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Regrets On Harrasing Others


AC Skeptic
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I so wish I could take back some moments in my life. All those moments when I shared the gospel with others, asking such pointed and personal questions to people often quite older then me, making them feel uncomfortable and sometimes uncertain and often insulting them as individuals. And you know, what is worse is that except for the last part about insulting people I recognized I made people uncomfortable and uncertain and I thought that was a good thing(!), because they needed to be uncomfortable with their lives to realize they needed a savior and what I was saying was true. If they were just normal happy well adjusted people, then I had to sell them the problem before selling the solution (unhappy not well adjusted people flock to Christianity all on their own). I never liked to witness, I wasn't a self-righteous street preacher who took pride in drawing attention to himself, I found sharing the gospel to be very hard and vulnerable. But I did it, I did it in many different contexts, because I believed it. I believed it and I believed that it mattered for all eternity. So eventually if you knew me long enough, I told you. Or what is worst, I told people who were complete strangers, as if I had any right to intrude into their lives.

 

I so wish I could take it back.

 

I witnessed to friends and acquaintances in high school. Not all that often, but every once in a while when I had some flight of courage. Even the popular kids. Never had much luck. One popular guy told me he did indeed have a relationship with God, though of course I wanted him to believe some specific statements of fact about a man dying on a cross. Another popular and more vulgar kid told me he didn't want to go to heaven because I would be there, and that there was probably plenty of girls and booze in hell. Eh, he was kind of an asshole so I shrugged it off. Strangely enough he is very "southern" and still has conservative political views and an anti-gay stance. (Funny side note: we were a small high school with a pretty successful basketball program and California small schools that are good at basketball and disproportionately private Christian schools, so we met one in the playoffs and I was instructed by a teammate point blank "I don't care if you are Christian, you better be elbowing the shit out of them").

 

I went to Wheaton College, a Christian school (of Jim Elliot and Billy Graham fame) so there was little to no witnessing there. (Plenty of debates though, as it is multi-denominational. You know debating important real things like how red are Santa's books and how close does Superman need to be to Kyroptonite to be impaired . . . eh, I mean whether there is a millennium or rapture or whether God knows what we will do before we do it, important stuff like that.) But I had plenty of opportunities off campus. Seriously, one time I was so motivated I simply walked into a Toco Bell and approached people. Holy Shit, why they hell did I think I had the right to walk up to someone who is minding their own business and start to try to realign their entire life and warn them of unimaginable eternal torment if they didn't. Damn it I am so pissed at myself.

 

Took a second degree at Illinois Tech. Was in a computer science class and I asked the teacher if I could speak to the whole class afterwords. I really believed this bullshit, really believed God had all this power and may decide to use this (completely secular) class as a platform. I had this vision that maybe everyone would covert, and though we would still do the class about software engineering, we would use the gathering to discuss what really really mattered, about changing the world and bringing people to Christ. It was probably the boldest thing I ever did. The professor told everyone what I was going to do and offered that people had that right to leave before hand. One guy took him up on the offer. It was very awkward. I never spoke to that guy again. Damn religion, I could have possibly been friends with him if not for this bullshit superstition I had. Most of the class was foreign (most of engineering at these schools are Asian and Indian). I gave the gospel and received a room full of blank stares . . . as I should have. They were polite to listen and not sharing my western context, probably had no idea what I was saying.

 

I picked up a car in Rhode Island and attempted to drive it back to Illinois. It died in Pennsylvania. No like seriously, it died (I ended up trading it for the tow and flying back to Illinois). And it was the coldest day in Pennsylvania that year. Makes for a good "God came through story". A very nice man, a truck driver, stopped and let me sit in his truck until the tow truck arrived. I mean, I don't want to be melodramatic and I don't know if this is true but it was well below freezing and it took several hours for the tow truck to arrive so my health was probably at stake. The guy actually saved me. What did I do in return. Yeah, I tried to "save" him, and otherwise bug this very nice man who went out of his way to help me to give him thoughts that he needs to believe and recite this mantra or he will be tortured forever. I mean, shit, I don't remember actually talking about hell, I seldom did, I wasn't a fire and brimstone kind of evangelical, but surely he knows enough about nominal religion to know if I say you can only go to heaven if you believe x,y,z then the other place you are going is hell. This was a very low moment. I want to go back there and kick myself in the face. I mean, I know I had good intentions, but those good intentions were making the world a poorer poorer place. This guy was helping me, making the world better. And I was making it worst. I don't know if he ever converted. NO ONE I ever witnessed to converted on the spot. I always imagined though I was planting seeds and that somewhere down the line they would. And maybe he did and maybe it made him a little more happy but just as possible he did and got stuck in some cult (as all Christianity is on the spectrum of a cult) and it ruined his life. I don’t know. What would I say to him if I saw him today. I would say I was sorry, I had no right, and thank him for actually helping me (I did thank him then I remember, probably repeatedly, but I feel that was all nulled by the fact I also had to intrude into his life).

