The Journey of a Christian Agnostic Theist: The Teenage Years

Wonderful picture

The images that I found for this post, and that I left out are simply breathtaking….wow!

First of all, what a mouthful that is. To explain just what all this means I will refer you to Yahoo Answers:

An agnostic Christian is a part of the agnostic theists. This means that this person is an agnostic (believes that the existence of god cannot be known by humans) but chooses to follow the Christian religion in spite of their agnosticism.
Theism is the belief that gods or deities exist, while Agnosticism is the belief that the existence of gods are unknown or inherently unknowable. Belief is defined as a conviction of the truth of a proposition without its verification. Agnosticism does not violate this, and this definition of theism does not violate agnosticism, implying that it is possible to be both theist and agnostic.

My Faith Journey

And so, this Sunday morning, I thought I would give you a glimpse into my faith journey. Where me and religion have come from and where we’re going. Maybe you’ll see a little bit of yourself in my story. At the very least, you’ll know where I am coming from whenever I write on matters of the spirit. It is a convoluted tale that hops and skotches to and fro: it’s a story so I’ll allow it to meander.

Childhood Debauchery

The first person who introduced religion and faith to me clearly did not study marketing in this consumer-driven world. Had I first been introduced to Christianity in Australia, the Displaced African would probably have been the Displaced Prophet or Salt of the Earth: Aussie Version or something similar.

I have no idea who it was, but I remember when I was very young getting it into my head that Christianity was about denial of sensual pleasures in order to please God who would burn me in hell if I didn’t follow his commands.

Now this is True, But…….

You don’t get people to come through the doors of the church like that. Honestly, no one is as good at bringing people through the door (and losing them over time) as the Western church. From missionaries who have managed to convert almost the entire global South, to even the way churches in a country like Australia run, they understand how to speak to people’s self interests and how to place God as the solution to YOUR personal problem.

I Digressed There…….

So, in short, me being the rebel that I was, never really wanted to say that I got saved out of fear. In addition to that, I kind of saw religion as a woman’s religion one time and other times as something practiced by a peer group that I did not want to impress -though a lot of them were so nice and I loved, still love, being around them.

Now, I am far from alone in having a childhood like this. My native homeland is (I put this in heavy quotes) “80% Christian” last I heard. Meaning whether or not we are born again Christians, most of us have grown up around the church or church goers and have some type of Christian understanding of God. And yet, a lot of us are not born again.

I Finally Got Born Again

When I was a teen, the sermon, the music, the people and the message were just aligning like they never had and I made a decision:

I was going to take up my cross and follow Him

I’ll never forget our so-awesome-I-can’t-help-grinning-when-I-type-this sunday school teachers pulling us (about 3 or 4 of us) aside and giving us a talk. They showed us a book that was made of many different colours but no words. Each colour represented a different part of one’s spiritual journey with black being darkness and gold being heaven if I remember correctly. And so feeling super-great that I made a great decision that day I stepped out of sunday school a saved boy.

It Lasted for ……

…maybe 3 hours. Again the problem was not only in the way folks marketed the faith to me but how I viewed the faith now that I was born again: denial of pleasure. I still didn’t see the higher positive purpose in pursuing anything spiritual.
I remember getting home and sitting in front of the TV staring at my Playstation.
I was now born again and I knew that playing violent wrestling games was bad: Would I deny myself that pleasure? I didn’t. And so the descent began……..

I Have Been Baptized By the Way

I was baptized about a week later on Valentine’s Day 2000. By this point I had slid so far back into the secular I had formed my own secular state. The only reason I got baptized was because I wanted to have a house party and invite all the girls.

Things went full circle and now I was how I was in the begining: a kid who didn’t want to convert because he thought he would be missing out on too much.

To be continued……..

15 Comments

  • By Pink M, July 14, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

    LOL on playstatio. When I got saved (at 6 yrs), I asked my mum to cut my hair since wordly beauty was sin in God’s eyes.

  • By Mwangi, July 14, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

    @Pink M: It’s weird some of the “fear hangups” we developed as children sorrounding the faith. As I said in the post, if only some of us had been taught more about the loving and beautiful aspects of the faith early on as opposed to the fire, brimestone and constant discussions and explorations of the book of Revelations, who knows how many more people would now be card carrying members of the church.

  • By Evan, July 15, 2008 @ 6:27 pm

    I look forward to the next instalment.

    I too had a conversion experience and my church was also of the evangelical fire and brimstone type.

    I still think the spirit of Christ is the way to go but I’m fairly disenchanted with the church institutions. (I don’t think I am alone in this.)

