Basic Military Training. It gave us a break from the routine on Sunday mornings, but it also was a chance to really devote myself to Christ since our lives at that time were all about change. It seemed to me that learning to take commands from sergeants might make it easier to accept following commandments from God.
Neither really worked for me. I opted out of the military a couple of years later when President Carter gave us the choice, and my military career lasted longer than my devotion to church.
The third time I confessed was when my marriage fell apart. I started attending a Pentecostal church near my home. The music was good, the pastor was enthusiastic, and the parishioners seemed like good people. Perhaps I had found my home. My enthusiasm for church had never been greater!
There were still some questions I had, but I felt like those questions would be answered in due time. Maybe that was why I kept going, or maybe it was the opportunity to play on the church softball team.
It was not a particularly good team proved by the fact that I started and batted sixth. The pastor and two elders played college baseball, so there was some talent. However, that talent was evened out by the guy who was told to play right field and had to ask which field was right field.
We prayed to God before every game. I could certainly understand God letting the Baptists beat us, especially considering their minister hit the ball over the fence twice, but I never quite understood why He let the Buddhists beat us - not once but twice.
I mentioned I had some questions. One was about the pastor with a few parishioners going out to preach to the homeless when the homeless might be better served if we went out and gave them blankets and food. Another was about tithing ten percent to the church with the only noticeable difference as the congregation grew was the new BMW the pastor bought for himself.
The tipping point, however, was during one of the softball games. We were not a good team, but it was about fellowship and having fun more than winning. God seemed to make that abundantly clear when he let the Buddhists beat us, not once but twice.
However, one does not make a college baseball team without being competitive, and our pastor and one of our elders showed that side when they began arguing with the umpire over a close play at first base. It is one thing to make a comment about a bad call, but it is another thing to argue with the umpire about a bad call. It is one thing to argue with the umpire about a bad call in a professional game, and it is another thing to argue with an umpire about a bad call in a recreational league.
I simply could not believe my eyes or my ears.
Actually, I guess, I could believe my eyes and my ears. What I could not believe was two men who preach understanding and forgiveness, and who suggest to me that I could go to hell for not giving up ten percent of my earnings, were arguing with an umpire during a meaningless game in a recreational league, the purpose of which was fellowship.
I never attended church again, nor will I.
I decided to seek the truth on my own. I still love Jesus Christ, but I have difficulty with the concept of God.
I have been told God works in mysterious ways - so does the universe. The difference is that with the former I am required to believe in something that men have said did and does things that we now know are either false or explainable, whereas the latter allows for growth in knowledge and understanding. The former does not doom me to hell, but members of His fan club do unless I delude myself that explainable phenomena were really magic tricks. The latter allows me to understand that things like childhood cancer, death of loved ones and good people, and natural disasters are all part of the natural process, and not some master plan of an omniscient spirit who has everything planned out.
I find it impossible to have blind faith when I have been given both eyes and a brain, and, consequently, I no longer struggle with faith.
Some other things I've written about: