Warning: This post has contains strong expletive language which might offend some people.
I want to try and make a very specific point here which means I will not gloss over anything while trying to make it.
It has been 28 years since I had my encounter with Jesus Christ which is nearly half my lifetime. As a Christian now, in the most true and sincere sense of the term, I always have in mind the way my world views were and my attitude towards Christianity before I became a believer. The vast majority of people I know have been brought up in a Christian family and have known nothing else except to see things from the Christian worldview. There are some who cannot imagine what it is like for anyone to be hostile to the gospel as I once was. The issues Christians concern themselves with would not have even entered into my mind before I became a believer. In fact, some of the issues we press hard with can have the opposite effect of what we hope to achieve, especially in the area of moral issues, such as gay/lesbians, abortion, contraception, divorce, sex before marriage, drinking, drugs and so on. I am sure the list can be endless. Before I became a Christian all these issues were not issues and part of my everyday life without any concern for me whatsoever. I knew people who were gay, I had some friends who had aborted their pregnancies, contraception was taken for granted, people were divorced, sex before marriage was the norm, had frequent sex, I drank heavily and I took all types of drugs, grew my own pot and had connections with a criminal motorcycle gang. I did not judge anyone for the kind of lifestyle they chose nor the decisions they made. I worked hard and I partied hard along with the wide network of people I knew. This was all a normal part of my life.
During my mid teenage years and through my twenties, I was extremely anti-Christian. If any Christian questioned my lifestyle, or any one of my friends, I would be heading up the attack on them. “The bible says this and the bible says that . . ” is all we would hear. We felt religion, including Christianity, were for people who needed a crutch to help them through life. None of us could fathom being told what to do by anyone. The big thing Christians use to tell us was, “If you do not repent, we would go to hell!” Yes, I am sure many of you know this line. During the mid 70’s and through the 80’s that is all we heard. We heard about this Jesus but it all seemed to be a fairy tale rather or an exaggerated event in history. None of us believed it, especially me. In addition, what use to annoy the hell out of us, was being told what we can and cannot do. They had so many rules. Christianity to us appeared to be so prohibitive, critical and judgmental of all that we did. There was nothing right about our lifestyle according to them. We just could not see what these crazy bible-bashers were on about. I would be happy to burn the bible or use these pages if we ran out of toilet paper. This was not just an individual thing for me. This attitude was widespread, through my family life, into my social life and into my working life. However, there was one group we all respected and they were the Salvos (the salvation army). We would happily and freely give them money. We could actually see the good they were doing.
Most people I knew had the same posture against Christians. It is only in hindsight that I can see that I, as well as most people I knew, had a very different kind of moral compass. “Don’t you care about what happens after you die?” they would ask. “No, we don’t care!” we replied. “Why don’t you care?” they responded. “We don’t care because we don’t care, because we don’t care,” we insisted. “You don’t care about going to hell?” they asked. “If it means getting away from you guys, we would rather go to hell where our friends are and party on!” There were some occasions we were so high when we went to town and we would bump into Christians who would try and evangelise to us. We would listen to them in amusement, turn to each other and crack up into psychedelic hysterics and walk away.
(If you are easily offended, you better skip this paragraph. But you will read it anyway, right?)
I want to give you an example of the extremes of my behaviour just prior to becoming a Christian. I was working in a paint warehouse where there was a large number of fundamental Christians, probably around about a third of those employed. The barrage of their attempts to convert us was relentless. Almost every topic we discussed ended up having some Christian bent intrude it, particularly about moral issues, end times conspiracies, one world government, including armageddon and the return of Jesus. There were many references to the Bible. We said this book means nothing to us. God means nothing to us. Jesus is a fairy tale. So what’s your point? One day my friend and I were so fed up that we started our own religion. In direct opposition to the Born-Again Christians, we decided to call ourselves the Born-Again Cunts. We had many followers within minutes of our announcement. We said, “You love God, we hate you all, you get high on the Spirit, we get high on grass, you baptise with water, we baptise with beer.” We use to jeer them with, “Have you seen the light? Do you know the truth? You must become a Born-Again Cunt and you will be set free.” Of course, they response was, “You do not have the light, we do, only Jesus can set you free!” So we said, “Come have a bong and beer and it will all become clear to you. If that doesn’t work try acid and you will see amazing things like you never seen before.” A number of them were clearly horrified while the non-Christian section were in hysterics and uncontrollable laughter. Our motto was, “If it feels good: Do it! If you don’t like it, fuck off.”