  • By Pink M, July 15, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

    @ Evan, I agree totally with Christ being the way to go, I think it’s just hard for a young questioning mind to have the blind faith following Jesus demands. Sin is also a big issue here.

  • By Mwangi, July 15, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    @Evan: I think a problem with any institution is that by the very nature of it representing something, it automatically excludes and opposes something else. And so, sad to say, but I think as long as human beings are who we are and institutions are what they are, there will always be those who are disenchanted or simply repelled by a particular institution.
    After all, there are a lot more saved/born again people in the global South where the message of hell and brimstone and existence of demons is accepted as commonplace.
    But for sure, you are not alone. In the West as I recently learned, people between the 18-25 age group are the ones who leave the church the most because they become adult weigh their faith against other ways of life and chose other ways of life because they fit better with them.

  • By Mwangi, July 15, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

    @Kelly: To continue on with what I was telling Evan, the reason that the 18-25 age group tend to leave their faith out her is because all their lives they have followed blindly what their parents and pastors told them to follow and now as adults when they have to reprocess their faith on their own they end up coming to the conclusion that though Christianity is good, it’s not for them.
    If you see the youth pastor, he is always encouraging people to reprocess their faith and work through it in the 18-25 age group.

  • By kenya.fm, July 16, 2008 @ 2:31 am

    Here is a heart-felt tip to all those who may be confused by this born-again thing:

    There is such a thing as age of accountability-that is, when someone gets to be able to know the difference between good and evil, Really know. This varies from individual to individual. I doubt anyone less than 18 really really knows what is good and and what is bad. I hazard a guess: 24 is the magic #.

    Therefore, it is disastrous to put a burden of being born-again to 6-year olds, and people who have not yet reached that magic age. Some younger people may do well, but i think it is a great mistake the church now pays for. I mean, God is good, how nice would He be to be telling a 6-year old about hell and burning and such stuff? Anyone, with that kind of threat, would be shoved into heaven, not so?.

    This gentlemen, is the proper way to be born again:

    -You have the mind and presence to be able to look at the world, your life and think: this world is surely full for nice pleasures. It is also full of so much evil. The pleasures are so short-lived. The evil so enduring. Is there anything else better than ALL these?

    And when confronted with the teaching of Christ, which basically says
    “Hey, I have a better way. You can partner with me in easing the evils you see around you. But to work with me, it requires you do let go of some of the goodies in life and to be like me. Are you willing to come on board?”

    Now, when one comes to that point, they are at a position to make a good life choice. A career type of choice. The type of choice that you do not walk from easily. I think a 24+ year old can make that kind of a choice soberly.

  • By Mwangi, July 16, 2008 @ 2:45 am

    @kenya fm: Aaah, religion always gets you back to the comments section doesn’t it my friend? I think the age when reasonable consent can be given is actually much younger than that and that most teens under the right circumstances from about the age of 16 can actually make adult decisions depending on the circumstance. In spite of that, I guess the question is definitely worth exploring:

    What is the best way, if you wish for your child to grow up in Christ all their life, for you to impart the message to them?

    Fear? Love? A mixture? Tailor each message to each child?

  • By kenya.fm, July 16, 2008 @ 4:06 am

    Age:
    -it is arguable, but as i said, it is individual-specific. I do not think anyone person should have the right to determine that age. Only the individual and God knows, and no one can cheat the Lord as to when they really knew good vs evil.

    As a guide, ( and not to let anyone free to ignore consequences ), consider that in the OT, one could not be a rabbi until age 30. Also, of those Israelites who left, those below age 24 were given blanket pardon for any wrong doing in the desert.

    Bringing up kids
    -Fear, mostly no, sometimes yes, depending on the age.( e.g. “Mwangi, if you cross the road without first looking left-right-left- you will be crushed”). Love always. But not that love that does not have any consequences. Love that cares, gives freedom, yet does not hold too much.

    In any case, every child is unique. There should be no blanket “this is how to raise kids” type of rules. Any parent who has the right presence of mind, is a reasonable person, and loves his kids, should have no problem in raising them well. But, in those cases where there are great doubts, i think the bible (especially NT) is a good model to use. But again, it is never right to force ideas on people, even kids. You can generally drag along 6/8/11/15 year olds wherever you want them to go ( for their benefits, say, for example, i do not know anyone who is not glad that their parents forced them to go to school or that they got some a.. whooping for stealing ), but as parents realise that their kids are coming of age, they should be able re-evaluate their methods and learn what methods work and which do not.

