Sunday, June 18, 2006

After two years of attending a small Freewill Baptist fundamentalist church I decided it was time to move on. The next stop on my spiritual journey was Genesis Bible College. Genesis was a “quasi” Assembly of God, non accredited Bible College that had close ties with YWAM and the Charismatic movement. The school was started by a couple of renegade Assembly of God pastors who were inspired and heavily influenced by the teachings and ministry of Juan Carlos Ortiz who was a major figure in the Discipleship movement of the 1970's. The reason I chose Genesis was because of the influence of a very dear friend who attended the school and recommended it highly. I was also attracted to the easy going non legalistic attitude of the students I met and the charismatic emphasis. I was particularly attracted to the lax and I do mean lax dress codes. At the time I attended the school there were quite a few Calvary Chapel refugees running around campus wearing long hair, “Holy” jeans and propagandizing the entire student body to check out the sounds of Christian rock. At any given moment one could hear the sounds of Keith Green, The Second Chapter of Acts, Barry Mcquire, or the Resurrection Band pounding from behind the walls of the dorms of the school.

I have a lot of fond memories of my days at Genesis. We were a very tight knit group of well meaning, if not naive at times, zealots who lived together under the same roof for three years. We all attended the same classes and were able to create a very strong sense of community that was a once in a lifetime experience. We ate,prayed,worked,hung out, and even fought together.I mentioned fought because during a "family" day trip a fist fight occured between two of the members of my apartment. Being in close quarters all the time sometimes also brings out the worst in people as well... The Big letdown…..I have alot of great memories during my years at Genesis but whenever a person goes through a very positive experience there is bound to be a letdown once a person has to finally leave this type of idealistic community. For me, the letdown hit especially hard because like the vast majority of the students I didn't go into "full time ministry" or further my education at seminary. Because I really didn't know what to do with my life at this point I hung around town for another year and worked full time at Burger King. My experience at Burger King was very difficult especially knowing that many of my close friends were now living in exotic places like Amsterdam, Nepal, and Australia...and...I felt embarassed and humiliated everytime someone from the school came into the restaurant. No one ever said anything to me but I couldn't shut out the thoughts that I was a loser for working at Burger King while the rest of the graduates were serving the Lord full time. After about six months working at Burger King I realized that I didn’t want to work at Burger King for the rest of my life so I decided to go back to college and further my education. I would have perferred to go to seminary or some other religious institution but I couldn't afford it so I enrolled at Oregon State, the home of the mighty Beavers!

Francis Schaeffer to the Rescue!

I was a fish out of water at Oregon State. After three years in a "convent like environment" I was not ready for the shock of a big time secular environment. While I really enjoyed the three years I spent at Bible College it did not prepare me for life and intellectual rigors of a secular University. In hindsight, one of the drawbacks to my Bible College experience was the “Pietistic/separatist/”other worldly” attitude and lifestyle of Bible College. For example, we only read Christian authors, listened to only Christian music and I personally don’t ever remember us seriously discussing “secular subjects” such as politics, education, or the culture except when a speaker was bashing the culture which was a frequent and often merciless, if I may say so. So, when I enrolled at Oregon State University in the fall of 1980 I wasn’t prepared to seriously discuss the issues of our culture and I certainly wasn’t prepared to defend myself or my beliefs but that would all soon change… Shortly after I enrolled in classes I picked up a book that radically changed my perspective on the fundamentalist subculture that had been my life and blood since 1975. The name of the book was called Addicted to Mediocrity and the author was a young upstart modern day Jeremiah named Franky Schaeffer. The book was a broadside against the Fundamentalist secular/sacred mentality that prevented most fundamentalists from becoming active in politics, the arts, and secular concerns in general. The younger Schaeffer’s book was critical to my own understanding of Christianity because it radically challenged my own allegiance to a distorted form of pietism and it introduced me to the ministry and works of his father Francis Schaeffer.... The first book I ever read by Francis Schaeffer was a book called True Spirituality which is one of the most influential books I have ever read. This book helped to completely demolish, once and for all, the sacred/secular split, and radical dualistic thinking that was a critically important aspect of my Christian worldview since I had become a Christian. Schaeffer opened up a whole new world to me and for the next 6 years I engrossed myself in reading all of Schaeffer’s books while also listening to hundreds of hours of cassette tapes from L’abri Ministries. I even went out and bought the expensive How Then Shall We Live and Whatever Happened to the Human Race video series which I hoped to indoctrinate anyone who listen. Eventually I became somewhat of an expert on Schaeffer but it really didn’t help my reputation on the home front because I lived in an area that was dominated by the ministries of Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson, Bill Bright, and Josh Mcdowell….. Why Schaeffer? In hindsight I suspect I was drawn to Schaeffer’s writings because he proposed one of the most comprehensive Christian worldviews of our time and he wrote with a style that was accessible and relevant to college students like myself who were trying to survive in the secular university and a secular culture. He wrote books on everything, the environment, art, culture, history, philosophy, theology and everything in between. No stone was left untouched by Schaeffer or L'abri ministries which could not be said for the rest of the conservative/evangelical establishment during the 1980s. For many of us Schaeffer was a god send in an otherwise religious intellectual wasteland… Even though I no longer consider myself a “devotee” of the teachings of Francis Schaeffer I still have great respect for the man because he was at least willing to talk about the culture at a time when most Christians were obsessed with bashing the culture and wishing Jesus would rapture them so they would'nt have to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work of attempting to transform the culture for good. Schaeffer's writings were wildly popular with College students like myself because he provided an intellectual basis that helped us deal with the secular worldview that many of us encountered during our college years. I also appreciate Schaeffer’s perspective on spirituality and I still think his book True Spirituality is worth reading. Schaeffer writings not only shaped the way I thought but it also had a profound effect on many of the important choices I made during the 1980’s. For example, in the 80’s I got heavily involved in local politics and the abortion issue and eventually became a leader in the Bakersfield area. I was a frequent speaker in many churches around town and even made a number of appearances on local t.v. and radio. My decision to go back to school and get my history degree was largely influenced by my obssession with Schaeffer's book "How than Shall We Live. ….Even today, my interests in music, movies,philosophy,politics, and the arts in general can be traced back to the influence of the little, long haired, goatee man,who lived in the mountains in Switzerland.


Dave said...

Nice job with the spiritual autobiography, Bilbo. You're obviously still in the middle of the story and I am eager to see what you have to say in the next chapter or three!

Bilbo said...

Thanks Dave,

The next chapter includes references to your ala mater Calvin College. I actually wrote an extensive autobiography for my involvment in the faithjourney discussion group about three years ago. I thought I would go back and revisit what I wrote and make a few minor changes based on my evolving perspective and enter it on my blog.

Kansas Bob said...

Great story ... nice work there ... look forward to reading hearing more of your journey.

I especially related to this ...

"I have many fond memories of feeling really loved unconditionally for the first time in my life but the deep love that initially melted me would gradually began to wane as I became more involved in the world of Christian legalism.

... sad that "faith" often leads us away from love and not towards Love.

Catherine said...

I can identify with some of your story, after a number of years working in full time missions work (ywam) I left and am working in a book shop where I feel like you did in Burger King. Currently I am studying anthropology through a secular university and it's great fun, just had an exam today for a development paper. Will be interested to read the rest of your postings.

Home Church said...

I love Keith Green!
KG's music has influenced me more than anything else on the planet almost. I have listened to him for so long. He has also influenced me as a musician, to be very honest and real in my lyrics. Actually, I'd be honored if you'd check out my music on my site. Its very, "Keithish."
Thanks for posting,
"All of my music is free for download."