My framework of thought was so drastically different to the way I think now. Christians no doubt would say that I was foolish. I would have said the Christians were foolish and a total pain in the arse. People in the world would have said I was foolish to live the reckless lifestyle that I did. I am sure if I was interested in digging deep into their lives I would find something foolish regarding their way of thinking. I honestly did not think that what I was doing was that foolish. I justified my kind of lifestyle in every way. The people in my social network justified their lifestyle in every way. If people did not agree with our lifestyle that was fine to us. All those who oppose God justify their reasons and believe they are right. We were all fools accusing each other of foolishness. I regarded the biggest bunch of fools to be the Christians, (to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 1Cor 1.23). Now to be directly called a fool by another is not conducive to an amicable relationship. To be judged as foolish by anyone, especially by those whom I considered to be so foolish as Christians, is to place one’s self at risk of being in harm’s way. You see, I hated Christians with a passion and I thought it was right to do so.
What changed? At 30 years of age, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ. I was not at any church nor any bible study group. I knew nothing about the bible. I just had a very deeply personal realisation that Jesus Christ was real. With 20/20 hindsight, I can clearly see it was not the first time I had such an experience. My previous strange encounters I just fobbed off. I was not willing to nor was I ready to listen. However, after each encounter my life just seemed to go more and more crazy and more and more pear shaped. The final time, I was ready to listen. Unfortunately, I became involved in some rather wacky fundamental groups. Because I had such a deeply personal experience, it was not long before I felt that what I was being told did not cut it with my encounter. In the meantime, without being told by anyone, my whole moral compass took a dramatic shift. I adjusted my lifestyle accordingly and abstained from all the things I partook in and eventually withdrew from my social community. As most Christian communities were big on moral issues, I became sucked into their way of thinking. As time went on, this began to where thin as I knew what use to get under my skin before I was a Christian. Yet, I was not adequately equipped to consider a better way. The bible appeared inconsistent and confusing for a long time. After seven years of trying to find the answers to the kind of personal experience I had on that night, I was introduced to Trinitarian theology and it totally rung true with my initial encounter. In 1998 I met Baxter Kruger on his first trip to Australia here in Adelaide.
By this time, I was fully wrestling with the Scriptures. I enrolled in a non-denominational seminary, with Baxter Kruger and a strong Trinitarian community as a foundation, I began to dig deep into the church fathers through Karl Barth and T F Torrance. The more I dug down, the more I began to understand what happened to me with my encounter and what it was that use to get under my skin before I became a Christian. I have had many years to work through this and can see what it was and why it use to rile me and so many people I was associated with before I was a believer.
I cannot speak for everyone but my experience of attacking Christians prior to my encounter was largely due to their attack on my moral conduct. My friends and work colleagues experienced precisely the same thing. Based on our moral behaviour we were judged as bad people while the Christians considered themselves to be good people because they believed in a mere book! We were constantly reminded with warnings about going to hell, while Christians boasted about going to heaven. I and the social network did not believe any of it and did not even care. That was the truth of the matter that Christians found very hard to swallow. The very things they cared about, we just did not care at all. The world does not have and may not want to conform to Christian values at all. The scripture says clearly what is needed is a transformation of the mind to fully understand what issue is at stake.
Let’s pull out a Scriptures to try and explain what is going on here. The person I identify with the most is the apostle Paul.
Acts 26.15; And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
I believe I have the benefit of knowing my frame of mind before I became a Christian as a contrast to the transformation, renewal of the mind etc when discovering Jesus Christ was real. I know what it was like not to see. As Jesus Christ said to Paul, my eyes were “closed” and I was in “darkness” and I was in the dominion of “Satan.” So I needed to have my eyes “opened,” turned to the “Light” and move from the “dominion of Satan to God.” The kind of Christians I encountered before I had my encounter were constantly calling out my darkness, while I was in the dark. It was largely morally driven evangelism. “You are bad, you need to repent of your sins (moral conduct) which is darkness, invite Jesus into your heart and adjust your moral conduct by living in rectitude.” I was in “darkness.” While I was in “darkness,” all Christians did when highlighting my “immoral ways” was point out my darkness. If one puts darkness next to darkness how can one see the difference? It is all dark! By reflecting on this for many years, I realised the message I was receiving was darkness. The manner of life I was expected to carry out was based on darkness. “Don’t do this. Don’t do that,” was a way of living I now know to be based on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the way of darkness and the way of death. Their message had no life in it.
