A Preacher Boy’s Story
Let us begin with a few disclaimers. First, and perhaps most importantly, I do not hold to a view that philosophy has any value to save anyone in the docrtinal sense. The title is intentionally provocative to attract readers. Call it click bait if you like. I’m totally ok with that. Let the curious and curmudgeonly alike have at it!
Secondly, this is not a rip on the body of Christ or some lame apology for Christianity. Jesus is my hope, he has my allegiance, and I am part of his bride. There has been way too much of that “we’re-sorry-we’re-Christians” literature recently.
If you want a taste of this, may I suggest you read Preacher Boy: A Liberty University Graduate Bids Farewell to Falwell and Hello to Atheism.
It is a book you will want to throw across the room. Warning: there is significantly saucy language on just about every page.
The relaunch of this blog and this multi-part series is going to tell my story. I am often asked how I wound up teaching philosophy and theology to unchurched college students. That IS a great question! This was nothing I ever planned or dreamed. The road was long and so is the story. I will do my best to protect anonymity and reputation. But I will be honest as to how I had an Asaph, Psalm 73 crisis and how God rescued me from the edge and redeemed me for further ministry. And so it begins.
A Great Childhood
My story is not all that dissimilar from many, many others. You could say that I am what one might call a G.U.B.A. Grown up born again. I have never not known church life. In fact, there are two things that I cannot remember ever learning. They are my most distant of memories. The first is that I am adopted. My parents were very wise to decide to talk to me about this before I could even comprehend it. This made my childhood normal. They didn’t wait to until we were at a family reunion to sit me down and talk about it. The second is that I have always known that God loves me. I was adopted at three weeks old and my parents had me in church the first Sunday possible. This was the same Bible-believing church, in upstate NY, that I attended until I left home at 21.
I am a Christian. I gave my life to Jesus when I was five years old. At the time of this post, I have been a Christian for 40 years. I told you it was typical. There are no tales to tell of long stretches of open rebellion, a life of crime, or substance abuse. There were indeed rough patches, but they were relatively short and intermittent. Typical.
My parents loved me and sacrificed for me. I never felt abused, unwanted, or unloved. I never went without anything needed and I had more than I deserved. I had friends and activities. It was all good.
Learning What to Think
In my current role as a professor, I have come to learn that just about every student is conditioned to think a certain way. We tend to like to use the word “taught” and students certainly are, but I think it has more to do with being in environments that think certain ways. My childhood was no different.
One of the sacrifices my parents made was to enroll me in the Christian school my church owned. It was hard to draw a line between the school world and the church world. My high school classes met in the church, the youth group used the school van and gymnasium, my Bible teacher was my youth pastor, and I saw the same kids six days a week. Seven, if we had a soccer game on Saturday. Everybody in my youth group went to the school. We hardly ever had an outsider. They tended to visit a few times and that was about it. It was not intentional, but the wagons were circled rather tightly.
If this were one of those “how-Christianity-ruined-me” stories, this would be the place where the author would tear his childhood and its authorities a new one. I won’t do that. This environment protected me from a lot of nonsense that would probably have otherwise done me in early on. I fully realize the reality of debating what is best for our children’s education. That is the parent’s decision. I went to a Christian school and my kids go to the local public school. I am simply saying that God, in his providence, saw fit to have me in that particular environment from Pre-K through 12th grade. If my math serves me, that is fourteen years.
Because I am reaching the 800 word mark, I need to finish this off. Next week’s post will explore the particular way my community thought and how that shaped me for years to come.
My childhood was great, my environment was good, but my mind was prone to small thinking. I was on the road to becoming my church’s next preacher boy.