Monday, April 10, 2006

My Story

A few people have asked me for more detail on my story. After all, it's our history that largely shapes who we are today. Understand a person's story and you'll understand a lot about what makes them tick and what makes them tick greatly influences the things they say. So, if you're going to read my blog, you might want to know how I got to where I am.
I was raised in a Pentecostal (Apostolic) home. My grandfather was a big-shot minister in the city I grew up in. I say that with much love and respect. One my fondest memories is going into his study and looking at the books and stuff on the shelves. I remember the smell of the place. It was very comforting to me for some reason. I'm sure that plays a role as to why I have so many books lining the bookshelves in my bedroom. My grandfather led a very large church. His style of preaching was quite unique. He was raised Methodist yet discovered "holiness". So, he was a unique combination of the two. But, "holiness" was the main thing I got from those early years. Staying separate and pure to please a God who seemed impossible to please.

I was taught about hell from the time I was five years old. My Sunday school teachers used to scare us with stories of the rapture and what would happen if we weren't ready. Left Behind (the novel series) was our regular Sunday School fare. Not being ready meant being in the wrong place when Jesus returned (like a movie theater) or in a bar (why they taught this to five year olds I don't know), or a skating rink. Also not being ready meant having any unconfessed sin. We were only "saved" as long as we repented for every sin. I asked to be baptized at a very young age simply to escape the fate of being sent to hell. But, my parent's wouldn't let me. So, I suffered severe anxiety wondering what my fate would be if Jesus did return or I died before I could be baptized and speak in tongues. I used to freak out if I couldn't find my mother or father in the house, thinking they had been raptured away and I was Left Behind.

After my grandfather died, we started attending a church where one of his proteges taught. I loved listening to him. He was an extremely intelligent and sincere man (as was my grandfather). I remember once our pastor taught about eternal security. People in the church went nuts. You can't go around telling people that they have security. Gotta keep 'em scared to keep 'em on the straight and narrow. Their answer to "eternal security", if you insisted on believing in such nonsense, was- if anyone "backslid" they had never been "saved" in the first place. So, my conclusion from this was you could fool yourself into thinking you were saved. Great! Another thing to worry about. While I thought I had been "saved", maybe I really hadn't. I had just fooled myself into thinking I was and when I died, I'd get the "Depart from me, I never knew ye" speech. I had finally convinced my parents when I was 13 to let me get baptized. I spoke in tongues. So, I was "saved" right? No. I always doubted this experience and never quite feel like I measured up. Other people were saved. But, I wasn't. I was just a fraud.


I had migraine headaches as a child. Ironically (or not), they went away about the time I was baptized. I don't know if there's a connection there or not. But, unfortunately, the panic attacks started soon after that. They would happen most frequently when I was in church My other grandfather died in church giving his "testimonial"- later in therapy I figured out that had something to do with my fear of church. But, I think the biggest reason for my fear of church is they were always talking about hell and death. I was fixated. I had hadephobia big time. I never really loved God (I loved Jesus). But, I feared God. To me, He was big big old man who wanted nothing more than to catch me in some sin, kill me before I could repent and torture me eternally. Fortunately, I could hide behind Jesus. But, would He really protect me when the time came for judgement?

When I got out on my own, I stopped attending church. I never lost faith. But, I didn't see the point in going to be tortured every week. Panic attacks were most prevalent in church (I did have them in other places). So, avoiding it made a lot of sense to me. I wouldn't say this was a fully conscious decision. I really wanted to love God. But, it was hard. I can't say I really got a lot out of church in those days. When I got married, my wife finally got me to go back to church. But, it wasn't great. I did it mostly for her. I began exploring other faiths, not seriously, as in converting to them. But, mostly out of curiosity. I did some reading on Kaballah (Jewish Mysticism), Paganism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, read the Tao Te Ching and I can't remember what else. I knew I was a deeply spiritual person and couldn't abandon that. But, this image I had of God and my relation to Him was literally killing me. I saw beauty and truth in other religions. But, I couldn't bring myself to dump my Christian roots- as much as I wanted to at times.

Fast forward about some years and the panic attacks became overwhelming. I finally let people know I was having them and began to see a Christian counselor who helped me work through them. I had several issues. But the biggest one was that I never felt that I measured up. I never felt I had "earned" God's love. I knew that theologically our churches spoke of "relationship not religion" and "grace". But, I didn't see those things practiced. What I saw was judgment. And, I saw people worshipping a monster. Anyone who could torture anyone for any reason, for an eternity was someone to be feared, in my eyes.

