why i am a christian – part ii October 28, 2006Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.
In retrospect it is amusing that Columbia Bible College did help me figure things out, it just did not happen the way I thought it would. I did not come out with a BA in Biblical Studies. I did not come out wishing to be a pastor or a Bible College teacher. I did not even come out wishing for more (in relation to spiritual guidance or something). I came out wanting to help destroy Christendom. Although I was not completely opposed to Christianity itself, I was vehemently disgusted with Christians. So how did that happen? How did a Bible-thumping right-wing evangelical become so horrendously opposed to everything he believed in? There is no one answer and there probably is not too many coherent answers. It was, however, a painful process.
Most of the story of my time in bible college is fairly boring apart from your typical “Saved” or “Jesus Camp” type scenarios – people waving their hands, feeling good about their “walk with Jesus” and then going on with their shallow lives. Or at least that was my perception of the time. 9/11 happened this year. It was at this point that I started to question my loyalty to the extreme right-wing policies of conservative parties in both Canada and the United States. I watched as President Bush stuttered and faltered and fooled the majority of the world with cheap rhetoric and little substance. I watched as the Republican party passed legislation which hampered civil liberties for the sake of security and didn’t seem to care about the traditional political process (which I actually respected). The situation only confirmed my stance that I needed to disregard politics while I continued my biblical studies. However, I started questioning the average students reason for being at the college. It seemed like people were there to feel good rather than actually learn about the Bible. By the end of first year, though, I had figured that it wasn’t my problem and it was not going to deter me from my “education”.
My second year at bible college offered new challenges to my faith. The only challenges that were significant were self-inflicted. Morality became a larger issue to me. I had always been taught that a Christian should not even have to tell people they are a Christian – it should be evident from the way in which they lived. This became very skewed at bible college. The gossip, slander, sexual perversions, language, violence, and all around immorality at the college astounded me: how could these people call themselves Christian? There was definitely a darker side to the college that year, one that either was not there, or that I did not notice until the second year. It was this year, however, that I took two courses that would change my life: “Sermon on the Mount” and “Philosophy and Logic”.
I will not get into the courses in too much detail, but I must discuss what it was that changed my paradigm. Sermon on the Mount explicitly was not a challenging course. The instructor was nothing special and neither was the interpretation he or the textbook took on the subject. The course, however, did force me to analyze the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) over and over and over again. I came to the conclusion that my political beliefs were 100% in opposition to the philosophy of Christ. You cannot justify small-c conservative politics with the gospel as taught through any of the gospels. You can, of course, through twisted interpretation of judgment and doom, but this was not what Jesus explicitly taught. So through the course of one semester I had changed my entire political stance.
Philosophy and Logic was a course taught by “Peg” Peters (who now teaches at Trinity Western University) and it would be more fair to say that it was this course in conjunction with “Contemporary Church” taught by Peg and Dave Philips that had an equal impact on my life. At the start of the course I instantly clashed with Peg. He offered interpretations that were not, to my understanding, orthodox. His views were certainly not traditional and closely emulated the style of preaching taught in “emergent” churches such as Mars Hill in Seattle. Throughout the semester, however, I learned to respect his views, although I rarely agreed with him.
You’ll notice that I have not given any details or explicitly mentioned any specific views that these courses forced me to deal with. This is probably because I do not really remember. My life had turned chaotic and I was reading about ten times the amount of literature that I ever had before (which is saying a lot because I have always loved to read). I had always loved the study of philosophy but Peg Peters’ course had pushed me to study it further. I bought up every classical philosophy work I could find at the local used bookstores. I decided to become proficient in the “basics”: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx, etc. I finally decided to pursue academic study in Philosophy. When or Where I did not know, I just needed to get out of bible college.
In the meantime I had swung from being extremely judgmental on aspect of morality to completely denying the underlying Christian foundations. I do not know when it happened, but I probably can remember about a hundred reasons why it happened. I will not get into too many details, for some of the things I could mention would be warrant enough for a court case against the bible college. This would also put the blame on others, which is unfair. The lack of any sense of authenticity in the surrounding Christian community certainly helped me started doubting my faith, but it certainly was not the sole or even primary cause. And it certainly was not Dan Brown. It was a combination of disillusionment and a newfound respect for higher criticism – investigation of the origins of the text.
By the end of 2003 I was done. I basically quit half-way through the semester (still managed to pull off decent grades for that semester) and left for a local university college to take a couple courses I could transfer later on when I had decided what to do. Again. Academically and spiritually, this was a fairly uneventful time. The summer following the semester was also uneventful other than the continuation of some serious problems I had gotten myself into with the ladies. It seemed as though I was heading for either McMaster University in Ontario or taking another semester off to relax and confront my parents (I had not lived with them since graduating high school four years earlier). However, I had not heard back from McMaster so I packed up my bags and started to head home. Just before leaving though, I checked my mail. I was accepted to the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It was Friday. Classes started Tuesday. I left my stuff in my 1990 Oldsmobile, visited my parents, and then drove to Alberta without even knowing where I was going to live.