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What I Used to Be, or a Look at Labels Long Left Behind

Email no longer excites me. Bill noti­fi­ca­tions. Spam. Newslet­ters I’ve for­got­ten to opt out of. In the ear­ly 2000s, though, my email was filled with mes­sages I could actu­al­ly look for­ward to with hap­pi­ness instead of annoy­ance. A lot of those emails have been replaced by new­er ways of keep­ing touch. My dad and I don’t email each oth­er any­more; instead, we’re a text or phone call away from each oth­er. And numer­ous oth­er peo­ple I used to email are now Face­book friends whom I rarely inter­act with any­more. … Bummer.

Anoth­er com­mon batch of emails that once graced my inbox were mes­sages sent to a Yahoo! group — remem­ber those? — called Oper­a­tion Salvation.

I don’t remem­ber how I came to be in the group, but it was found­ed by two young ladies whom are remain acquaint­ed with me to this day (thanks again, Face­book): Hilary and Karisa. The group — OSians, col­lec­tive­ly — was pret­ty active, and every day com­ing home from work, I could expect to find new con­ver­sa­tions to catch up on from the group.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for them, I was at a point in my “spir­i­tu­al jour­ney” that did­n’t real­ly favor mixed com­pa­ny — and by that I mean the com­pa­ny of those who weren’t the same type of Bap­tist I was. Oper­a­tion Sal­va­tion wel­comed Chris­tians of all stripes; it was co-found­ed by a Catholic, of all things!

I was very much hung up on the “what fel­low­ship hath light with dark­ness” Chris­tian­i­ty of the fun­da­men­tal Bap­tists, so I drew the line in the sand at every oppor­tu­ni­ty, and I made a fool of myself to those poor girls over some­thing as sil­ly as labels.

“Bap­tist” was­n’t enough for me. Oh no. I was an inde­pen­dent fun­da­men­tal Bap­tist who believed in the ple­nary inspi­ra­tion and inerran­cy of the Bible and preser­va­tion in the King James Ver­sion, who believed in the pret­ribu­la­tion­al rap­ture and pre­mil­len­ni­al return of Jesus, and yes, who believed in a recent cre­ation across a lit­er­al six days.

It was a mouth­ful, but for the first sev­er­al years of being in church, I harsh­ly defend­ed those labels every­where I was giv­en a plat­form. While it did get some­what heat­ed argu­ing about the terms — or whether some­one even needs to label them­selves all up for the sake of what they believe — with a few OSians, the group was full of grace and nev­er kicked me to the curb.

Although they prob­a­bly should have.

But what I want to explore a bit here is just what all of my old labels meant and whether the labels stuck with me til I left Chris­tian­i­ty? If I were a Chris­t­ian today, know­ing what I know now, would I keep any of the same labels?


The first term is prob­a­bly the sim­plest: being inde­pen­dent meant that my church was­n’t con­nect­ed to a net­work of others. 

That’s not to say that my church — Gar­ri­son Creek Bap­tist, then at its old loca­tion — was­n’t asso­ci­at­ed with oth­er church­es. We had a close rela­tion­ship with a Bap­tist church the next town over, among oth­ers, I’m sure. How­ev­er, being inde­pen­dent, the church was­n’t behold­en to any out­side denom­i­na­tion­al authority.

I always believed that inde­pen­dent church­es were the way to go, though through­out my years of belief, I’d briefly be a mem­ber of a Church of the Nazarene con­gre­ga­tion and would become an active, Bible study-lead­ing mem­ber of a Pres­by­ter­ian Church in Amer­i­ca con­gre­ga­tion a few years later.

Were I to be a Chris­t­ian today, I’d be an inde­pen­dent — per­haps even more so than I ever was back then.


As a fun­da­men­tal­ist, I believed two things:

  1. That we were adher­ing to the fun­da­men­tals, or first prin­ci­ples, set down for the church 2,000 years ago, and
  2. That we took a strict, lit­er­al inter­pre­ta­tion of the Bible.

For the first point, I can con­fi­dent­ly say that that is bunk. Nobody meet­ing in a brick and mor­tar build­ing called a church, chapel, cathe­dral, etc. is prac­tic­ing the Chris­tian­i­ty of 2,000 years ago, for example. 

As for the sec­ond point, well, every Bap­tist church I came into con­tact with — indeed, every church I came into con­tact with — taught that Satan was once an angel called Lucifer, which is just one of the many fail­ures of so-called “strict, lit­er­al inter­pre­ta­tions” used by Christians.

Were I a Chris­t­ian today, my fun­da­men­tals would like­ly look pret­ty dif­fer­ent from those of most churches!


This label was a big one. “Bap­tist” set the tone for what church meant — a sin­gle elder led con­gre­ga­tion com­posed by those who were saved by grace through faith and then bap­tized by full-body immersion.

Bap­tists, at least the ones I com­muned with, fan­cied them­selves inher­i­tors of a great long line of church­es, dat­ing back to Jesus himself.

We did­n’t sprin­kle babies, and we only bap­tized the believ­er once.