Sometime around the beginning of 2004 (after my counseling had helped repair my self-image and my image of God somewhat), I discovered UR. Wow! This made so much sense to me. I began reading everything I could on the subject and was blessed enough to find a Yahoo group where that was the central theme. Finally, someone had a picture of a God that I could both love and respect and yes, even admire. I set off on a journey of rediscovering Christianity.


Around the time I discovered UR, I started looking into meditation. Christian meditation is sometimes called "contemplative prayer". I've been practicing for about 2 years now and it has made a major difference in my mental state as well as the way I view the world.


I started the blog to help spread the word about UR. My mission is to Christians who are looking for more hope from their faith and who cannot (or do not want to) believe their God is the monster they have been told He is. I'd also like to reach those who have rejected (fundamentalist or evangelical) Christianity because of its narrow-mindedness, exclusiveness, homophobia and or sexism. With the message board, I hope to bring together many Universalist voices that are currently scattered all over the Internet.


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26 comments:

Leslie said...

Whew! Thanks so much for writing this blog. I stumbled on it last night and have been laughing in relief to know that there is someone out there,somewhere, who has had a similar truth-seeking journey and has come to most of the same conclusions. Here is a link to the introduction of my blog where I have tried to scrape together anything I could find on mysticism and spirituality: http://religionandpoliticsrant.blogspot.com/2009/04/introduction-read-me-first.html
Thanks again for your writing!
Leslie

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Great post, Brian. Glad I finally got to read it. I'm also happy that you are on a much more serene spiritual path.

Andrew said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. I left my fundamentalism behind a long time ago as well. I also experienced a time of limbo when I had rejected the god I grew up with but had not yet grown to know the God I love now.

Jeremy said...

Brian,

Thanks for your life story. I have had to deal with panic attacks my whole life (I'm 58) and have only recently become a "hopeful" Christian Universalist. I haven't found many of my Christian brethren who are like minded so it's great to meet you - even if over the internet.

Keep spreading the "Good News"!

Blessings from your brother in Christ,

Jeremy

brian said...

Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear about your panic attacks. I know how awful those are. I'm glad to hear you've discovered Christian Universalism. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Peace,
Brian

Jason Bishara said...

Hey Brian,

I was wondering if i could link your story too one of my posts?

Well i kinda have already but i just realised i should have got your permission first lol?

http://anhonestsearchfortruth.blogspot.com/2010/07/life-after-death.html

Just email me if you want me too remove it,

Thanks

Jason

www.anhonestsearchfortruth.blogspot.com

Lauren said...

Good to get to know you, Brian. Our God is the beautiful Father of reconcilation, and ALL are His children. We are safe within Him. It's been a glorious journey to get to know the Father better, and my husband David and I are embracing God's judgements each day as He burns up the sinful nature within us. Come visit us sometime -- we're in Australia!

Alicia said...

Thank God for showing you the truth of his Love for all mankind, and destroying the myths that are so damaging in so many ways to humanity. Glad I found your blog, keep sharing and feeding his sheep. GBU!

Momma Bear said...

I enjoyes this. Im always feeling like im not doing well enough for god. But will he save those who murder too? This is where I run into problems with this thinking. Please enlighten me.

brian said...

Momma Bear,

That's a great question. Will G-d save those who murder, too? Well, there are a couple of ways to look at that question. I think we'd agree that all sin (and fall short of the glory of G-d). So, we must agree that G-d can forgive those sins somehow, if we're talking about a matter of us earning our salvation. To what degree can G-d forgive sin? Can he forgive lying but not adultery? Can he forgive gossip but not theft? Can he forgive cheating but not murder? The question of whether G-d can save those whose murder is one of us putting limitations on G-d's ability.

The other way to look at it if you want to look at it from a payment for sin perspective is what is a just punishment for murder? Human beings lock murderers up for a period of time to protect society and to punish the murderer. Sometimes we lock them away for the rest of their natural lives. Maybe as long as 50 or 70 years if they are young when they commit the crime and live a long time. But, would we even dream of keeping a man incarcerated for an eternity for any crime? Not only that. But, if you believe the traditional teaching on Hell, keep him incarcerated AND torture him without ending? What of a man who committed a murder during the time of Jesus? He'd be coming up on 2,000 years of torture now and that's just the beginning. Is this justice? So, even if G-d punishes sin by somehow exacting revenge, the idea that He'd inflict an infinite amount of punishment for a finite amount of sin violates any human sense of justice.

