Long Strange Trip

I’ve been a Christian for ten years now. What a long strange trip it’s been.

Grateful Dead - Long Strange Trip

The Priest And The Pastor

When I returned to church after many years away, my first stop was the Catholic Church. I grew up Catholic, so it was the natural choice. I started attending Sunday mass at a nearby church. Before each mass, the priest would walk the pews, asking everyone how they’re doing, calling people by name, looking people in the eye and expressing genuine concern for them. “Joe, how’s your knee?” “Sue, how’s your daughter and her new baby?” He asked me my name the first time I attended his church. He made his congregation feel welcome, and he never asked us for a dime.

Two years later I started attending an Evangelical church, because the Evangelical church supposedly aligned more closely with the Bible’s teachings. If you don’t know what an “Evangelical” church is, it’s a church also referred to as a “non-denominational” or “Bible-believing” church.

Soon after I started attending this Evangelical church, the pastor asked his congregation for money to support his vision of a church building. Then he asked for more. Then more. Then, one day, he actually asked his congregation to consider cashing in their 401k accounts to finance his vision.

I was an usher that day. A family had just moved to town and were looking for a new church. They decided to try ours. I warmly welcomed them, and seated them. Imagine being them as they sat in this church for the very first time and heard the pastor ask his congregation to sell their 401k accounts to support his vision. Needless to say, I never saw them set foot in that church again.

But there’s more. In the years I attended that church, the pastor never once asked me my name. I’m not talking about a Joel-Osteen-sized church. I’m talking about a congregation comparable in size to the Catholic church I attended. Yet the priest asked me for my name, and not my money; and the pastor asked me for my money, and not my name.

A long strange trip.

Catholic Sawdust. Protestant Planks.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” ~ Matthew 7:3-5

I was also discovering that despite their enthusiasm to point out Catholicism’s theological errors, Evangelicalism (and Protestantism in general) has more than its fair share of theological errors. I was taught from the Evangelical pulpit and from Christian radio that the church would be raptured before the Great Tribulation. Yet when I completed reading the Bible from cover to cover, I realized that it said no such thing. I was taught from the pulpit and from Christian radio that the Roman Empire will revive in the latter day to become the empire of the Antichrist. Yet the Bible says no such thing. I was taught from the pulpit and from Christian radio that the seven “apocryphal” books that Martin Luther threw out of the Bible were not trustworthy. Yet the Evangelical pastors telling me this never offered one piece of evidence to support their claim. So I read these books for myself, and tested their prophetic and historic veracity, and found them to be absolutely trustworthy.

In fact, these seven books were in the Septuagint, the Bible that Jesus and the Apostles used, and Jesus and the Apostles had no problem with these books! Yet I am supposed to take the word of Martin Luther (who lived 1,500 years after Christ) and today’s Evangelicals (2,000 years after Christ) who offer me no evidence, over the fact that Jesus Christ himself and the Apostles had no problem with these books?!?!

A long strange trip.

Iron Sharpens Iron

To be fair, the average Evangelical can talk circles around the average Catholic with respect to Bible knowledge. However, the average Evangelical is very much aware of this, and very much accustomed to being superior to the Catholic in Bible knowledge, so much so that the average Evangelical is completely unaccustomed to being challenged on their own Bible knowledge. Therefore, the average Evangelical is easily and greatly offended at the mere thought that they could be wrong about anything. This is a dangerous mindset that does not allow iron to sharpen iron, and it permeates Evangelical pulpits and Evangelical pews alike.

I’ve asked Evangelical pastors intelligently-worded questions on things they’ve said, questions liberally sprinkled with sugary complements and words of thanks and encouragement, kind words, yet because the Biblical answers to my questions would violate the man-made traditions taught by these pastors, they respond with silence, avoidance, or a quick change of the subject.

I’ve asked Evangelical Christians (and Protestant Christians in general) questions aimed to clarify possible misunderstandings my formerly Catholic mind may have had about certain Protestant principles. But the deafening silence I got as a response to some of these questions made me very suspicious of the infallibility of Protestant doctrine. For example, when I started to suspect that the pre-trib rapture was nowhere in the Bible, I figured I must be wrong, so I asked my Evangelical brothers and sisters to show me the pre-trib rapture in the Bible. The fact that none of them could do it, and that most refused to even try, greatly disappointed me and accelerated my disillusionment with Evangelicalism specifically, and Protestantism in general.

It’s bizarre. Americans disagree vigorously about football in the most crude, insulting, boastful, in-your-face manner, yet go right back to being friends afterward. Yet many Protestants are too fragile and frail to handle the slightest scrutiny of their theology, no matter how kindly and politely it is posed. Iron is supposed to sharpen iron, not cause it to collapse like a house of cards.

A long strange trip.

Island Of Misfit Christian Toys

Ten years in, I am neither Catholic nor Protestant. I am independent, like Hermey the Elf from Rudolph.

Hermie and Boss

But that’s okay. Where God guides, God provides. Hermey the Elf and I each have our Island of Misfit Toys. We each have friends, and we each have a place where we belong.

Island Of Misfit Toys 1

I’m blessed to have a small group of friends who dig into the Word of God with such zeal, and whose hearts are so devoid of pride, that no Biblical topic I can raise makes them like a deer in headlights, unwilling and unable to respond. They communicate with me, instead of shutting down.

And I have met a pastor with a kind soul, and a warm heart, who accepts me and puts up with my nonconformist understanding of the Bible. He may not always agree with me, but he never shuns me, and he always keeps the communications lines open. Very refreshing, and very inspiring indeed!

I feel at home on the Island of Misfit Christian Toys. And slowly but surely, God is filling this Island with good company.

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