I once worked with a fundamentalist who wanted to tell me all about how bad he used to be. He told me about his former friends who were into the occult and about the time they all formed a satanic heavy metal band. It finally tripped my BS detector when he couldn’t name a band heavier than Motley Crue.
I once had a friend who dragged me to a storefront church where the preacher told us all about the horrible person he used to be. It seems he was once a bartender who was selling drugs and dating a satanist. The story culminated in a drive-by shooting that killed the two men standing next to him, but left him alive. For some reason this meant that God had saved him, rather than meaning that God had it out for the other two guys.
Then there was one guy who talked about how he spent all of his teenage years in a friend’s basement playing role-playing games and eating cheetos. By the time he got to college, he couldn’t hold a conversation with a girl that didn’t involve lead miniatures.
… wait, that last one was my story. Sorry, must have gotten my notes jumbled.
It does raise a question, though. My background isn’t so different from those other two guys. We were all middle-class white guys growing up in a religious part of America. Were these things really going on in my neighborhood? Why was I never invited to an occult sex party?
I tend to think that the answer is because those other two were pulling a Mike Warnke: they were making it all up, or at least exaggerating things to the point of absurdity.
These kinds of “witnessing tales” are a sub-genre of Evangelical stories. The purpose of witnessing is to bear witness to the difference that Christ has made in your life. To make that clear, you need a good story about how bad you used to be before you renounced you old ways and turned to Jesus. And the worse you were, the better the story.
They’re not new. In the 19th century, itinerant Evangelical preachers held tent revivals to bring the Good News to people in rural areas. Many brought a supposed ex-drunkard with them to tell the sob story of how bad their lives used to be before the found God and sobered up. Mark Twain has a wonderful scene in Huckleberry Finn where a conman plays this role and tells a heart-wrenching story, so that he can be the one to pass around the hat and skim the offering.
Now, I’m a southerner, so I appreciate spinning a good yarn just for the sake of the story. I figure that a lot of you probably have heard a witnessing story that you’d like to share. Or maybe you’ve got some stories of the horrible things you did before you became an atheist that are all really true. Really.
So let’s hear them. But remember, if you were a part of an occult sex party: pics or it didn’t happen.