Momma Bear said...

Makes sense. Someone recently told me that God has already reconciled all men to Himself, and we just have to accept it. So, basically she's saying that Christ came to reconcile us to God, so that's done. I guess those that accept it go to heaven, and those who don't, go to hell. So, ultimately it is not God who does it, it is us who send ourselves to heaven or hell. I'm still not sure about this thinking, but I'll be doing some research on my own. Thanks for your reply.

The Peace Abbey Blog said...

BEING US: A Panentheist Affirmation
By Lewis M. Randa
We can assume God is much more than what is taking place in the cosmos — but it is enough to know that where God exists on Earth is as personal as each beat of our heart, for we are the outward and visible embodiment of Godhood. We are the physical form, imbued with a concept of self that at once denies we are God, while existing for the sole purpose of God being us. And in being us, God experiences in the “first person”, the reality It creates.

Peace,
Lewis Randa
The Peace Abbey
www.peaceabbey.org

rachaeleliz94 said...

You’ve been nominated for a Liebster Blog Award: http://rachaeleliz94.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/liebster-blog/ :D

brian said...

Wow. Thanks, Rachel!

Mark Bishop said...

I am a struggling Charismatic/Pentecostal trying to make sense of the past 30 years. Thank you for putting me in a direction that will help. I started a blog (questions-faith.blogspot.com)
please if you get a chance stop by.

ps. I loved Peter Rollins book "Insurrection"

doGraeF said...

Thanks, mate! I recently embraced Universalism and love it! Now, in regards to one of the above comments. I know it is popular to put it that way: "People send themselves to hell by rejecting Christ". But if that is true, why did Jesus Christ not say this of the Samaritans that had just "rejected him" (FLAT-OUT) in Luke Chapter 9? The disciples (James and John) were certainly talking along such "fiery" lines! What did Jesus, however, do? He turned and rebuked them, and said, "Ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of - for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." By no means would I counsel anyone to reject Christ - but Joseph's brothers sure rejected him; and Joseph did not torture even one of them! And Joseph is typical of Jesus Christ, hands down. Every one of those nasty brothers bowed the knee to Joseph, and every one of our nasty knees is going to bow, and our nasty tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And if you read Isaiah 45, you find that the context of the verse to which Paul refers back in Phil 2 is the salvation of all the ends of the earth.

Talywaly said...

Hi Brian,
I just really need to tell you this. I'm a 16 year old girl and, believe it or not, ever since I was 9, I have been a struggling Christian. I always always believed in God, I never inside of me doubted him, but I just could never understand why I was being taught that this God I love was so unloving when they told me that he was Love. I'd had personal experiences with him when I was 5 and inside I felt they were wrong. Back then though, I had been told that these feelings were evil and if I don't stop, I'm going to hell.
I was like you and felt physical pain about this for years. It only got worse as my eyes opened wider about the world and the truth my own spirit was pushing me too: my heart was actually disagreeing with the old Southern Baptist fundementals that have been etched into my being by birth. I felt that no one was seeing God right and because I felt that, I felt evil. I would even scream for demons to come out of me when I did that because I love God, I don't want to not be unfavorable to him, and my church told me that demons cause these thoughts so I thought I had to call them out.
The last three years has been me knowing that the Christianity I knew had something wrong, but I still saw the Church's word as God's absolute law, so everything I thought came with terrible paranoia. I almost denounced God period and became an atheist at age 14, and I almost did again last month. When I was 14 was because the Christianity I knew just didn't seem logical and the last time because I knew, I just knew God is there, due to my own experiences, but I was just so tired. I have read about other religions and see their beauty and the truth buried in them, but I couldn't understand why mine was so corruptly contridicting and cold. But at the same time, God and Jesus are so close to me. So I just wanted to drop all of this and give up. It was just too hard and I just wanted to find anybody, even a person, that understood the loving God and Jesus I worship, but what all that seemed to exist was "Christians" that claimed He loved everybody and Jesus saved all when they also said that the gay man next to me shouldn't even try to be a Christian because he was hellbound.
Then I found you. This is the point: thank you so much. When I read this blog and then read up on Universalism, I wanted to cry. I really did. This is what I believe in, Christian Universalism, and you showed me it.
I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he wanted us to be fishers of men. You didn't press anything on me or preach to me or shoved anything down my throat with a flaming cup of Hell to go with it. You lived your life and through your life, I found out that I'm not evil for believing that my God is endlessly loving with no confusing schizophrenic strings attached. He is Love and you introduced me to that.
Thank you. (':

Talyah

brian said...

