A Man With No Country: Seeking a Home in Presbyterianism (Part One)

SPJ_May_1942I’ve posted before about the state of conservative Presbyterianism in the United States, and my deep, abiding sense of being an outsider to the Presbyterian world.

Recent events have only confirmed me in my viewpoint on that subject.

But in order to understand precisely why I feel that way, you have to understand a bit of my story first. I was not born and bred a Presbyterian; far from it, in fact.

My family is all over the map, religiously speaking (and geographically speaking, too, but I digress). My paternal grandfather’s family were all Methodists. My paternal grandmother’s people were all Southern Baptists, so granddaddy “converted”, so to speak, to the Baptist church when he got married in 1936. On the maternal side of the family, we’ve got an intriguing mixture of Congregationalists and Methodists, and another long line of Mormons, including my mother’s younger brother, who is a Mormon bishop in Georgia.

I was raised in the Southern Baptist Convention during the years that the Conservative Resurgence was in full swing; in fact, I can remember visiting The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1990s when Dr. Albert Mohler had just been elected President of that institution. My family’s church had a member that sat on the Board of Trustees, and I can remember how crazy things were at Southern at that time; in fine, my clearest memory is of students with locked arms sitting in the hallway outside Mohler’s office singing “We Shall Overcome.”

In my teenage years, my family moved its membership to a church that was closer to our home, and oh, how I loved the preacher there! He died not long after we became members, and a long dark night descended on that congregation; twenty-some years on, and it still hasn’t lifted. Because of the situations that developed at that church, which my father, as a deacon, was intimately involved in, I wound up attending a Independent Fundamental (KJV-Only) Baptist church my last two years of high school. Eventually, when I graduated from high school, my experiences at the IFB congregation and with the first chaplain I ever interacted with in the Army drove me out of the Christian faith entirely. I had just been beat up for far too long.

I did my five years in the military, and came home a bitter, broken, angry, and traumatized man. I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a time without waking up screaming from nightmares. Did I mention I was angry? Really angry? The sort of angry that makes people want to never see you again sort of angry?

About 4 months after I came home, I providentially ran into an old friend from high school who could tell just how messed up I really was (he had a basis for comparison), and he invited me out for coffee. Little did I know that an appointment to have a hot cup of java was going to change my life entirely.

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2 thoughts on “A Man With No Country: Seeking a Home in Presbyterianism (Part One)

  1. Thank you for opening up and sharing, Ben. I look forward to the rest of the story. Your early background, at least family-wise, sounds similar to mine. Both my grandfathers were raised Methodist and both my grandmothers were raised Baptist; my dad was raised Methodist and my mom was raised Baptist. And there are a few Mormons scattered in there, too.

    • Thanks for reading, Mr. Richardson. Stick around, because I’ve got a post a day scheduled out to the 3rd of April, all in this series.

      And I promise, it is leading somewhere. We’re just going to take the circuitous route to get there.

      BMPalmer.

"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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