Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A thank you to my Christian mentors

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my de-conversion from Christianity had nothing to do with the church or with struggles in life. It was Christianity itself that I struggled with – its teachings and claims to truth. Despite what some Christians might believe, I was not deeply hurt by Christians in the church. In fact, I have great respect for the Christians that I grew up with, especially for those few who mentored me in my teens.

While I was in high school, I attended a local Baptist Church in the town I grew up in. Many of my friends attended, and I have many fond memories of the youth meetings that took place there every Friday night. We had good youth leaders at the time. I was involved with the church’s teen youth group from 1992 to 1994. During those three short years, three youth leaders – adults who had undergone training in youth ministry – made a profound impact on my life, not only as a Christian, but also as an individual.

I want to thank Cindy, Linda and John, the three youth leaders who somehow saw potential within me, and both challenged and encouraged me to discover my abilities as an individual.

In Std 8 (Grade 10), I had to do a presentation in English class on my role model. I chose Jesus - after all, I could not let such an evangelistic opportunity slip by! When my Christian friends and Sunday school teachers heard that I had shared my testimony in front of my secular friends, they were ecstatic.

However, John quietly pulled me aside and said something along the lines of: “By all means, follow Jesus and build your relationship with him. But don’t mould yourself too much on those that you perceive as role models. Be your own person, be your self, and discover your own gifts and talents” This is probably the best advice that any Christian has given me. And I still hold onto it today (well, except for the following Jesus bit).

It has been years since I’ve seen any of my former youth leaders. If any of them would chance to come across my blog, I just want to reassure them that all their work was not in vain. Yes, I am not a Christian any longer. Yes, like a snake, I have shed and discarded my old skin of the spiritual. But there is more than spiritual guidance that results from such relationships. The character building inputs that I have received from those three youth leaders - as well as from my parents and some school teachers - will remain with me for the rest of my life.


Dar said...

Hi Kevin: I am a fellow former Christian, I adore your posts, and I am first-day new to blogging. You exude love and gentleness in your writing, I share your point of view and am pleased to know that although you are ex-Christian, you have not become ANTI-christian as many do. Keep blogging and look for me out there once I've established my account.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Dar

Thank you for such a gracious comment. When I first left Christianity, I was indeed quite bitter, and sometimes this expressed itself as spite towards Christianity and Christians in some of the things I said or wrote (it still happens from time to time, I’m afraid). I’ve been trying to change this, by searching for the good in Christianity, but at the same time exploring the weaknesses of atheism. There is no philosophy or belief that is totally perfect or air-tight. I think it was Carl Sagan who advocated the idea that we should strive to find weaknesses in our own positions, but at the same time find good points in things that we strongly disagree with. It’s this kind of cognitive balance that I strive for.

I subscribe to many reason vs. faith and creationism vs. evolution discussion groups, and on almost all of them civil discussion often degrades to flaming and name calling, from both sides. My personal aim is not to fight the other side (as tempting as it might be) but to enter in dialogue and discussion, with the aim to learn.

Please send me the link to your blog when it is up and running. I would be interested to read what you have to say.


noell said...

Kevin, this is a beautiful post. I do a bit of ranting on my blog. Sometimes I get Christian readers who tell me they are sorry I grew up in such a repressive religion. I then have to go back and proclaim that I had a very good religious life.

Like you, I didn't leave because of the reasons people assume. I left because I suddenly paid attention to the things that didn't make sense. And when I tried to get a solution for them, some guidance from God, I instead found more contraditions that didn't make sense.

I was very happy with my childhood and upbringing, though. Even with my experiences as a Mormon adult. I talk a lot against religion because I think its wrong. But you reminded me that I should also give credit for the wonderful people and the positive things they gave me.