Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What would I have become?

Where do you go when you've lost the keys
When all is dark and you're on your knees?
And in a world where it's love betrays
There is a light that will save the day
Don't go away
What would I have done if it wasn't for Jesus?
What would I have become if it wasn't for Jesus?
"What would I have done" by Delirious?
Following on from my previous post, I found myself questioning what sort of person would become a fake faith healer. And I realised, it could have been me.

What would have I become, if...?

I can't remember if I've ever given my full testimony on this blog, but here's a potted version of it:

I used to be a fake Christian.

From the age of 11 to the week before my 18th Birthday, I appeared (to some observers) to be a Christian, but I wasn't. I spoke Christianese fluently, I could pray in prayer meetings, I could lead bible studies, I could discuss most issues relevant to Christian life, I said the right things, went to the right meetings, read the right books, but I wasn't a Christian.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, went to church every week, and believed the right stuff. If you'd asked me (aged 10) if I was a Christian, I wouldn't have really understood you. What else was there to be? But then, at an Easter holiday houseparty (run by the organisation that is now 'Action Partners') in 1981 I realised, for the first time, that there was such a thing as 'conversion', and furthermore that I hadn't done it. I realised that Christianity was not about believing certain things, but about making the choice to act on those beliefs. While I did believe that Jesus was the son of God, I had not made the choice to follow Him.

Things came to a head on the second last day of that houseparty. Someone preached an evangelical message and loads of the kids there made the decision to follow Christ.

Now there were quite a few kids who were Christians already, and these kids (in a very mature way for kids ranging in age from 10 to 13) took the new converts back to the dorms and prayed with them. I can't really remember how it happened but I ended up being back at the dorm with two established Christian kids and three who had just made the decision. So I joined in the prayer group. It seemed the thing to do at the time. But obviously, I didn't join as a 'new convert' I was playing the part of the established Christian. And then someone asked me "So when did you become a Christian?" and I made the choice, there and then, to lie. "A couple of years ago" seemed a good answer as nobody there had known me for that long. Furthermore, I made the choice to let that lie stick. I also made (for the first time) the choice not to follow Christ.

From then on I lived a double life. In certain groups (i.e. family, church, SU groups, etc.) I played the part of a Christian, made the right noises and did the right stuff. I did it really well. I was very good at faking Christianity. In other groups, of course, I was a regular secular kid who listened to quite unchristian rock music and traded dubious magazines with his friends. For years it was easy, as the two groups did not overlap at all.

It only really got problematic in my final year at school. The two groups began to have slight overlaps. As the only sixth year in the school Christian group, I was expected to take on the leadership of the group. I managed to avoid that (just) and dumped the responsibility onto one of the 5th years (sorry Ewan). But as the year went on, the 6th years were expected to be involved in all these community events and when church based events came along it got increasingly hard to wriggle out of them, especially as one group of people I knew expected that I would be part of them. Actually, once I had to wriggle so hard to avoid doing a reading at a 'World day of prayer' meeting that a rumour was started that I was a satanist!

So, 6th year was crunch time and over the course of the year I realised that I had to make my choice and just be one thing or the other. It was an impossible choice, but I had to make it. And eventually I did. But the reasons I made the choice for Christ will have to come in another post.

The point here is that I was a fake Christian for 6 years. And played the part very convincingly.

But, I was a fake Christian in a very conservative evangelical setting. Raising hands in worship was frowned on. Nobody talked about healings, miracles or the like happening today. That was all considered as being in the past. Biblical teaching, right living and prayer. That was all that it was about.

But. What would I have become, as a fake Christian, if I'd been in a church where people raised hands in worship, spoke in tongues, prayed for healings, expected miracles, and the like?

I'll tell you. Because I know. I would have been very good at faking all that too. Fake speaking in tongues would have been easy. Fake praying for others? No problem.

And I'm reasonably sure I'd have been able to fake some 'miracles' like the leg lengthening trick.

If I could have done it, I know that others could have. And do. And are perpetuating fake Christianity right now.

There are fakes out there who are leaders in the church. There are fakes who are well known preachers, there are fakes who are pastors of big churches and there are fakes doing the rounds as healers.

Occasionally one of the big, high profile televangelist fakes is found out, but they're just the tip of the iceberg.

The thing is, even though I (as a former fake) am generally quite good at spotting other fakes, there is no real way of knowing. You can't always separate the sheep from the goats.

Oh, and just as an aside, there are also people who are or were genuine Christians but who 'backslide' in their faith whilst still maintaining a 'sound' mask. But I'm not talking about them here. I'm talking about those who have never made the choice for Christ and simply play the part of being a Christian, probably - like me - initially for the sake of an easy life, but who then keep it up for personal gain, as an ego-boost, or for other self-centred reasons.

If there are any Christians reading this who have slipped internally, while still maintaining the facade of a good Christian, I recommend you read "Buck Naked Faith" by Eric Sandras - because he was just like you...

1 comment:

John Cowart said...

Hi Rick,
Thanks for giving this testimony. I read it several days ago but I wanted to percolate on it a while before commenting.

Fake Christians prove the validity of real faith. Nobody makes counterfeit toilet paper, only the most valuable things get counterfeited.

As far as doubting and questioning God goes, that also validates His existence. We never question a wall, only a person, a Person we can reasonably expect to answer us.

Thanks for making me think.