    Talking of using the Bible as a model:
    I know there are many other ideas out there, and people are free to choose whatever they feel comfortable with. I think some reasons why kids do not take kindly to some of those ideas from the bible is because the parents/authority figures propagating these ideals do not themselves live up to what they expect of the young. But i think if they were always honest, not hiding behind the cloth or “i am the parent” or ” i am the teacher/president”, but acknowledging whenever we fail, it should be okay.

  • By Evan, July 16, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    About child-rearing. I think there are about three things that apply to all children and ways of bringing them up: children should feel free to think for themselves, have their own feelings and act responsibly (taking account of consequences).

    As to Christian institution. Hi Pink M, I think Jesus and his first followers did not require intellectual suicide. Paul said that “If Jesus did not rise from the dead we are of all [people] most to be pitied”. Ie. Christianity is open to falsification.

    This leads to a good deal of discussion in contemporary western philosophy (and a much longer tradition of reflection in the enlightenment traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism). The question I would put as: is the intellect adequate to comprehend truth/reality (and how and if truth and reality are different). This is especially discussed in modern western philosophy by existentialism and phenomenology. I especially like Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (the true is a part of the good). My own approach is that our perceptions are educated and do bear a relation to what is. The most useful approach I find is Perls, Hefferline and Goodman’s Gestalt Therapy. Hope this makes sense.

  • By Mwangi, July 16, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

    @kenyafm: As an interesting side note, whereas most children remember the pain behind being beaten by their parents or teachers, I tend to remember that a lot of the time it used to be like fun competitions to see who was strongest among the boys.
    Anyway, the interesting thing is growing up, I can honestly say that being beaten almost did nothing for my character, I still continued to talk in class, continued to be brash and cocky. That’s why I always say that God must love me for not going to a Kenyan high school, I either would have been pummeled to death or I would have had the will pummeled out of me.
    Right now as I reflect, I learned much more from examples than I ever did from the rod….but that’s just me.

  • By Mwangi, July 16, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

    “Is the intellect adequate to comprehend truth/reality?”……That is the million/billion/eternal dollar question isn’t it?

  • By Wendell, September 1, 2008 @ 5:49 am

    Thank you for this great article — I look forward to more.

    At 41 years old, I have just recently found myself thinking more seriously about where I am in terms of religion. My parents did not attend church, but it was clear that they believed in God; at what level was unknown. My Dad’s parents took me to Southern Baptist church where I became very involved from about age 7 through 16. I was quite consumed with the church and obeyed their teachings.

    It was at age 16 that I began to wonder about whether I was following the right path. There was no encouragement from “outside” — It just occurred to me one day that I had blindly followed that path without any consideration for other options. However, my excursion into finding my true religion did not consider any other paths outside of Christianity. I found myself settling for non-denominational churches. In my late 20’s, I stopped attending churches of any kind on a regular basis.

    I basically just stopped thinking about religion. I tended to avoid religious conversations. About the time I hit age 34, I went to work at a place where there were many different types of faiths among the employees there — anything from strict Roman Catholic to Agnostic to Atheist. I worked there for 5 years and man, it really woke me up to what’s really out there in terms of religion. Since then, I have done a lot of reading in addition to the great discussions I had with those people of various faiths.

    At this point, I feel like I have evolved into something like what you describe here, although I still haven’t completely pinpointed it. I don’t think a person in my position ever fully settles on an exact religion, but I think “Agnostic Christian” fits me pretty well. Of all the reading I have done, and the thinking I’ve done about myself, I think your article really hit home for me. I want to thank you for the inspiration and now the desire to dig deeper.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, but I hope that maybe this will help someone else. It does seem like most people have fully decided on a religion by their mid-20’s, and I thought the folks posting here might find it interesting that a dude in his 40’s such as myself can still be so dynamic in terms of religion.

    Thanks again to all for the great article and follow-up comments.

  • By Mwangi, September 1, 2008 @ 8:45 pm

    @Wendell: Thank you. You will realize that on this blog, mini posts are not only welcome but encouraged. I think a very big problem, that I personally go through that is quite typical of Western culture is we forget that life is a process and a journey from the beginning of it all the way to death as opposed to a destination.
    Even the monk who finds Nirvana has to get up the next morning eat something, go to the bathroom and try to deepen his Nirvana or find a new higher challenge or at least do something.
    So its always great to read stories of people who are consciously going through the journey, looking back, learning and moving forward, especially when adult life is so typically characterised by what I would lovingly call an automatic hypnosis, where we kinda select our lot in life and kinda live it over and over and over again.
    Thank you for inspiring a young person such as myself and showing me an alternative better way of living this life that is a journey.

  • By Christian, June 30, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

    Interesting beliefs.thanks for sharing them.Its good to be honest:)

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