I did­n’t stay a Bap­tist. The fur­thest I got from it was join­ing the Nazarene church, which I most­ly did for my then girl­friend. I nev­er did assent to cer­tain of the Nazarene beliefs, includ­ing that sal­va­tion can be lost — which is iron­ic con­sid­er­ing that years since leav­ing Chris­tian­i­ty behind, a friend of mine from that church let me know that I was still on their church roll, and to this day I still get occa­sion­al Face­book invites to what I would think are mem­bers-only events. I digress… 

A few years lat­er, after return­ing to Bap­tist church­es for a while, I found myself at a Pres­by­ter­ian church. Mul­ti­ple elder-led con­gre­ga­tion, sprin­kling mode of bap­tism, and an empha­sis on art and the beau­ty of creation.

I liked it a lot, though I nev­er did real­ly accept the sprin­kling bap­tism stuff. 

When I left Chris­tian­i­ty, I end­ed that peri­od by being a blend of Bap­tist and Pres­by­ter­ian, though I had no church home.

Were I a Chris­t­ian today, I’d have no time for denom­i­na­tion­al ties… or tra­di­tion­al church ties at all. Small gath­er­ings of believ­ers in homes would be much more what I’d be tak­ing part in.

Who believed in the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible

“Ple­nary” is a fan­cy word — the­olo­gians love fan­cy words — mean­ing “absolute.”

“Inspi­ra­tion” means that the Bible was inspired by — or lit­er­al­ly “breathed out” by God, that the words of the Bible are his words.

“Inerran­cy” means “with­out error.” If the Bible spoke on a mat­ter, it did so with absolute author­i­ty, for God makes no mistakes.

Togeth­er, this meant that the Bible was the unques­tion­able source of absolute truth.

How­ev­er, over time I’ve come to real­ize how vari­ably that “unques­tion­able” is applied. 

To use my pre­vi­ous doc­tri­nal exam­ple, try telling most Chris­tians that Satan isn’t a fall­en angel, and you’ll prob­a­bly be talk­ing to some­one who dis­agrees with you. Addi­tion­al­ly, angels look and act like men, and there is noth­ing in the Bible that pre­vents men from hav­ing a plu­ral­i­ty of wives.

It was believ­ing — not prac­tic­ing or intend­ing to prac­tice, mind you, just believ­ing — that men may have mul­ti­ple wives which got me kicked out of the Pres­by­ter­ian church, after I was sat down in a room with the elders of the church and basi­cal­ly giv­en an ultimatum.

Were I a Chris­t­ian today, I’d of course still hold the Bible as my guide, but as before, it would­n’t look quite like most Chris­tians would be used to. It’s amaz­ing how much tra­di­tion and denom­i­na­tion­al idio­syn­crasy that even Bible fun­da­men­tal­ists have trou­ble get­ting rid of!

Preservation in the King James Version

clasped hands held over a leather-bound Holy Bible resting on a red fabric surface
Pho­to by Pix­abay on Pexels.com

The King James Ver­sion of the Bible, also known as the Autho­rized Ver­sion, was the only accept­able trans­la­tion of the Bible. 

All sorts of wild jus­ti­fi­ca­tions were giv­en for why that was the case, and while I have to admit that just hav­ing one ver­sion of the one book that doc­trine could be derived from made things a lit­tle eas­i­er, it was also a posi­tion which did not stand up to scruti­ny over time.

Through­out my time as a Chris­t­ian, I came to use a vari­ety of trans­la­tions, though I’d come to pre­fer the New Amer­i­can Stan­dard Bible and the Eng­lish Stan­dard Version.

Were I to be a Chris­t­ian today, I sus­pect that I’d be using those same versions.

The pretribulational rapture

The first of two escha­to­log­i­cal — or “end times” — doc­trines that we Bap­tists loved to insist were impor­tant enough to apply labels over per­tained to the tim­ing of the rapture.

The rap­ture, for those who don’t know, is gen­er­al­ly believed to be a mirac­u­lous event where­in God would call all believ­ers, bod­i­ly, to Heav­en. Those believ­ers who were already dead would be res­ur­rect­ed. Those who yet lived would be transformed. 

I believed that this rap­ture of the saints would occur at the begin­ning of the Great Tribu­la­tion, a sev­en year peri­od of increas­ing tumul­tuous activ­i­ty on Earth dur­ing which God will pour out his wrath upon those who remain while an evil trin­i­ty — the antichrist, false prophet, and best — rule the world. All of which cul­mi­nates with the…

Premillennial return of Jesus

The tribu­la­tion peri­od would end with the glo­ri­ous return of Jesus, who would set up a 1,000 year reign on Earth, dur­ing which there would be peace and harmony.

And final­ly, this peri­od would cul­mi­nate with the final judg­ment, where­in a new heav­en and a new earth replace the old.

I’m not sure what sort of escha­to­log­i­cal view I’d take were I a Chris­t­ian nowa­days. Since leav­ing Chris­tian­i­ty, I haven’t stud­ied the end times stuff much, so my views on what the Bible says about it have been frozen in time as they were back in 2010. 

