I was raised on the line between fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. I was homeschooled, and nearly every subject was related to God and the Bible. History was His story and our science textbooks were all creationists. My parents were great fans of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis and I was taught to use “creation apologetics.” In other words, when you evangelize someone you start by showing them the truth of young earth creationism, and after that they will have to concede the truth of the Bible and convert to Christianity. I read everything Ken Ham wrote, attended conferences put on by Answers in Genesis, and even visited the Creation Museum. I was taught that we know the Bible is true because young earth creationism is true. As Answers in Genesis so often trumpets, I learned that the foundation of the Bible was a literal Genesis.
And then I went to college, where my young earth creationist views were challenged. I responded by fighting back. I argued with both students and professors, sure that I had some sort of truth they were missing. I brought out every argument I had, and went back to my creationist resources for more. As time went by, though, I found my arguments effectively refuted by arguments and information I had never been exposed to before. To my utter shock, it seemed that the evidence actually fell on the side of evolution and against young earth creationism. After nearly a year of fighting, I conceded defeat.
As I accepted evolution, I watched everything I had ever known crumble at my feet. I had been taught that the truth of the Bible rested on young earth creationism. Now that that foundation was gone, I had no idea what to do with the Bible. How could I trust it? How could I believe in it? How could I interpret it? But on the other hand, how could I give it up? My entire life centered on Christ and I found my entire value in what I meant to Jesus. Without my relationship with God, my life was nothing.
Desperate to hold onto my faith, I turned away from evangelicalism and fundamentalism and toward more hierarchical and liturgical traditions, especially for Catholicism, searching desperately for absolute truth, for some way to salvage what I had left of the Bible. My fascination with these older religious traditions was accompanied by a fascination in understanding where the Bible come from, who wrote it and why. Reading scholarly work on this subject fascinated, and I saw the Bible unfolding in new and marvelous ways before my eyes as what had before been a simplistic and two-dimensional fundamentalist/evangelical understanding of the Bible deepened. At first, my reading of the the history of the Bible and of the early church fathers led me to find solace in more liberal Christianity, but this solace was short lived.
The more I read about where the Bible came from, the more human the book appeared. Its errors, its contradictions, and its eccentricities suddenly appeared very, very human. Yet I felt that I was being pulled in two, for I was both losing my grip with the divine and becoming incredibly fascinated with the very human development of the very human book that is the Bible. I finally felt like I was understanding things that had always puzzled me. Finally, finally, the Bible made complete and total sense. I felt that I was being forced to choose between holding onto the divine and the beauty of total understanding.
Around this time I read the God Delusion, and things became even more complicated. Dawkins put questions to me that I had never even thought of asking. I realized that the entire center of Christianity rested on human sacrifice, that the Trinity was not “a mystery” but rather simply something that made no sense, and that the very idea of a hell was barbaric. I suddenly saw the God of the Old Testament as a maniacal tyrant and I realized that mankind’s greatest moral achievements – such as valuing gender and racial equality and castigating human slavery – came from man, not God. My world was spinning, and I hardly new what to do.
For about a month, I called a moratorium on all questions of religion. I needed a time out, not time to think so much as simply time to be. At the end of the month, I turned again to questions of religion and realized that my faith had simply slipped away. It was gone. And you know what? I was still there. Life had gone on, and it had not lost its meaning and purpose. I still saw beauty, I still valued love, and I still had goals and dreams. And so, I closed the door on the first two decades of my life and stepped forward into the unknown, excited for what would come next.
I would like to point out that by teaching their children that their faith rests on young earth creationism, fundamentalist and evangelical parents create an Achilles heel in their children. If they grow up to find that young earth creationism is wrong, they have to completely evaluate everything they believe about the Bible, God, and Christianity. In trying to buttress their children’s faith, these parents build into it a fundamental flaw. Who I am today is a product of that flaw.