Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Butterflies in the Belfry . . . Dragons in the Dungeons - Please Help With My Manuscript

It was a hot August night in 1988 and the air was filled with Sahara dust and soy smoke. Three of us were sitting around a bamboo table in a Chinese restaurant, near Cairo’s city center. With a few poignant words shared over a lukewarm dinner of sweet and sour chicken, my entire Christian persona began to crumble. Before the night was over, my whole Evangelical universe had collapsed. I had been an Evangelical for fifteen years at that point, a Navigator for ten. By dawn, I was flirting with my old atheism.

I spent the subsequent decade and a half trying to unravel what happened to me on that infamous night. I was a driven man to know why and I searched with an intense honesty. Why had my faith failed me? Surely that night was only the breaking point of a process that had begun long before. Could I ever find God again? Could I understand what ailed my faith and continues to haunt American Evangelicalism?

It has taken me two long years to put into words the story of this incredible fifteen year journey. My discoveries about myself, human psychology, church history and philosophy were nothing short of profound. Anyone that feels uneasiness with the Evangelical Church, or their own faith, will be enlightened. In the next twenty-one postings (twenty-two if you include the Introduction) is the accumulation of those years of study, meditation and hard work.

I’m posting my manuscript here and I am asking you to read it and to comment on it. I hope to publish it because I really believe that it is too important of a story not to be told. Before I even start the arduous process of getting a publisher’s eye, I need your help. Your honest feedback chapter by chapter would be greatly appreciated. At the bottom of the page, click on "older posts" to continue.

tags: Evangelicalism, Church history, Christian Dualism, Christian Psychology, Doubt, Christian Doubt, Disillusionment with God, Disillusionment with the Church, Faith and Reason, True Spirituality, Spiritual Abuse, Plato, The Navigators, Failed Missionary experiences, Post Evangelical, Emerging Church,Blue Like Jazz, Gnostics, Gnostic Christianity, Platonic Christianity

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Postscript - A Word About Candor

I’ve had a couple of recent events that have pushed me into deep thought again, about this issue of my frankness, which may see harsh.

First, I had an e-mail (in response to this manuscript) where someone seemed quite stunned (maybe disturbed would be too-strong of a word . . . then again maybe not) about how I’ve described some of my early Christians experiences. The person seemed to see my description as incredible, as if it was from an extremely unfortunate and rare, circumstance.
More about that is a second.

The second thing that happened was that I posted a comment on another Christian forum, with equal candor as I have here, and I was censored. I guess it surprised me a little bit, since that forum/blog is quiet open-minded. I’m not offended in the slightest about the censor . . . but, combined with the other item, it got me thinking. Am I too brash? I wrestle a lot with how to word things when I write. But I feel highly motivated to be honest in my writing, and speaking. God is a God of truth. I feel that too much damage has been done by the dishonesty in not only the Christian community, but in human relationships in general.

I certainly don’t write with the intention to offend, nor do I write for the shock value. The e-mailer implied that my experiences were extreme (or embellished). I really don’t believe that they are even that unique. I think I speak as a common man, with common experiences, but I’m also willing to take the risk to speak very candidly.

I decided to peel back the onion of truth further than I had originally intended after I read several of the works of Frank Schaeffer. In his Crazy for God, as well as his earlier fictional, Calvin Becker Trilogy, he speaks with shocking honesty. I really appreciate his candor and it helps me to know that he and I are made of the same stuff, and that his folks, (my Christian heroes), were mortal. So my goal, when I speak with such frankness, is to resonate with the deep, silent hearts of others who have had these experiences . . . but never the audacity (or chance) to speak of them.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Butterflies in the Belfry Dragons in the Dungeons -

Butterflies in the Belfry . . . Dragons in the Dungeon

One Man’s Perilous Search for Authentic Christianity

By j.Michael Jones

I've decided to take this blog in a different direction . . . for a few weeks at least. I've been working on a manuscript for over two years and I'm just finishing up the finished draft (not the finished-finished draft as it is still open to modifications).

I have done quite a bit of writing before including two mediocre books (book 1, book 2). But this one is different. I'm certainly not one who is prone to over confidence but I really think this work is very important. It is the accumulation of about 15 years of thought and struggle. I really believe the message is extraordinary and I only hope that my ability to write communicates clearly and it is remarkable in its ability to catch and hold the reader’s attention.

This is my story, but it is not an autobiography. Sure there are several chapters that examine (very candidly) my emotional and spiritual up-bringing. But it is more of a book about Christian history and philosophical thought. It is like a work of Francis Schaeffer but wrapped in the flesh of my own personal experiences.

The saga starts with my fall from Evangelical grace as a Navigator missionary in the Middle East. Once my entire Christian world had collapsed around my ankles, I was left with 3-4 choices. I could become numb and continue playing the Christian game as if nothing had happened, but I could not live in a lie. I came close to ending my own life, just to escape the pain. I also came close to throwing in the proverbial towel and walking away from Christianity forever. But the path I was driven to take, was to search and find the answers of why my Christian world had failed.

I’ll post one chapter at a time, starting with the Introduction tonight. You are welcome to comment, advise and correct. I know my story is long, but it is far more intriguing than the DaVinci Code . . . but, so true to history that no Church historian, in either Christian or secular university, would dispute it. I think if you read it carefully, it would have a profound effect on how you think Christianly.

A Visit to U of W and PLU- and Future Directions

The above is a photo from the balcony outside my son Daniel's Computer Science department. As a TA (teaching assistant), he has an office on that floor. We, Denise, Ramsey and I, stayed in his apartment this weekend and spent the morning visiting the campus and where he works and studies.

This morning I had a great time out at a coffee shop (and it wasn't even a Starbucks) with Ramsey and Daniel as we discussed fate, determinism and chaos theory.

This previous night, we had a wonderful visit with my daughter Amy (pictured above on the right) 80 miles further south at Pacific Lutheran University. I'm learning more and more that, while it is a great school (academically), it is going to great means to break away from its Christian roots. I hope that Amy is well-grounded because a "Christian school" can be far more dangerous than a obivous anti-Christian school. It is sad that true Christians have gotten out of the good education business (like Harvard) but now only seemed to be involved in dumb education (science programs teaching that the earth is 6 thousand years old and promotinug cheap miracles as commonplace) schools. PLU is certainly secular, but I sorta of wish it was honest up front that it is NOT Christian. I don't mind my kids going to non-Christian schools as long as they are honest about it.

This was the first time I've seen Amy since I stood in our driveway crying my eyes out saying good bye. It was easier this time as I am getting use to it a little better. She is doing well and I hope to see her soon . . . at Thanksgiving.

The last bit of my personal news is that I've been working hard over the past few weeks trying to set up a clinical rotation for PAs in Egypt. Like with any endeavor . . . there are always road blocks. It always amazes me that there are always obstructionist people that sit in leadership roles. There are PA programs who are terrified about the thoughts of their students going to a very poor group of people to simply help them.

Then, I find I'm running into roadblocks with the Egyptian government who wants big fees or rolls and rolls of red tape to allow a competent medical provider to come in and give free health care to very poor people that otherwise might die. Sad.

My next posting is about a new direction that I hope to go in with this blog.