A good way to understand a faith is to hear the stories of those who follow it.

Although my story is one I love to tell, I don’t tell it often because- like so many things about my faith- it’s not something I like to foist on others.

In creating an apologist blog, however, I think this is a good foundation to show where I’m coming from.

I was raised non-denominational Christian, in a military family that moved often.  When I was about 8, I attended a free concert in Charleston, SC put on by the Christian artist Carman (it was his “Addicted to Jesus” tour, circa ’92-93).  At the concert, Carman discussed Engel vs. Vitale (the 1962 Supreme Court decision that prevented public schools from leading students in prayer) as if it were a disaster on par with the holocaust.

Then in 1994, we moved from Charleston to Conway, SC and began attending a non-denominational evangelical church there.  This particular church preached heavily from the book of Revalation.

As impressionable as I was, all of this really hit home for me, and I became an extremely conservative Christian. I became obsessed with the end of days and convinced that the apocalypse would happen before I was 16.  I got baptized, got active in youth groups, stood up to teachers whenever they said something I interpreted as vaguely secularist, and generally prepared to see the rapture any day.

It came to a head when I was about 15 years old.  Around this time, Eric Rudolph was bombing abortion clinics, and I found that I sympathized with him.  This was also around the time that I first heard any talk of same-sex marriage being an issue.  I was so enraged that I wrote out a six-page manifesto condoning the mass murder of gays, abortion providers, and religious leaders of other faiths.

The bit about the gays was ironic; this was also around the time I began to question my own sexuality, and I spent many long, desperate hours praying to Jesus to make me straight.  I got so deep in denial that it took another six years to get out of it completely.

The real watershed was when, in 2000, I participated in the student exchange program to Spain.  In the month I spent living in a small town in Barcelona, something hit home.  I realized that despite living in a secular country, the Spaniards were actually happier than we were in America.  There was less crime, less poverty, and more time to enjoy life.  So if America was God’s chosen nation, why would Spain be so much more blessed?

When I returned from Spain, I enrolled in a school for the arts and sciences to study theatre in my junior and senior year of high school.  While there, I had a gay classmate (ironically, the only openly gay guy in the theatre program).  I had cooled my fervor somewhat at this point, but I still had this idea that gays were immodest, sex-obsessed hedonists who only cared about themselves.  It wasn’t until we roomed together on a theatre trip, and he proved to be a polite, very obliging person who never once made a move on me that my opinions began to change.

I became increasingly liberal, although I still held onto a lot of conservative Christian beliefs.  It wasn’t until college that my world would really be turned upside-down.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with that in part 2 of “How I Got Here.”