 

I really really felt a burden for my professors at Illinois Tech, because I always highly respected people who taught me things and they did so in spades. But I knew most were going to hell. So I got really really bold, and witnessed to a few of them. Usually blank stares. One guy was actually already an evangelical. One guy was a very friendly old man who turned out to be Church of Christ. But sorry CoC’ers, that is not Christian. I never can take your decoversion stories seriously because I never considered you a Christian in the first place :) So I had to attack those beliefs about salvation by works and baptism. The professor was a very friendly old man and didn’t concern himself with my polite objections. He had probably heard it many times before. There was another student in the class, a grown professional as this was a night class that catered to such. He chimed in and it turns out he was Chuch of Christ as well. He was excited to join the discussion, but unlike the seasoned professor, was new to Christianity and simply couldn’t understand what my problem was with these beliefs, he couldn’t distinguish the two.

 

Took an internship at a cell phone making company. Good job all in all. Worked in a team of about 7 or 8 people. Witnessed to all of them. Got friendly smiles in return. Looking back, they were being very respectful of me. Here I was laying out a bunch of mythical bullshit and suggested they better start believing it or ELSE, and they didn’t rip me a new one as they should. A few of them suggested I be more tolerant of other ideas, but I was a true Christian TM, I couldn’t be more tolerant, because no other idea was true, as I had the absolute TRUTH to your eternal happiness or torture.

 

Went to Stanford for graduate school. NO WAY would I whiteness to those professors as I thought they were gods in among themselves. But I did witness to a few friends, mostly nominal Hindus. No luck and frankly a few witnessed back to me so I don’t blame myself to much for these episodes.

 

Got a job after graduate school and they moved me to a new city. When I arrived I sent out a building wide email asking if anyone wanted to get together weekly for a Christian group. Oh, oh, oh how I wished I hadn’t done that. That (rightly, at least for the time) stereotyped me for everyone else. I still have that stereotype, even though I am now more atheist then anyone else (most are nominal something or just don’t think about it or care). And while I don’t exactly hide my lack of religion at work, I do keep it from a few people who I used to relate to on that level. Don’t want to come out.

 

And then there was the church plant. A very very very evangelizing, “lets share the gospel with the whole city”, church plant. A “nothing in you life matters then service to this church and bringing as many people to christ as possible so stop having a life and raising your kids and start spending your entire life here and all your friends should either be people in this church or new people you plan to bring to this church” type of church plant. No, seriously, we were instructed to make friends with the specific goal of bringing them to faith, something that bothered me even then. Well, I still believed, sort of, I had lots of doubts by then but . . . . I did it. I told others. And . . . this is what really kills me. This is the one thing I really really want to take back. Very early our pastor had this Halloween hotdog stand which what just a lure to sell our mythological bullshit, and a neighbor did just that, got lured in. And I talked to him, and shared the gospel. Now I wasn’t the only one influencing him, and frankly I won’t take credit (or blame) for converting him as our pastor worked on him extensively. But I became one of his friends and answered many of his probing questions (with answers I wasn’t entirely comfortable with as I was moving the other direction but I was a good little boy and kept obeying and sharing). And when he did covert and spoke publicly to the church, he gave me a shout out about his conversion (this public statement came nearly a year after he had converted and I was quickly uncoverting so I remember finding this statement oh so ironic). Well anyway, this guy has problems, depression problems, medical problems, so, at first in some ways the church is good for him, dumps a bunch of more friends on him and all and people to help with his children if he gets sick. But of course, this church, they are super nice but they believe they own your life, and now I roped this guy in who already has depression issues into a life where you get to do nothing else and oh wait, you have doubts, well now I just loaded him with all the more depression as he has to worry about his salvation and eternal life and role in the church and new community of friends he doesn’t want to disappoint, namely I just dumped on him all things that made my life hell for two years. I still believed when I told him, but if he had hit me 6 months later my doubts probably would have been far enough along that I wouldn’t have. Seriously we overlapped for a short time of belief where I pulled him in even as reality pulled me out. After another year, I completely decoverted and stopped attending church. My pastor knew I didn’t believe bible was inerrant anymore, and that I accepted evolution and such, but he never knew I became a complete non-believer. And when I left I lied and said I was just looking for a more liberal church.

