Jump to content

Called on to Testify


Recommended Posts

I wrote my Testimony many years ago. See https://testimonials.exchristian.net/2006/10/double-deconversion.html. Maybe it's time for a new one. Or maybe I should post this in Rants and Replies. I got an unexpected call from my aunt this morning that required for me to testify on my position as a nonbeliever. 

 

"Testifying" is not part of the brand of Christianity she and I come from. They don't even believe in mission work or sending out missionaries. They believe in "letting your light shine" since a "light makes no noise." "Being a good example" by dressing and living like 19th century is their way of "evangelizing." "Keeping the tradition" is more important to them than bringing in new members since new members from the outside might bring in new ideas and new traditions. You get the picture. I have no training in testifying.

 

However, since my deconversion in 2006 I've done quite a bit of it online, especially on Quora, just not verbally on the telephone with someone who does not even have a high school education. In recent years I've been reviving a relationship with my aunt who is only fourteen years older than me, closer to me in age than my youngest sister, and part of my childhood. Just now she called, apparently burdened about my salvation.

 

She was totally dismissive of the forty years I had spent in the "faith of our fathers" before deconversion, did not acknowledge her own leaving the church with husband and family many years before I did. They joined a slightly more liberal church, one that allowed cars rather than horse and buggy. Nor did I bring up these items; it only makes for fights. 

 

"I've been wondering," she said, "whether you have ever studied the Bible as hard as you study your other books. Or how you can believe this other stuff that you believe." 

 

In retrospect I wonder what she thinks I read in those forty years, how she expected me to react to her own accusations that I wasn't capable to be a teacher in the community's private schools, and her evaluation that my work with the kids at the public school was not evidence that I was capable. How did she expect a person to deal with being denied all their dreams and being ripped down at everything they tried and found enjoyable? 

 

It wasn't just her but she certainly didn't stand by me. She stood by the rest of the community and, if anything, supported and fed the animosity against me. I had more or less forgotten and forgiven this stuff, but the questions she asked me this morning opened up all the old wounds. Like usual, during the telephone call I remained calm and in control in the moment.

 

"What 'stuff'?" I asked, curious to know exactly how she would express it.

 

"Well, about evolution and how it was all made by the Bang." 

 

Oh dear! I thought. Such clumsy language. She barely knows what she is talking about. There is no way I can begin talking science with her. And my own knowledge of science is not deep enough for a real discussion. I've been there before. Besides, being atheist has nothing to do with disbelieving the Genesis Creation Story. At least, for me it doesn't. 

 

"I'm not really that much into evolution," I told her. Readers, please keep in mind that I am translating from Pennsylvania German. I can't think of an English word that equals the German word I used. It means something along the line of "I'm not devoted to evolution" or "I don't 'practice with passion and devotion/dedication." 

 

"What do you devote yourself to?" she asked, using the word I can't translate. 

 

I needed a drink of water to buy time and think how to answer that one so as not to be flippant or defensive. Then I explained that I have my cats and that I try to be a good person, enjoy what I've got, get along with people. 

 

"And where do you get that?" she asked. 

 

She was following the script. I knew it by heart from the online debates. Again, how to answer respectfully in German so that she could understand with her very limited education and non-participation of online debates. 

 

"You [generic you; our language has a special word for it] just know. I don't want to get hurt so I try not to hurt others." 

 

She kept repeating the question about whether I have read or studied the Bible. Apparently she does not know that I have a degree in theology. Or perhaps she discounts that as true study of the Bible since the degree was obtained in a "worldly" institution. Maybe she also discounts my forty years of deep and exhaustive study while still with the "faith," including those years after she and her husband left. I just find it so offensive after all the very hard work and decades-long soul-searching I did that people still ask whether I ever studied the Bible.

 

At one point she said something about the first five books of the Bible, that if I'd ever read those, I'd have evidence...I forget what she thought those books provide evidence for but I told her that if one reads other books one learns that what's in the first five books of the Bible was taken from other religions, from the religions of the people around the Israelites who did not believe in the God of Abraham. 

 

"Was Abraham a Jew?" she asked me.

 

That came across to me as one of the most elementary stupid questions a professed Christian could ask. Instead of saying so, I replied, "If you have read the first five books of the Bible you will know that Abraham was the father of the Jews." 

 

"And where did Abraham get it?" she asked me. 

 

"If you have read the first five books of the Bible you know the answer," I replied. 

 

"I'm asking you," she said. 

 

"Oh well," I said, trying to remember the details of the story, "I'm not sure how the story goes. Maybe God talked to him." 

 

Then she started talking about how God talked to humans more before Jesus' time. I thought God also talked directly to humans in the New Testament but at the moment I could not think of an example and let it go. 

 

Again she asked me whether I ever studied the Bible as much as I study my other books. 

 

In retrospect, I realize why I was getting exasperated. I had just proved to her that I have definitely studied the Bible and that I knew it better than she did. I really doubt she could answer her own question about how Abraham learned about God. I suppose her answer would have been some vague blanket statement about the Holy Spirit teaching him.

 

Finally, I told her that, "Yes, I read the Bible. I don't know how many times I read the New Testament and I have read the Bible! And I still read it." 

 

She said that was good and that she doesn't want to fight and we hung up. 

 

Doesn't want to fight!!! Yeah right.