Now here is the irony. After I had my encounter with Jesus Christ, or, after I received my personal revelation that Jesus Christ is real, I adopted the method of darkness and was living in it. I was obsessed by the Law as a guide to knowing what was right and wrong or what was good and bad. I used the law to determine not just non-believers but believers too. I was still in darkness and my encounter/revelation started to fade into insignificance. When I was introduced to Trinitarian theology, it felt that at last I could finally see the Light and truly follow the way of Life. I began to receive clarity on many issues including moral issues. It was only in this Light that I could perceive clearly what my positions were. Particularly on the issue of abortion. I would say that I am far more than merely pro-life and would dare to say that many who are pro-life may not be pro-life enough. I will try and explain this point a little further.
In ancient Rome there was a form of abortion that was carried out by its citizens. If an infant was unwanted, they were taken to the local city dump or dung heap, abandoned and left to die. There were all manner of unspeakable horrors in the ancient world. When Christians came on the scene, they would wait at the dumps and watch out for anyone who dumped their baby. They would promptly rescue the baby and raise it as one of their own often incorporating them into their family. If the baby had died at the dump they would give it a proper burial. That is so glorious. However, many of the Roman citizens thought this rather peculiar. These babies were in a sense “aborted.” Christians, without confronting the perpetrators, rescued those children who survived and gave them life. This is what I would call “pro-life.” If we are going to lobby for abortions to be banned, then we cannot just stop when the child is born. To stop right there is like leaving the child at the dump. It is alive but their well being may still be under threat.
As an unbeliever, as far as I was concerned, it was the right of the woman to decide for herself whether or not to abort the pregnancy. If any friend of mine decided to do so, I was supportive and defended her decision one way or the other. It was and still is legal in this state in Australia. Christian protest had no bearing on the matter. We felt we did not have to abide by their moral principles nor their precious so called holy book. As far as we were concerned their position was utter nonsense. This is how the minds of those in darkness worked. I was on the worldview side of the debate and the wider community had pretty well dug their heels in on the woman’s right to choose and it was written into law. On the Christian side, they wanted that choice to be taken away from the woman based on biased Christian principles imposed on those who felt they were free to choose. It appeared to us as one of those highly bigoted attitudes of Christians which utterly deplored and angered us.
When my mind was transformed, I began to see things entirely differently. I cannot for any reason support abortion in anyway whatsoever. We know what they do but why be surprised and shocked that they do it? It is the way of the world. The world do not have to abide by our values. They do not see things the way we do because they are in darkness. However, the kind of debate we are having in our times, though well meaning, I believe has not properly been thought through. It took me quite some time to come to grips with the full implications of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The more I began to unpack the gospel the more concerned I became of the nature and manner in which the pro-life argument was carried out.
There is not one size fits all scenario for every woman who feels they have to make such a choice as serious as aborting their pregnancy. There are many scenarios and we may not even begin to fathom as to why a woman feels they are left with this horrifying choice. Yet to many non-Christians, as it was with me, this was not as horrifying to us (as non-believers) as it was to Christians. It was perfectly legal and presented as an option for a “problem.” Christians declaring something that was “legal” “as wrong” did not make sense. Just as much as Christians do not want society’s values imposed on them, the wider community do not want Christian values imposed on them either. As far as I am concerned having been on both sides of the fence, this is an extremely volatile, bitter and nasty feud between two sets of values, world vs Christians, where neither will back down. Yet, this does not surprise me at all. I have been on both sides.
