Mine is not unlike the story of a countless many in that I was raised a Christian. Our home life growing up was plagued with the often nightly violence and brutality of a raging, drunken step-father. I recall, in the sheer desperation of those years of my life, that Mother’s faith in Jesus became my faith as well. Not so much so for my brother and sister, but as for Mom and I, it was a life line, and when drowning, one must take hold of whatever line is thrown. I recall preaching my very first sermon...I was 13 years old. My message was on "un-saved parents" and by the time I was finished that Sunday morning, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Oh how I studied, read and prayed after that glorious Sunday, seeking the will of God thru pastors and church elders, everyone but myself. Many years had passed before the, often nightly, cops and chaos came to an end...but it did end.
Shortly thereafter, I moved out, married my beautiful wife and we started our family with the arrival of my daughter, Kaylee, and have continued to build that family over the years with the addition of three sons, Maverick, Mason and little Dewey. We lived in a kind of ignorant bliss, church on Sundays and Wednesdays, employee at a Christian book store, "street ministry," you name it! Now, so as not to portray myself as un-wavering in my devotion, I will say that in 18 years of marriage, and not unlike a lot of young marriages, ours has had its share of up's and down's and that goes for my "faith" as well. With that being said, we'll fast forward to a more recent history...
From the years of 2003 to 2006, the heart that I have always had for God REALLY shone through and the bond that I developed as a young man to this faith propelled me to new aspirations in ministry. As a musician, I recorded a Christian album which was quite popular, amongst the flock if you will and I have proclaimed my faithful belief as life saving truth in countless venues in Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Indianapolis Indiana, New York, Idaho and Montana. My "testimony" was broadcast on K-LOVE Christian radio to a listening audience of 30 million people. My ministry was at an all time high.
It was about this time that my lifelong friend and colleague, Thomas Burson, called me on the telephone one fateful day and proposed some very challenging information pertaining to "the faith" I'd always known. Now Tom was also raised a Christian, so for him to be questioning "our faith" could only mean one thing, Tom had backslidden, a kind of falling away if you will. I recall, quite clearly feeling "taken" by the information that I had heard, as well as feeling un-nerved at my ignorance pertaining to the matter, especially being a ministering Christian at the time. I remember thinking, "How could this be?!?!”, while at the same time, reeling from what I perceived to be, "an attack of the Devil," a "fiery dart" meant to shake my "faith." This reaction is an instantaneous defense mechanism that is a characteristic of "blind faith," I should know! In reality, to deem the unknown as, "of the Devil," is to wallow in the stagnant shallows of ignorance. An un-excusable act given the great potential that comes with being created in the image of ALL!
It's strange looking back on all of this, as I recall somehow fending off what I had heard and making conscious efforts to suppress the logic that was so desperately trying to manifest within my being. Over the course of the next few months, however, I found that I could not wrestle with the overwhelming feeling that had come over me...and it was at that moment that I knew. You could have driven a bus through the enormous hole in my heart as I realized what I must do. Tom was with me at that moment and I remember, as tears were streaming down my face, asking him in desperation, "How am I going to tell my children that Jesus isn't real and that Daddy was wrong?" It was the hardest thing I'd ever faced...hands down. My mind was whirling with thoughts, all bad, of how they would react. What will they think of me?!? How could I have been so wrong?!? NOW WHAT DO WE DO?!?! I want to say, before I go any further, that my children listened very closely to what I knew of the matter at that time, it is amazing to reflect back on how uninhibited reason and logic is when coming from a younger, less "calloused" mind. What an advantage it is for children to know the truth!
However, at this point, I had some MAJOR ISSUES to resolve as I felt as if everything I'd ever known was a lie! I was tormented with fear, ANGER (that was a big one), sadness and confusion. I had to know what was going to happen to our soul?! That's when Tom and I began a Biblical and historical quest for facts and knowledge that I can say with confidence was, and is, the most intricate, precise, monumental undertaking of our lives. We poured ourselves through every facet and fracture of the pretended word of God in fluid motion for HOURS on end, every day, reading, cross referencing from one Bible to the next and to the next...We even somehow managed to call a Rabbi, in Jerusalem, several times to inquire of Biblical matters! It was when we discovered the disdain that our founding fathers had for, "...the most bloody religion that ever existed," (John Adams) coupled with the seemingly Divine insight of Thomas Paine and The Age of Reason, that we finally stood in the warm light of understanding that is Deism.
After several years of combined study and research, we have come to understand the difference between mere belief and knowledge based in facts, logic and reason. We have, "shaken off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched and fixed wisdom firmly in her seat, and called on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. We questioned with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." (Thomas Jefferson) We too, "...hold it to be presumption in man to make an article of faith as to what will happen to us in the hereafter." (Thomas Paine) Now, my family and I are standing on the SOLID ground of real knowledge and understanding, NOT because of any revelations, or miracles, but because we took the time to look and listen to the divine principles of truth that resonate so strongly in Deism. It is an almost un-explainable feeling to no longer live in constant fear....and once more, to be FREE.