 

She'll be eighty in a month or two. She sounded like a very old woman. Eighty is old but I know eighty-year-olds who don't sound that old. She didn't sound that old when we talked before Christmas. Speaking to "erring" family members must really take a toll. Did I mention her own son and the life he is leading? Possibly he is a sterling evangelical but he most certainly is not a conservative Amish-style Mennonite like she raised him and she must have feared I would reference him.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I understand your situation.  I live near an Amish community in Kansas, USA and know several Mennonites.  Also, although my father was not Menneonite, he had the same rigid mindset and confronted me about my "liberalism" when he was about 80 years of age.  At the time I had not decided I was agnostic and my wife and I were attending a Mennonite Brethren congergation.  I tried to answer his questions, but it went nowhere.  He finally got right in front of me, looked me in the eye and said very seriously, "there is no more hope for you".  He turned and walked away and I went home "flabergasted".   

 

Althought it wasn't as dramatic there were some discussions with other family and friends along those lines, especially after I completely left religion behind.  A couple of them actually got angry in the discussion, and some others "backed away" and said they would pray for me.  That was several years ago and I decided to write an essay about my journey out of religion. 

 

What I do now if someone asks why I left church/religion, I tell them I studied the history of all gods and religions and came to the conclusion they are all myths and superstitions that filtered down from thousands of primitive religions.  And the more recent ones were fabricated by clever people, interested in power and wanting to control the mass of common people.  If they are interested in the details of my study they are welcome to a copy of my essay.  Only 3 people have taken a copy of it.  One never contacted me again, one later said we would simply have to agree to disagree, and the third later told me he appreciated it, and that he had also left religion.

 

My advise to you.  Unless you enjoy a good argument, don't waste a lot of time defending yourself.  You are NOT going to change your aunt, or others.  I learned a lesson with my aging mother who could get very dramatic with, "where did your dad and I go wrong?"  etc.  Wnen I finally, calmly looked in her eyes and said, "you didn't go wrong.  You gave me a brain to think and reason with, and I used it.  Sorry if I didn't turn out like you wanted."   When she saw she could no longer "get under my skin" she backed off and we had a very good relationship when she died.  I think you will find that when others discover your calmness, and that they can't get under your skin with their arguments, they will back off.  And probably say they will pray for you.

 

Keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just read your "Double Deconversion".  We both left the church at 50 years of age.

 

Another thought occured to me about your aunt wanting you to explain some things, and you feeling threatened in some way???  Are you feeling obligated to answer her?  You are both adults and you can simply refuse to discuss it.  She is NOT going to see that the bible is not the word of God, and to argue the point may do more to harm the relationship than anything else.   I suggest tellng her you believe she is doing her best to do what she believes is right, and that you are doing the same.  Thank her for her concern for your soul.  That is something I wish I had done with my father.  He died without us visiting again just weeks after our heated argument.   I know he felt iike a failure.  He often quoted the scripture, "bring up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it."  I pitied him.  His abusive father, and an abusive religion had done a number on him.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Weezer, thank you for your answers. I didn't feel threatened but I did feel offended at the disrespect. I won't get back to her. It's not worth the energy. Like you experienced and I have experienced, people like this will not discuss things rationally or with an open mind. I just had to write out the experience to "get it out of my system" and this seemed like the right place to do so. Possibly it wasn't the best idea. I've been away too long. 

 

But it did do the trick to get it out of my system. I forget all about it for the rest of the day. And that's a very good sign. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, R. S. Martin said:

 I just had to write out the experience to "get it out of my system" and this seemed like the right place to do so. Possibly it wasn't the best idea. I've been away too long. 

 

But it did do the trick to get it out of my system. I forget all about it for the rest of the day. And that's a very good sign. 

I'm glad you posted it.  Responding to you helped me process more regarding the situation with my father.  Even after my last reply I had anothe insight while taking my nightly walk.  Looking back it seems like my father on some level knew he was nearing the end of life (unexpected heart attack), even though he was still going strong physically. After his death I found out he had also confronted a cousin who had gone "liberal", and had also got angry with him.  It was like he was tying up some loose ends before checking out.  Making sure he tried one more time to save our souls.  He sincerely thought he was doing us a favor, but got frustrated/angry because he was not being successful.  Was it because his faith wasn't working?  I had heard him say in the past, something to the effect that if an honest person heard the truth of the bible, they would respond.  And it wasn't working with his "honest" son who was at the time working at a liberal Christian adoption agency.  He couldn't face that his faith was caving in on him??   Or that he was a failure??   If I had realized at the time what was possibly going on, I think I would have responded differently.  Similar to how I handled it years later with my mother.  BEST WISHES!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello, R.S. Martin! I have not been on here so much recently, and I haven't seen you online in years. I hope things are going well - aside from certain phone calls. All best! Ficino

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

52 minutes ago, ficino said:

Hello, R.S. Martin! I have not been on here so much recently, and I haven't seen you online in years. I hope things are going well - aside from certain phone calls. All best! Ficino

I haven't been here. Some time ago I posted a few answers. Mostly I'm on Quora solving other people's problems. But recently I've taken up birding quite seriously, watching and counting birds in my backyard or on walks around the block, photographing what I can, and posting on eBird and other nature sites for scientists. It's open to anyone and I love it! How are you?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, Weezer said:

the third later told me he appreciated it, and that he had also left religion

 

That's great!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/16/2022 at 3:02 PM, R. S. Martin said:

I haven't been here. Some time ago I posted a few answers. Mostly I'm on Quora solving other people's problems. But recently I've taken up birding quite seriously, watching and counting birds in my backyard or on walks around the block, photographing what I can, and posting on eBird and other nature sites for scientists. It's open to anyone and I love it! How are you?

Hi, I'm doing OK. Husband has been semi-paralyzed from stroke for almost ten years now. I push on with my usual research and writing about ancient Greek philosophy and rhetoric. Haven't done serious birding in a while.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.