From as far back as I can remember, I have identified with the underdogs. Growing up, I loved the Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball). They were bad, and that made me like them all the more. It is a running joke that I pick the “losers” in professional sports as my favorite players. My favorite all-time basketball player is Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Big Z) and my current favorite is Luke Babbitt. To make this point even more clear one of my favorite horror films is “My Soul to Take”. You have never heard of them, or you hate them, and that is the entire point.
This of course lends myself to seek out those that have been maligned or are hated in spiritual matters as well. Keep this in mind when listening to my story.
Growing up in small town America, conservative religious ethics was sort of ingrained into the culture. We were not particularly religious, but looking back I see how areas such as premarital sex (or even living with a person of the opposite sex), “swearing”, knowing things about the bible along with the Republican party were intertwined with growing up with small town life. Even today the two are so married together for people there that it is hard to separate which one influences the other (a blog post on that will come soon enough).
I attended Royal Rangers (basically youth group for grade school Pentecostal kids), as well as the Christmas programs, and other than maybe a dozen or so times of going to Sunday school I don’t ever remember attending church before my teenage years. I started going to church regularly around Freshman year of high school and they really got serious with church when my parents separated. During this time, I got super serious with my religious life. I started attending church every week, reading my bible, and most importantly I fell in love with Pastor Joel Osteen. The ironic thing about this is that even though he has such a huge ministry, he receives criticism from both conservatives and progressives for certain aspects of his teachings and/or ministry (refer back to my opening paragraph to understand why this is important).
During this period I was also trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Since I became so ingrained into religious life (along with having an addictive-personality), becoming a pastor seemed to make the most sense. After only applying to one school, and with Pastor Osteen as my inspiration, I journeyed off to Moody Bible Institute.
During that first year I remember feeling nothing but negative emotions. My first day at the school I was lectured about why Joel’s beliefs (and by association mine) were heretical. To make matters worse, I was all alone there with no friends in the city (Moody is in downtown Chicago). It wasn’t until October of my freshman year that I can honestly say I made any friends. All the while though I remained committed to my love for Joel and my beliefs.
The summer after my first year I started searching around for other options regarding Christian denominations, but I actually became more ingrained into my charismatic background because, well, it sure pissed most people at Moody off. After my third semester though I was still depressed and had given up going to church altogether. It was to say the least a dark time in my life. What made it even worse was the sermons I had to hear at Moody about how charismatics were heretics and we were “lost”. It was such a period of desolation that I would not even leave my room but for class (though I can say that I did discover in this my niche for watching horror movies, so this wasn’t all bad).
That summer was a turning point for my journey. Things had gotten so bad that my father told me he would not allow me to return to Moody, as I clearly did not want to become a pastor anymore. This actually was a godsend, because it allowed me to stop life and really contemplate what it was I was looking for in life. It was at this time that I decided to start taking RCIA (classes to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church). At first I only thought this would be so that I could get a footing in some form of spiritual community, but I found that I really loved the people there (many still remain my best friends to this day). I started to read a priest by the name of Richard Rohr, which introduced me to both progressive and mystical Christianity. This really helped to set a direction that I wanted to go in my spiritual life after I realized that much of what Joel taught did not match up with reality. From there I started joining Facebook groups that led me to ask questions about what it was I believed and why I did.
After this I actually decided to return to Moody to pursue a communications degree in order to learn to make film. The reason for this was that Moody was so inexpensive it offered the best ability for me to I made the best of this, but it was still hurtful hearing the conservative rhetoric, even in those classes. To be honest I became more and more progressive during my time there. At the start of my senior year, I had to write a paper that discussed my beliefs regarding certain doctrines. Since Moody requires all students to believe a certain way, I knew if I was honest with this paper I would probably be kicked out. I decided to be honest, and they did end up asking me to leave. This was the final nail in the coffin for me in my relationship with evangelical Christianity.
From there (and this finally brings us to the present day) I decided to attend Loyola University of Chicago in pursuit of a theology degree. I still want to make film, but I had already aquired the amount of knowledge I needed to make films, and since getting a degree in film does not actually get you a job there, I decided to pursue something I will actually use. Now I do not want to have any ordained ministry at all, but rather to teach. So far Loyola has been the perfect fit for me. It is a progressive school that remains concerned with spirituality in a way that allows me to practice and find my spiritual home in a comfortable environment. Needless to say it is everything I’ve ever wanted in a school.
A future post on my beliefs will be soon to follow, but my journey from a conservative evangelical to the most progressive Catholic mystic you can imagine is complete. I hope you all enjoyed reading this, and you can feel free to reach out to me for any question, or just to shoot the breeze on film or theology!