Addicted To Testimonies

George has a problem:

If there is one thing I am addicted to from my years of being a Christian, it is testimony.  The church I attended loved testimony.  Every week, a member of our congregation would stand before the whole church and bare their soul, witnessing to the glory of Christ.

To this day, every time I wander onto a Christian blog, the first thing I look for is ” The Testimony”.  I naively keep expecting that I’ll find something different; yet I always am let down to find that testimony is a formula, everyone takes the same road to Christ.

And George spells out the formula:

Almost to a one, every Christian I know has been one since childhood, we all went to school together, we talked, we were friends.  If I am to believe the testimony, I have to admit that I was woefully ignorant to the challenges my friends faced in their walk with Jesus.

From testimony, I know this:

1. Almost every Christian has been an atheist, or flirted with Wicca, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Paganism.  Every single one has doubted enough to abandon the faith for some alternate philosophical possibility.

2. Virtually every one of these people has felt entirely unfulfilled by any other way of thinking, as though there really was no merit to any other option.

3. Each of these people has been overcome by the temptations of a material world, they made bad choices: drugs, sex, lack of self-respect.  They have seen the dark side, they have let it take hold of them.

4. Most received a personal message from Jesus that led them right to the church that either their close friends attend or they were born into but left.

5. This process led to them accepting Jesus into their lives, and they live happily ever after. (Mostly)

The problem I have is that I have evidence that suggests that this never really happened.  Some might surely be drawn from experience, but much is hyperbole.  If my Christian friends wavered in the faith, they certainly never let on to me.  If they were reading books on Wicca, or Satanism, or Hare Krishna sometime between Sunday Service, Harp and Bowl, and Youth Group, then they managed the devilish details quite well.  I never had a clue.

And he’d like a little more authenticity:

Just once I would like to hear someone testify that they were born into the faith.  That they resolutely held to its values because it was all they ever knew.  I’d love to hear that they had doubts, yes, but never bothered to follow them further than a quick reference to scripture.  They have been fulfilled in their life and chose to stay the course.  I want to hear that they never really questioned the word of God and here is why.

Come to think of it, rather remarkably, during my eight or nine years Christian evangelism (from ages 12-21), I never gave a testimony story of my own for precisely because I was the type of person George describes above and never felt inclined to trumpet anything else—I had just grown up happily in the church and never had a period of rebellion or dances with the devils of foreign ideas.

When I gave “Come to Jesus” talks to people, I emphasized my brother’s testimony since it was his conversion that brought my family to evangelical Christianity and his story had some (but not all) of the more classic elements of a good conversion story.

Somewhat ironically I wound up with a far better deconversion story and so, again ironically, wound up in that one respect a better evangelical in leaving the faith and countering it than in promoting it.  My story of moral, spiritual, and intellectual “redemption” out of darkness, immorality, and shamefulness is one of rejecting the lies and distorted values of Christianity.  It is my story of rejecting that to which my heart was quite irrationally attached, my story of rejecting the easy path, the path of the world in which I felt comfortable, the path which required me to put principle over feelings, and the path that led to the greatest growth and happiness my life has known.

I wonder if George’s upcoming post about his own deconversion will be at all similar.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Nicoline Smits

    I think of testimonies as a form of porn. The object is to have the most grisly experience, e.g. addicted to drugs, imprisoned, abusive relationship, catastrophic illness, terrible kids, what have you, which then all falls away magically upon accepting christ as your personal savior, praise be! It’s so the rest of the congregation can counts its blessings and secretly be like the pharisee Jesus refers to, who thanks god every day that he’s not like such and such.

  • http://sierranichole.com Sierra

    If you love testimonies, you can read mine at sierranichole.com
    I think its the 2nd tab called “my personal testimony”

    Bless you
    Sierra


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