Like many Americans, I was raised in a Christian home. I was brought to church most weekends, and attended a Christian school through eighth grade.
Unlike many Americans, there was a significant portion of my life when I thought I was the Antichrist. I don’t write this for shock value, but for context.
I was a worrier growing up, and perhaps had an overactive imagination. When mom and dad didn’t come home, I was terrified that they had died in a horrible car crash. I chewed on everything, metaphorically and literally. Once, a stress ball broke open while I was chewing on it (ironic, I know) and the beads inside spilled into my mouth. I just knew that (1) they were highly poisonous and (2) I had only a few minutes to live.
Instead of a smile, my baby pictures always featured a scowl of deep concern.
The Antichrist issue was just the climax of years of irrational internal monologues. But the disturbing belief lasted about a year, probably linked to hormonal changes during sixth grade. Frequent changes in a child’s life is said to cause anxiety; we didn’t have a broken family, but had moved six or seven times in my twelve years of life, up to that point.
I heard about Hell at school, and believed I was destined to go there. I heard about the Antichrist through the Left Behind series, and reasoned my way, through rising gradations of worst-case-scenario, that I was him. The confirmation came when I wondered why else I would be having such dark thoughts. I seriously considered killing myself at that point. Get it over with, and spare my family future pain. But in Left Behind, the Antichrist (named Nicolae Carpathia) goes to Hell after dying, then returns in true form to wreak havoc on the earth. So that option was quickly off the table for me. Instead, I’d drag my miserable life on for the next eighth months or so, with no hope through, or respite from, my reality.
Rewind five years or so. I had heard, probably through Sunday School, that Jesus had disciples while he walked the earth. I asked my parents if I could be one of those.
My mom, after thinking about it for a minute, regretfully informed me that there probably weren’t disciples anymore, at least not in the same way. I was always on either end of extremes, apparently. Next best thing: I’d be a pastor.
My dad and one of my uncles reminded me frequently through the next few years that I had made my proclamation to be a pastor. I still didn’t know what that meant, but I couldn’t take it back. I’d figure it out eventually, I supposed.
The trouble with teaching kids about interpretations of an eternal lake of burning fire, or about a supremely evil man walking the earth one day, is that often such teaching comes only as piecemeal. The trouble comes when we stop at hand-picked interpretations, rather than encouraging reading of the primary sources that founded a religious movement.
That’s ultimately where I found my healing from this climactic episode…
During those eighth months (of resignation to the fact of my eventual mass-soul-murder and personal eternity in the lake of fire) I spent most nights on my parents’ floor. My blanket and pillow stayed there, as did my Bible. The night seemed to bring evil, but I felt less engulfed by it when I cleaved the book to my chest, as close to my heart as possible: the philosophy of an anxiety-ridden boy with half-baked delusions of terror.
When that stopped bringing me comfort, I actually started to read the book, something that wasn’t fully taught to me in church, in school, or at home. It was just a last effort at solace over my broken state.
Reading through the pages, I found agency over and over again. I didn’t have to be evil–people chose to be so. I wasn’t forced to make bad decisions–they were decisions after all. And I certainly wasn’t the Antichrist, unless I fought really really hard to be so.
I wouldn’t. The healing process began when I stopped back-and-forths in my mind of “God is good, God is good, God is good. Satan is goo…..GOD is GOOD. GOD IS GOOD.” I replaced this runaway train of thought with, “No. I have a choice. I can be good. That’s that. Fuck you, Satan.” I would’ve never sworn out loud at that age, but the replacement seemed both appropriate and necessary.
I was exposed to pornography shortly after. Probably at a late age, on average. I was immediately hooked, and would be for the next ten years or so. More to come on this.
Freshman year of college, I was reminded of my calling to lead spiritually. I definitely didn’t want to be a pastor; the idea repulsed me. But I would lead, if that’s what I was supposed to do.
Sophomore year I was exposed to new information about religions and spirituality. This article was the result, and represents the start of a voracious search for more. In that search, I found freedom in bringing my doubts and my fears into the light. This article was the result, and represents the start of my freedom from pornographic dependence.
And now, I work full-time in ministry and continue my search. Lately I’ve been challenged by scientific explanations of reality, and fought hard to curb my cognitive dissonance. If God is there, he’s there. If the world came about through evolutionary means, then the two have to be compatible.
Full understanding rarely precedes teaching. Full acceptance rarely precedes adherence. And never do fear and doubt mean the end of hope and faith. My aim is to provide this site as a database of resources for those struggling as I struggled, questioning as I question–for those hoping to hope. I want to fill in some of the gap in the education I received about spirituality, religion, reality, Truth, and God. It’s a big task, but I’ve already been there. So what do I have to fear?
We need not fear the journey, doubts and all. Welcome to Modern Belief.