So, I am just minding my own business on a lazy New Year’s Day, when I stumble upon an article from the Huffington Post that has hit my Facebook news feed. The article, titled “A Year Without God: A Former Pastor’s Journey Into Atheism”, quickly catches my eye. The piece starts with this question:What difference does God make? I am hooked. I dive in.
Ryan J. Bell, a former Christian pastor, has become, shall we say, “disenchanted” with “The Church”, as it were, and has fully committed himself to a year of exploring and researching atheism, and living, to the best of his ability, as an atheist. In his article, Bell describes his lifelong journey with Christianity as somewhat of a struggle, alluding to tensions among his identity as a seeker, a believer, a pastor, and the fundamentals of the doctrine that he has come to question. After a series of events, he soon became apathetic to his calling, and reluctantly resigned his pastoral position when challenged by the church for his “unconventional” approach to ministry, hence his 52 week existential experiment of sorts.
I am fascinated by Bell’s approach to his spiritual journey. For those who know me, my own Christian faith has been shaken for years. My early spiritual socialization wreaked havoc upon my early understanding of the heart of God. My soul was washed in a jacked up doctrine of Christianity that was fraught with judgment and anger, painting a picture of a god who seeks to punish rule-breakers and stands aloof at the gates of heaven. I identified myself as a Christ follower and still do. However, it has only been in recent years has my understanding of God begun to change. My heart, not just my head, understands what it means to be loved by God.
I have had my own brushes with spoiled religion and hypocrites who say they love Christ. The duplicity to lead one life in church and another on the streets was more than I could process. I couldn’t make sense of it at all. My head knowledge of God, the Bible, and the Church was not enough to keep me from the unsavory taste of the kind of Christianity I had experienced. I read Hitchens and grappled with the man-made spiritual teeter-totter that tries to balance “traditional” Christian values within our current sociocultural context. This is no easy task, and simply left me questioning why, for the love of God and all that is holy, would mortals seek to reach an untouchable deity. And so I went. It was not until a very wise soul told me to ditch the god of my youth that I actually began to seek God in His purest form. I am a Christian. I never “left” the faith, per se. I simply rejected the world’s doctrines and human interpretations of God that left me disappointed and dissatisfied. As I grow as a Christian and seek to be conformed to Him, I am still, everyday, on a quest to ask, seek, and knock. Therefore, when I saw Bell’s article, I saw an opportunity to really challenge myself and take a journey with a fellow sojourner on the road toward Truth.
Bell has a year to marinate in atheism. I have taken to Twitter (https://twitter.com/yearwithyahweh) and told Bell that I would spend this same year in opposition to his spiritual investigations. Instead of delving into life as an atheist, I will run with abandon to the One whom my soul seeks. I will read even more scripture, study the literature of Christian authors and philosophers, and be even more intentional about surrounding myself with people who are Christ-followers, all whilst seeking the authentic and real meaning of authentic faith. This should be quite interesting.