 

So I used to (and I haven’t for more then a year now) eat lunch with this guy on occasion. We would usually talk about our careers and football and occasionally money. The last time I spoke to him, he wasn’t doing all that well again. I have never been honest about my decoversion with him. So we’re talking and it sounds like he has some doubts so I start to be a little honest with him but I simply can’t come out that I don’t believe because I don’t want my pastor to know, even still. I just don’t want to deal with him contacting me (I have had no contact with him for 2 years and that works for me). And as we are leaving he reveals he hasn’t gone to church for about 4 months. He knows I haven’t “found” a new church and don’t actively attend, but anyway I took this as a clear sign that he really was struggling with belief. And there you have it. Here I met a very nice yet complicated guy with many struggles and introduced faith into his life which is not just one more very very large struggle for him to work out. Good going me, good job.

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Skeptic, I sympathize with you. I look back and could die of embarrassment when I think of how I tried to convert people. I was a HORRIBLE witness!!

I remember one time, in my dear mother's living room, where it got so bad, that she took my bible and threw it straight across the room!!:twitch: I was aghast! I thought my poor mother was possessed by the devil!! How stuuuuuuuupid!!! :Doh: Poor mom, she was so sweet and I was an arrogant born again christian trying to 'save' my mother. Brainwashed!!! That's what we were!! We really thought we were doing the right thing.:shrug:

 

I love the saying: ''If I had known better - I would have done better''!

 

I've used that saying to forgive myself for a thousand other stupid things I did in my life!

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Don't beat yourself up too bad. Sadly, there are people in this world that have self esteem which is so utterly low that belief helps them. Obviously I'd like to believe that we as humans can improve the world enough where people don't need that crutch, but you did say it yourself - in some ways church has been good for him.

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I wasn't nearly as bold or prolific a public witness as you, Skeptic, but I know how you feel, and I have some similar regrets. I wish I could take back the few times I went out with the church I went to during college for street ministry. Ugh.

 

And to think that I thought it didn't feel right at the time because I'm normally an introvert and I was "outside of my comfort zone." Or, I thought it didn't feel right at the time because big, mean Satan was trying to plant seeds of doubt in my mind, because he knew we were successful in our ministry, and he wanted those souls. No, I now realize it didn't feel right at the time because I, and the others with me, were being dicks to perfect strangers on the street who were just trying to enjoy themselves.

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This all reminds me of years ago when I was a teenager, of a day we were passing out camp meeting fliers. Tried to give one to a guy who didn't cuss or anything, but was clearly upset by being bothered with us trying to give him a flier. Wish I could talk to him now, just to find out what his experiences had been which brought on his response.

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Don't beat yourselves up. You should be proud of where you are now. It's not easy escaping an abusive relationship (albeit with an imaginary being / psychological virus) but you did it. You had the integrity, honesty and self-awareness to say to yourself "This isn't right. I've had enough. I'm outta here." Credit where credit is due. Some people are trapped in their self-contradictory bubble their entire lives.

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I was like that in high school and a bit at the beginning of college, too. And I just look back on that and CRINGE. I lost a (I thought at the time) very good friend over my beliefs about homosexuality at the time (he was bi). (There's a lot more to it, and after much thinking about it, I suspect he was never as good a friend as I thought he was, but that's beside the point.) I told people in high school how they should act. I was very prissy about people not swearing around me because it offended me. Like I said, CRIIIIIIIIIIIINGE.

 

But that's over now, and I try not to talk about my beliefs (or lack of them) at all with anyone just so I'm not as obnoxious an agnostic as I was a Christian.

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I know this is offtopic, but out of curiosity, who was the prof. at Illinois Tech? I'm an IIT student right now and wondering if they're still there.

 

Honestly I can't remember a single name. I'm getting old. I was Electrical Engineering Major and I just went to the EE and C IIT department website and checked the names but none sound familiar.

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ACS, I hear you. I was the fundy colleague from hell, bound by chains of judgmentalism and intolerance. I so wish I could apologize.

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I feel for you. I've done a lot of stupid things as a fundy. I don't feel too bad about the witnessing as most people are simply like Wendyshrug.gif and then shut the door. Probably the most hurtful things I've said are when people talk about a Christian who was very worldly/backslidden as if they'd see him/her in heaven, I'd correct them and say that this would be very doubtful because of X, Y, Z.

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AC Skeptic: I beat myself up over my attitude, too, while a fundy. The first step in deconversion as a fundy is to recognize how much of an asshole we really were, and for what reason? The fundamental faith in an invisible super friend and ignoring common sense in our decisions and thought processes. The belief in our invisible friends drove us to behave like people I cannot fathom now, after several years after leaving the church. Guilt and anger are part of deconversion. Anger gets better in time. Somethings I hear from xtians pisses me off but not everything like it used to just a couple years ago.