A recent creation across a literal six days

Final­ly, I was a young Earth cre­ation­ist. Yep, I was one of them. I not only fol­lowed the likes of Dr. Dino and Answers in Gen­e­sis, but I had bought and read a vari­ety of Answers in Gen­e­sis’s books and argued against “evo­lu­tion­ists” any chance I could, includ­ing in places as irrel­e­vant to reli­gious debate as the phpBB.com com­mu­ni­ty.

I viewed pub­lic school with sus­pi­cion for try­ing to push an evil agen­da of lying about our origins. 

This atti­tude per­sist­ed through­out my Chris­tian­i­ty, and I’d prob­a­bly be a young Earth cre­ation­ist again were I to be a Chris­t­ian today, but cer­tain­ly not because “the evi­dence” points to it. 

If we go by the evi­dence, Earth is pret­ty clear­ly mul­ti­ple bil­lions of years old, and aging every day accord­ing to pre­dictable nat­ur­al processes.

I’m not con­vinced, how­ev­er, that that would be incom­pat­i­ble with a recent creation.

There is a mock idea in phi­los­o­phy called last Thurs­day­ism, a posi­tion which states that the uni­verse was cre­at­ed in a func­tion­al, mature state last Thurs­day. Like a show start­ing in media res, so to would the uni­verse have begun in the midst of the action, with mature adults; evi­dence of the past such as craters, fos­sils, and scars; and so much more.

That idea is intend­ed to mock young earth cre­ation­ism — if the Earth was cre­at­ed at a mature point 7,500 years ago, it could have been cre­at­ed at a mature point last Thursday!

And sure, absolute­ly, but just because you can mock some­thing does­n’t mean it’s false. 

I’d be a young Earth cre­ation­ist, but I’d accept that the world oper­ates accord­ing to how sci­en­tists have deter­mined it oper­ates, which is more than I can say for so many cre­ation­ists who dis­miss evo­lu­tion as “evil-ution.”

But what am I really?

statue of jesus
Pho­to by Sev­en­Storm JUHASZIMRUS on Pexels.com

I’m not a Chris­t­ian today. So far as I know myself, I’m an athe­ist, though like Win­ston Zed­de­more, I “love Jesus’ style.” 

I’ve always had a pen­chant for the wild and won­der­ful, though, since get­ting into the super­nat­ur­al back in mid­dle school. I real­ize the val­ue of being skep­ti­cal, and I absolute­ly respect the work of sci­en­tists; how­ev­er, that does­n’t stop me from let­ting my imag­i­na­tion and sense of won­der run a lit­tle freely.

Inquiries about reli­gion fit right along into that. I don’t look at reli­gion and see it as a blight that needs elim­i­nat­ed. Reli­gion is human­i­ty reach­ing out in hopes to under­stand the world around us, try­ing to make sense of the world around us in ways that make sense to those doing it. Yes, it has been used as a tool to oppress. So has sci­ence or eco­nom­ics or sim­ply hav­ing a big­ger stick than a neigh­bor­ing peo­ple. It’s human nature to fail to be excel­lent to one anoth­er, sadly.

I have been on both sides of the Christianity/​secularism divide, and I have failed to be excel­lent to the oth­er sides pret­ty consistently.

Despite all of it, though, I am grate­ful for friends I have made along the way — friends like Hilary and Karisa of Oper­a­tion Sal­va­tion — who have dis­played a remark­able long-suf­fer­ing through the years, both dur­ing our Oper­a­tion Sal­va­tion mem­ber­ship and in the years since as friends on Face­book. I’ve lost friends along the way, sure — friends I well and tru­ly cared about, regard­less of dif­fer­ences in beliefs — but life goes on, and I wish them well.

I am tired of the antag­o­nism so often found between Chris­tians and athe­ists, par­tic­u­lar­ly when most peo­ple are so mod­er­ate in their beliefs that they get along with every­one just fine regard­less of beliefs. Why do those who take their beliefs more seri­ous­ly have to be so adversarial?

We aren’t going to change any­one’s mind by insult­ing them. There has got to be a bet­ter way, but I’m not going to change the world by try­ing to find it alone. I’d love to hear your thoughts below on how soci­ety might be strength­ened, despite (or per­haps even because of) our differences! 

1 thought on “What I Used to Be, or a Look at Labels Long Left Behind”

  1. Reli­gion is also, often, a gate­way into a com­mu­ni­ty. This is a pow­er­ful draw for many people.

    I did­n’t know I was a Last Thurs­day­ist. Although I don’t believe I was stat­ing “The uni­verse could have been cre­at­ed five min­utes ago” to mock any­one. Just to make the point when the actu­al “moment” of cre­ation took place is not real­ly rel­e­vant to much.

    I recent­ly read of a new Bible trans­la­tion that, among oth­er things, rearranged the order of the books. Now I can’t find it. I feel like it just went to press this year.

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