While we might find there are some sections of the community who might be able to bear the cost of an unplanned pregnancy, for others the reasons for opting for abortion, which Christians may not fully understand, may seem the only way out of their situation. For some it may seem a convenient form of contraception. With the frame of mind shaped by the world, they will find nothing wrong with this as it is perfectly legal in our state here in Australia as in many other places around the world. There might be some who will be forced into making the decision by controlling and abusive partners. There are some who might be victims of rape. There might be some who have serious health problems that pose a risk to their life. There are some who might not be able to take on another child because of an intellectual disability. There are some who worry about losing there job and are not able to feed their family. There are some who might have too many children to feed and having one more is the last straw. There are so many reasons where, with a mind shaped by the world, they may feel totally justified with the decision they make. There are enormous social issues confronted by those who are in this lower economic group who might already be under enormous pressure to simply provide for their families. There are quite a number who may be forced to break the law just to try and make ends meet. This can lead to a downward spiral into a world of alcohol, drug abuse, prostitution, neglect and abused children, exposure to violence on all levels, to name just a few. The recent advent of ice and crack have caused enormous social problems that are part of this whole equation.
It is one thing to be pro-life but it is another thing to preserve the well-being and safety of the child who is born that might otherwise have been terminated. The upper half of the socio-economic section of our community might be able to cope with and absorb the cost of raising the said child and all the responsibilities that go with it. The lower half of this community, particularly the low end socio economic group, might not fare so well for a variety of reasons. Should we not consider what we can do as Christians to ensure these children are given some degree of equity in health care, education and opportunity? If we insist that the unborn have a right to life, should we not insist that once born, these children have the right to live with the same equal opportunity as all other children? Rather than invest in building funds for our extravagant lavish institutional church buildings, should we, instead, invest in creating viable options for those who feel they are backed into a corner? Would we be willing to take out our wallets and purses, or electronic funds transfer, or check books, to fund social action without partiality towards women in this situation? Should we not be the ones who approach those in such a dilemma with the question, “How can we help?” Do we lobby our local government to make changes to adoption laws to facilitate further viable options other than aborting? Or, do we decide this is not our problem? Once we achieve prohibition, do we just walk away and leave it to the world to sort out? If we don’t think out all the implications of our push for pro-life, then we are no different to the Romans of ancient times who abandon their newborns at the local dump. The baby has made it to childbirth. Hoorah! Hoorah! They are alive! It’s as if the Christians who did not hesitate to rescue these children would rather turn the other way and let the children die. God forbid! We should move from the microscopic examination of this issue to a more panoramic vision.
If we do not think this is the way to go, how about this for an idea? Why don’t we preach the gospel? We have the all-powerful maker and loving Creator of the entire cosmos who is in us. We have the most powerful advocate, the Holy Spirit, who ministers to people day and night from within them. We know the Father adores them all. Perhaps we might just love people into the truth and light so they can see for themselves there is a better way. And there is a better way. Jesus Christ showed me the better way and now I can see everything the way it ought to be. When I was in darkness I could not see it. I was alienated and hostile towards it. The world is in darkness and we should not be shocked at what they do. I now walk in the Light and I can see darkness for what it is. To be fair to the wider community why not endeavour to give them the opportunity to see the truth of the entire cosmos, Jesus Christ? We must preach from the Tree of Life in a way that is gracious and loving to all no matter their moral circumstances. Preaching morality is preaching death and preaching darkness to those in the dark. It is asking people to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and endeavouring to make them judge the difference while blind. Their blindness will not allow them to see it. Preaching from the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, is the best chance we have to show people what it is we actually see. It is the Tree of Life that helps us to see the value and worth of all human life.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything as it has changed me. I believe what we would like to see is that “turning point” and the ability to see things from God’s point of view. We only need to look at what happened to Paul on his journey to Damascus. He had murderous intentions towards the followers of Christ. After his encounter, he saw things entirely differently and become one of the greatest heralds of the gospel. Paul discovered Christ in Him. He gave us true meaning to the Incarnation and an incredible legacy of his own thoughts in his epistles we regard so highly. Personally, the “turning point” for me was that encounter 28 years ago (almost to the day) where I began my journey with the Truth as the guide and rule to all that I endeavoured to do. It was messy and wayward at times. Sometimes it still messy and wayward. However the Truth has never changed but I certainly have, my moral compass certainly has. As appalling as my attitude has been to all things Christian, Jesus Christ has shown enormous patience and gracious love in his tender courtship towards me until I could see. From that time, I hope this can be the guiding light as I endeavour to show the same love to all human beings.