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AC your story was like a train wreck--I couldn't look away! I can definitely sympathize through similar experience. although like some others here I was never so bold as you. That was one of my biggest struggles as a Xian--being terrified of witnessing. I had a horrible feeling that would clench my gut and shut my mouth most times, which I'm grateful for now even though it made me feel like a lowly coward then. Still, there are definitely moments that I am trying not to think about (mostly in public places), hoping that my memory will blissfully fade them away.

 

On the note about the pamphlets, I remember receiving those and handing them back, telling the person I was already a Christian and going to heaven. They never believed me! ;-P Sometimes I kept them out of pity for the person handing them out who kept getting rejected for hours on end. What was the harm in raising their hopes? I even read the pamphlets later out of curiosity.They were always SOOOO BAADD that even as a Christian I was like "This is not going to work on ANYBODY." ;-P

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In college one year just before Xmas break, I gave Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell to all my professors, I wish I hadn't done that. I wish I had studied more.

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You're right, we all have done things we've regretted. But hey, what matters is that we learned from it and furthermore, it no longer negatively affects nor reflects on our current selves. The past is in the past. Onward, forward! :)

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I too was an introvert who rarely pulled such public hijinks, but I indeed cringe over the few times that I did. But what I really regret are the times I shared the Gospel in private with people who knew me, liked or loved me, and were vulnerable and had their guards down. I had the best of intentions at the time, but in hindsight....

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Mortifying.

 

I particularly loathe the cult leaders who manipulate the credulity of young people, such as the way you were. Of course you were on the trajectory your trusted elders put you on. We all did embarrassing things as young people, moi included - that's for sure.

 

Forgive yourself, but speak your truth. It is important that you do so, to help others to trust their own good judgment, that voice inside them saying "Don't spread the lies! I am feeling embarassed to do this witnessing crap for a good reason!"

 

Good on you for your courage.

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One of the things that still makes me cringe is a play I wrote to bring people "to salvation". It was stolen from me. Some people think I'm upset that it was stolen. And that is of course upsetting. But what keeps me up at night is knowing that it's still being used to convert people.

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One of the things that still makes me cringe is a play I wrote to bring people "to salvation". It was stolen from me. Some people think I'm upset that it was stolen. And that is of course upsetting. But what keeps me up at night is knowing that it's still being used to convert people.

 

I don't know the subject or even have a clue what your play was about, but perhaps you can lay an egg on on it by debunking it with some other creative work making the original just seem silly and foolish. You don't necessarily have to write a new play, just offhandedly start a rumor or something that paints the idea in a new light. If you're up for it, you could share the basics here and I'm sure someone could come up with a zinger or two that would work.

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One of the things that still makes me cringe is a play I wrote to bring people "to salvation".

 

Bringing back more memories. In between my junior and senior year of college I had a "Research Fellowship" at Oak Ridge National Lab (sounded great on my resume though in reality I was just programming in C or surfing the web). There was several other students there including a computer science major from MIT. I wrote a C program that basically outlined the gospel. Somewhere near the end there was a forever loop you got stuck in (if you hadn't accepted to the gospel earlier) and inside the loop in just said "bad times", representing hell. Thankfully, I didn't go so far as to activity distribute my little work, I just posted in on my cubicle wall. Anyway, the MIT student comes by and I see her read it, get really upset and flustered, and then storm off. And I was oh so "excited" that I had gotten a response, gotten her thinking about it. Planting a seed. . . . I so wish I could take it back.

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Yep, been there, done that. I was a teenager and in a church that used the youth to witness. Knocking on doors. Keeping a log of which houses, including address, who we talked to and what they said (if they didn't slam the door in our face). And this was a baptist church. Going to an amusement park in Panama City, Fla., bibles in hand, and told that we were NOT allowed to ride any of the rides until we had witnessed to someone. We were teenagers. Lots of girl teenagers. How retarded and dangerous was that? I gave my bible to some poor guy walking by. Just reached out and handed it to him and walked away. I was too shy to witness to strangers.

 

Made a fool of myself in high school trying to witness there.

 

But, I frequently see teenagers out witnessing and it makes me just want to slap their preacher and parents. If the preacher wants new recruits, then he needs to do it himself, NOT send out these children to do his dirty work for him. And don't even get me started on the JW's. I honestly feel bad for those women and children out knocking on doors.

 

And besides, here in the US, if someone were born and raised here, is there any doubt that they have NOT heard of jesus? What's the point? Because we have been brainwashed into believing that if "we" don't, then "we" will suffer eternally.

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  • 1 month later...

I never witnessed, well, sometimes I did, but it was totally unnatural and I REALLY had to psych myself up for it.

 

I had a public speaking class and I witnessed to the class that way, also there were a few times I walked up to strangers, but usually only when my chief pastor was forcing me to.

 

I was always praying for boldness and was ashamed for not having it.

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