Talyah,

Thanks for taking the time to write. You have no idea how much your comment means to me. You literally brought goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes. I am so very happy that me sharing my journey has helped you with yours.

I wish you peace as you continue to grow in God's love and grace. Please let me know if there is any way I can help. I have been studying Christian Universalism for about a decade now.

Peace,
Brian

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Wow, Talyah! You sound like one smart young lady! :-)

Still chuckling at your "flaming cup of Hell" line, lol!

Kitty Pride said...

Hi! Thank you for your blog. I grew up the same way only my father was a preacher and eventually a pastor. To make matters worse I grew up COGIC, so I know what you went through. I have been studying Buddhism, Taoism and other philosophies and interestingly they helped me understand Christianity even more. I can now say that my personal religion is love and I'm not going back.

Keep speaking your mind! I definitely am. I started blogging about sex for the same reason you blog about UR. Dogma and legalistic religion pushed me to read and understand sex for what it is. So even though growing up was torture, it brought you to where you are now in your journey.

I hope to hear from you very soon and I look forward to your next blog. Peace!

Lekeisha aka Kitty Pride

LaciColleen said...

Hi Brian- Just adding to the chorus here, but thank you, so much. I too was raised Pentecostal ( Church of God) and still suffer from anxiety daily due to what I was exposed to ( the only verse I remember from going to church as a child is the "it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgement" one). I've recently started studying Universalism but its still hard to completely let go of the "what if I'm wrong" fear that I carry from my youth. Your site helps more than you realize. Thanks, again and again

brian said...

Keep studying, LaciColleen. The early church fathers believed in universalism and it is a biblical perspective.

Nahaliel said...

Brian,

I absolutely loved your testimony. WOW!! To find another African-American Christian Universalist is incredibly exciting!!! In addition, I am very interested in "contemplative prayer" as well. My email address is woodrow.lucas@gmail.com, please write me ASAP!!!

Ross Marshall said...

I spent 30 years battling old tradional orthodoxy, and met many good people, but unfortunately ignorant of this Un. Sal., Now, ONE professor and I write commentaries. Our new book will help you all...
books by under name, Ross S Marshall, on Amazon. THE ALL MANKIND BIBLE COMMENTARY. 500p. For scholars only! LOL :o)Also FREE on request by me. ROSS - I can be reached (for free PDF's copies) at Weirdvideos.com

Ross Marshall said...

UNIVERSALIST BIBLE ANSWER MAN here...
PS. ROSS MARSHALL here, commentator on Un. Salvation: THE ALL MANKIND BIBLE COMMENTARY. I will answer ANY and ALL questions, verses you have bugging you. I have 40 years of Bible training. They are very simple to answer in the CONTEXT of a Universalist's mind-set. Eternal damnation = the Greek text "damnable-heresies" or "damming heresies".... :o) Peter was a U.R and not an E.T., for he said: 1 Pet 4:6. Gospel is preached to the DEAD too...
:o)
Go for it! Ask me the hardest question you can dig up.

Cristiano Gentili said...

Dear Brian,

I am the founder of #HelpAfricanAlbinos and personally write to you kindly requesting your support because you, as an Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer, are a person who I believe can make a difference.

I would like to draw your attention to a new novel, “Then She Was Born” that also forms part of an international human rights campaign which has been endorsed by Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and eleven Nobel Peace laureates who lent their voices and who each read aloud a different sentence of the novel, recording a video message and being pictured alongside the official hashtag #HelpAfricanAlbinos.

“Then She Was Born” is an independently published work of fiction that meets the same standards as books published by mainstream publishers. You are an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer and your honest (but not mandatory) review of the book would allow this story and the reality faced by many to become noticed.

The e-book is published through Amazon KPD select (free for Kindle Unlimited and Prime) but if you prefer I can send it to you as a gift. There is no obligation of a review.

It would be my pleasure, if you agree, to mention your name in the e-book in the “thanks” section and your review, if you have a blog, will be showed on the official website campaign (HelpAfricanAlbinos.com) with a link attached.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your understanding and time with this important matter.

With my best regards,

Cristiano
Cristiano@HelpAfricanAlbinos.com
Link to Kindle: https://goo.gl/TzPko3