I had a great visit with my brother and his family this weekend. He came through town and spent the 4th with us. The next morning, he and I were the first up, so we sat on the deck with our coffee and had a conversation about the way things are.
He’s actually the one who started it. Since it was a Sunday morning, and my wife had already left for church, I think that’s what prompted him to talk about it. He mentioned how much more time he has now that he doesn’t regularly go to church. A few years ago, he moved from the west coast to the northern limits of the South and started attending my uncle’s church. My uncle is a dyed-in-the-wool oneness pentecostal who still holds to the “holiness standards”, while my brother is a pretty normal guy. They had a falling out over a lot of things, but mostly my uncle’s attitude toward other people, especially other christians. The easiest way to describe it is that my uncle’s stance is “they’re all going to hell because they don’t believe the way we do.” That didn’t sit well with my brother who is a lot more willing to let all kinds of christians into heaven.
After that, they started going to a small independent church that used to be baptist, but some of the ministers there made my brother reconsider. My brother got into this “hyper grace” movement (I think as a result of the spat with my uncle), and some of the ministers at the new church didn’t teach that. My brother finally stopped going regularly about the same time that I finally realized I was no longer a believer in the supernatural. His wife decided to continue going until the current season of AWANA is over, since she is in charge of it. The last he told me about his situation is that they are thinking about just having a small circle of friends start a house-to-house fellowship on Sundays instead of doing traditional church.
But in the midst of this conversation, I started talking about my own journey. I reiterated a few points I had already told him about in phone conversations in the past. I mentioned the archaeology issue and some of the scriptural non-agreement issues. Then I started talking about John Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith and it’s inherent points. I then told him that this lead me to the point thatI needed something to hold onto about the faith that would make it real. “The prophesies of Jesus as messiah in the Old Testament” I told him “were the only thing that would keep it real for me. But when I started studying them, they broke down too.”
Then I told him that I no longer believe any of it.
He almost didn’t react at all. He just kind of nodded and kept on talking, as if he had already figured that out about me. No fireworks, no “A-Ha!”, no crazy shenanigans. Just my brother and me having a conversation.
I really think it’s kind of dead for him too, but he just doesn’t want to go as far as I have. He still holds on to the love of god. His Facebook feed is full of posts from Danny Lee Silk, who is all about loving others, and a couple of other hyper grace preachers, who are very similar to universalists. Back in April he even posted an article about why homosexuals are good for the church, and it’s a positive slant on that issue. In our conversation he said that he just wants to make the world a better place by being a good person to everyone he meets. But he didn’t even relate that to being good because of god or religion. I really think he’s lost his faith in christianity, but hasn’t seen enough evidence in the right places to make his give it up entirely. As John Loftus says, “Most people won’t find their faith improbable until they find it impossible.” I think that’s where he is.
The evening before, he mentioned off-hand that while they were living on the west coast they had gone to a market night and were sitting in front of a cafe having a cup of coffee. While they were sitting there an atheist group started setting up their awning and display for the market night. My brother said that he got up and helped them finish setting up. Afterward, one of them asked if he was an atheist, and he said, “No, but you looked like you needed help.” After a bit more conversation he started to leave. He shook they guy’s hand and said “God bless you… Just kidding.” I’m not sure why he brought that up, but I’m sure it had something to do with our conversation the next morning. I’m still processing it all.