Oh the perils of post-modernity.
There once was a time where I was arrogant in what I thought I knew. I know, I know, many of you are thinking “once”? Let me explain.
I grew up in the South; or at least (if you don’t believe Dallas is in the True South) the Bible Belt. I was raised in an atmosphere that choked with fundamentalism. What’s more, I was fully enveloped in this culture as a Southern Baptist, and all of the cultural retardation that accompanied it. Most everyone in my world was “religious”. Actors and “liberals” were the only ones that were “atheists”, and they were all in Hollywood, D.C., or Berekeley–far, far away. I lived my younger years not knowing even of the existence of other “denominations”. Everyone in Texas was either Catholic or Southern Baptist, and in Sunday School they taught me that Catholics believed in salvation by works and were therefore not going to heaven anyway. Only we Baptists were right. In short, I grew up with a sense that I was part of the cosmic “in” crowd: God’s One and Only Faithful.
All I needed to do (I reasoned) to maintain this sense of security and God’s favor was to learn the specifics of what it meant to be a Southern Baptist and then go all in. I became the star pupil in every Sunday School class. I brought all my friends to Vacation Bible School. I memorized all the Bible verses for children’s church, and got all the candy and gold stars. Even when my parents stopped going to church (though maintaining their faith–more on that later), I continued getting up every Sunday morning, dressing myself, and having my mom drive me and my soccer coach’s son to church (he was my token “non-Christian” I “was trying to get saved” by taking him to church with me).
I did the obligatory “re-dedication” in middle school and then had the requisite “mystical spiritual experience” thing in high school, leading me to a couple of years of pouring myself all the more fervently into church activities, now at the cost of my family. Evangelism was Monday night, Wednesday was the Church dinner and Youth Group, Thursday morning was the weekly breakfast Bible study I led, Outreach on Friday, and Sunday was two Sunday Schools, the main service, apologetics class, leadership meeting, choir practice, and evening service. I became well versed in the doctrine, culture, politics, and judgments of my Southern Baptist context.
This was not borne of pride, mind you, as many are oft to assume. This was from a deep-seated fear; a fear that really has clung to me my entire life: when all is said and done, I will not be found pleasing or loved. Notice I did not say “acceptable”. This is not a fear that I will not be let “in” at the end of all things, but’s an insecurity that I am not actually pleasing to God, the One for Whom I know all my deepest affections are set. A fear that I’ll technically get in to His Presence at the end of all things based on Christ’s sacrifice, but there will be nothing unique to me that God will find loving or enjoyable.
This has caused me to walk with this damn swagger I find myself constantly having to try and shake off; that look of condescending pity I have when some “poor, naive, ill-informed” person is saying something I disagree with; that firm surety and dogged confidence behind every single word I say, no matter how inconsequential the topic. This is because my heart seeks to find its security in being right and acting right. Or at least feeling that way. All this formed much of the foundation of my personality–my default mode, if you will.
Tomorrow (or the next day) I will conclude this little mini-memoir (a “mini-moir”?) by letting you all know why I’m writing this in the first place and what all of this means for the blog and the direction I’d like to go with it in the season to come.