catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 20 :: 2007.11.02 — 2007.11.16


Losing my convictions

Is it ever ok to change your convictions? I grew up in a movement
within Christianity that said “no.” A man without convictions was
considered spineless, weak, wishy-washy, or worst of all, liberal. I
heard a pastor say recently that convictions are those beliefs that you
are willing to die for. There have been radical adherents of both
Christianity and Islam that have gone a step further and killed others
because of their convictions. I’m not sure if there is any conviction
that I have that I am willing to kill for; however, there are a few
beliefs that I would stake my own life on. The list is short. In fact,
it has shrunk considerably over the past ten years.

The importance of having convictions was instilled in me at a very
early age. My mother took me to church where my great-grandfather was
the pastor. He baptized me when I was seven years old. He preached the
Bible. He also preached a lot of stuff that was not in the Bible. I
remember hearing that women should not wear pants and that the Beatles
represented the spirit of antichrist. I did not know the difference
between a biblical principle and a legalistic standard. Therefore, the
seeds of confusion were planted that would spring forth many years

I truly believe that my great-grandfather was a good man with a good
heart.  He loved people and was well-respected in the community.
He just happened to be living and preaching in a place and time in
which fundamentalism was very popular. He reflected the convictions of
his fundamentalist culture.


A Teenage Rebel

I strayed away from my fundamentalist roots as a teen-ager. I
remember sitting in the auditorium at Park Junior High waiting for the
first morning bell to ring and talking with students. I remember one
kid telling me about all the rock music tapes that he had. He mentioned
names of groups that I thought were Satanic. I felt lonely my first
year in junior high. I was a straight A student with perfect
attendance. I was too shy to ever get in trouble. Like most teens, I
wanted to be accepted and respected by my peers. Through my
participation in sports, I made a few “worldly” friends who introduced
me to cool music and parties. I reluctantly wandered in this new
direction. I was afraid, but my desire for friendship was greater than
my fear. I jumped into a lifestyle without the maturity to understand
the significance of my decisions.

Within a few years, I had become a part of the crowd. I was accepted
by my peers. I continued to gravitate towards those who partied the
hardest and who were using the hardest drugs. First I became socially
dependent on drugs and alcohol. Then I became a drug addict. These
details I may reserve for another story. However, it was this dramatic
swing during this stage in my life that influenced my Pharisaical
tendencies a few years later.


The Pendulum Swings Back

I knew that what I was doing was wrong. Sometimes I would have a bad
trip prompted by fear of God’s judgment. I made many unfulfilled
promises to God about getting back on the straight and narrow. While in
my sophomore year in college, I had a near death experience brought on
by choices related to my lifestyle. I awoke from this experience a new
person. I rededicated my life to God and prayed daily for help from the
Lord. I feared God would kill me. I knew that I deserved it; the God I
knew was a vengeful God who would not let me get away with my rebellion
and broken promises. For several weeks, I had daily panic attacks
prompted by this fear. God delivered me from these panic attacks after
a few weeks of prayer, a day of fasting, and a request to be able to
serve God out of love and not fear. God immediately took the anxiety
away, but even today, many years later, I am still learning to serve
God because of love and not fear.

Within the next few months after my near death experience, I made a
series of decisions that made me feel more secure in my relationship
with the Lord. I went back to a fundamentalist church. I cut my hair
short; I burned my tapes and CDs; I began sharing with others about the
changes in my life and felt compelled to tell them to make the same
changes. I transferred to a strict fundamentalist college. Four years
later I graduated with a B.A. in Bible. I felt that something was still
missing in my preparation for ministry so I went to seminary—a
fundamentalist one of course.


My Convictions, They are A-Changin’

It was while attending seminary that things began to change. I
witnessed bizarre behavior and rules in this sect of Christianity. I
began to consider that some of my own views were extra-biblical. I
suspected that some of my convictions were nothing less than
Pharisaical standards that were displeasing to God; yet, I feared that
to move away from these convictions was a sign of unholy compromise.
Eventually I was able to find my way through this oppressive expression
of Christianity and grow in discernment and simple faith in God. I
wrestled with God. I wrestled with passages from the Bible. Then a big
picture began to emerge. I was able to let go of things that really did
not matter. Instead of feeling guilty, I felt energized. For the first
time, I understood that the real unholy compromise would be in allowing
Pharisaical standards and cultural nuances of certain Christians to
dictate my relationship with God.

Today, I am no longer as concerned as I once was with whether my
theology is moving left to right or right to left. I want my
relationship with God to grow deeper and my understanding of reality to
be more God-centered. I may always appear liberal to some on the far
right. I may always appear conservative to some on the far left.
Perceptions can be deceiving wherever one is standing.

My point is this: There is no shame in changing one’s
convictions when God shows us a better way. If we can only separate the
pseudo-essential doctrines from the true and simple essential teachings
of our faith, we might discover a new and intriguing world we were
before afraid to enter. There are times that changing one’s convictions
about peripheral issues is essential in order to get closer to God.

Today I have fewer convictions than I did ten years ago. The
convictions that remain with me are dear to me and will unlikely ever
change. At this point they are so much a part of who I am that I wonder
if they could ever change. Now that I am in a church that does not
impose as many “essentials” of the faith, it is easier for me to see
the difference between a belief worthy of conviction and stubborn

Reflecting on my change of perspective, I believe that the real
key for me was in learning to have an open mind about truth and an open
heart for God. Being open to the truth meant that I had to question my
beliefs. Today, most of my core beliefs remain. The rest of my former
convictions were just distractions that kept me from having an open
heart for God. Having an open heart for God meant that I had to be
sensitive to Him—that I would have an ear bent inward to His still
small voice and that I would have eyes gazing upward with expectation
and hope. It meant that I had to push back my personal prejudices and
preferences and make room for God. I’ve lost a few convictions over the
years, but I’ve lost nothing that was worth dying for. Today I pursue
truth and try to follow it wherever it leads. This is a life well worth

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