The Back Door - revisited
A letter from the new-ish publisher.
My doubt was great. My inner skeptic peaked. The pastor's words echoed loud and clear. "If you don't feel God in this place..." he said.
What?! He let the sentence dangle there. I didn't feel God in this place. I felt, a lot of emotion, but I had since learned that my emotions didn’t necessarily constitute God’s presence. Shit, I’d felt that kind of emotion in a well constructed set list by some of my favorite bands, I’d felt that in a well crafted ad designed to take my money, I’d felt that every time I was “in love”. The only thing I felt at that moment was disappointment and the weight of my guitar slung around my neck. I saw the open mouths of the faithful filled up on empty calories. Here I thought I was a believer, everything all of the sudden became clouded and I was filled with doubt. Something I had been taught was dangerous to my faith….and I believed it.
It was my love for music and people that drew me into the evangelical church some 10 years prior to that moment. Eventually I would do my part for Christ playing in the band, hauling the gear, staying in 5-star hotels, and eating well…you know only the best for King’s kids. Ughh. I have to say, it was the ride of my life. With our dazzling lights and hypnotic minor chords we helped steer the flock along the true path. It never felt dirty until it did. Was it a problem inside me? Or was the problem with organized religion itself? Was it a problem with the whole world? Was it even a problem at all?
My bandmates and I once poked fun at the sleazy preachers for whom the gospel was a career path rather than a calling. We called them the chodes. And I was well on my path to becoming just another chode. Our role as “worship leaders” turned out to be more foreplay than anything else. Get the people ready for the big show…the preaching. The preacher, waiting in the shadows rocking back and forth, frothing at the mouth waiting for the right moment to strike.
On that day I walked up to the makeshift stage/altar of my home church with tears, not of joy, but of disappointment and sadness. I had wasted years of my life on what now seemed childish and silly, I felt duped by others, by a system that used me, and ultimately by my own self. How could I be so foolish? On the outside it looked as if I was being moved by the Spirit in a deep and meaningful way, maybe I was. Later I’d come to find out that God uses it all.
At that very moment I gave the benefit of the doubt to those loving people who said they felt God when I sure as hell didn’t. So I walked out of the back door that day plagued by bitterness. At this moment I left my home church and embraced the wilderness.
I was without a church and not interested in searching for another one. It was more than a break-up, more like a death.
I had reverted back to the 19-year-old version of myself who had once asked God to take his life. Having moved away from home town, losing all my childhood friends and aimless , I prayed by my bedside one very dark night that God would send down his massy hand and shut my teenage eyes forever.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a million bucks. A cloud had lifted, scales had fallen off, I felt alive again. The Death Angel had passed. It was a new day.
I didn't know it at the time but I had experienced a kind of on-the-cross moment. I came face to face with death and put my life in the hands of The God that I did not understand, the only one I truly believed in.
And years later, walking out the back door of the evangelical church, I had died again. And in that death, again, there was life.
My recent availability and love of music once again brought me back to a new band, instead of churches and outreaches, demon casting pizza parties and right to life rallies, we played in dirty bars and taverns to a very different audience. It seemed more honest and fun at least in that moment.
During one of our trips one of my bandmate introduced me to this filthy rag called The Wittenburg Door. It was heretical, it was disgusting, it was sacrilegious. And it was perfect ! I realized that all of the Chodes we had mocked along the way were just people. Sure some were wolves in sheep’s clothing, others were just sheep leading other sheep astray if that were possible. They were just people trying to make sense of all this “God Stuff” in this very short time we have on this earth. I cringed as I read the pages, until I eventually learned to laugh at myself. We are all on a wonderful journey. Still something I need to be reminded of from time to time. The road to wisdom often starts in folly. And there is much joy and suffering to be had along the way.
Thanks for welcoming me back to the fold. Now, let me extend the same grace that was given to me to all of our readers. I hope we can make you laugh, think, and cry if you need to, hopefully your tears of sorrow will turn into tears of Joy.
Welcome to The Back Door, you can come and go as you please.
Your New Publisher,