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Though I was raised in an atheistic home, I spent three years trying to be a Christian. A long series of vicious personal setbacks as a young adult prompted me to see if religion might help. Similar checks in my life today conjure up painful reminders of that attempt to bring focus and meaning to life.
And try I did: I approached that project with the same vigor that I've ever given to any pursuit. Faith has never come naturally to me, so I decided that my only hope was to form a support group and carve out a niche for myself.
Their warm-and-fuzzy talk of love and Jesus led me to assume that I merely had to make an effort and I'd fit right in. It turned out not to be quite that simple, but I had lots of patience, hoping it would pay off.
I tried several churches. Each stressed the importance of the Bible, saying that it's the only thing we should ever trust, and that we are to judge all things against what it says. They pointed out how thinking for myself had caused me only pain and woe.
So I decided to read this thing and see what it says. I didn't know at the time that most Christians, even in fundamentalist circles such as this, were almost entirely ignorant of what the Bible actually says.
But I didn't know this, and figured I had to become adept in Bible knowledge if I wanted to fit in. And I knew that fitting in was my only crack at figuring out this "faith" thing that people kept stressing.
So I vowed to become a Bible expert. And it worked, at first. The first church I hung out at was a uptown megachurch which had leased a defunct movie theater. My first Christian friend lived a block away, so I spent the days at her place while her husband was at work.
She took care of the kids and I read my Bible. I would find some poetic passage in Isaiah or the Psalms and would read it out loud. We'd fawn over the majesty of it all, and I'd go seek out more poetry to read.
Whenever I came across an awkward passage, I asked her about it. She never had the answers but trusted that the answers were somewhere. We went to a Bible store and I bought books that provided "answers" to the Bible difficulties. I studied these at my night job. I soon found my niche as an "answer man" of Bible problems.
But I never found that "fellowship" or "peace" I'd hoped to find in Christianity. I just kept trying, hoping it would eventually click for me and I'd fit in. But it never did.
People found me quite useful, but I had no close friends. No amount of study -- self-indoctrination -- brainwashing, if you will -- helped me to overcome the feeling of angst that has always been part of me. I prayed, "Lord help me in my unbelief" but He never came through. I was still alone in a crowded theater -- as bad off as I ever was.
I did help others to overcome their own doubts. They'd ask me all kinds of difficult questions, and I had answers they could live with. Many are believers today because I said the Bible is everything it's cracked up to be -- and they trusted my judgement.
To think I did all this hoping I might find purpose, fit in, and make a few friends.
When the big lie crashed down upon me, I began a grueling struggle out of a foggier angst than I had initially sought to escape.
Copyright ©2000 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon