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A Religious Journey to Nowhere. (A Discussion with Myself)

Updated on May 1, 2017
Ivan Uys profile image

Came to the United States in 1962. First attended Rochester College in Rochester, MI. Graduated from Abilene Christian University, in 1966.

A Religious Journey to Nowhere! (A Discussion with Myself)

Myself:

“I think that it is time you told the story of your religious journey, but if you start this you are going to make some angry, disappointed and some are going to ostracize you.”

Ivan:

“You’re kidding right? You mean all this hasn’t happened already? Want names?”

Myself:

“No, let’s not get into that, just tell me the story. You wanted to be a preacher from a very young age, yet the minute you became one, you couldn’t wait until you got out. What happened? Why did it happen, and why are you so far from the church now?

Ivan:

“Well, okay, here goes. My father came from a Dutch Reformed background, while my mother was Anglican. We mostly attended the Anglican Church, but occasionally went to a Dutch Reformed service. I was not sure what was going on, because as soon as all the genuflecting stopped, I slept until it started again, which usually signaled the end. By the time I reached eight, I became an altar boy, helping the Priest with communion. That happened because I did not make the choir.”

Myself:

“Were you upset at not getting into the choir?”

Ivan:

“Yes! Everyone in our family could sing and or play an instrument. I was always left out. I could never understand what “singing in tune” meant, and no one could either explain it, or why I was so out of tune. Music became a big part of my life, not because I was in, but because I was excluded. I did everything I could. My high school music teacher once told me I sang like Caruso. I asked if he meant the “Great Caruso?” He replied that he thought that Robinson Caruso was more like it. However, he did give me a recorder (wooden flute), and I did everything, but I couldn’t get it to “flute”. I attempted to be a drummer in the high school cadet band, but was soon replaced. I even struggled with voice lessons in college, but that too fell flat, so to speak.”

Myself:

Aren’t you being a little overdramatic here? So you are not musically inclined, what has that have to do with your religious journey?

Ivan:

“Of course it does, it has everything to do with it. After we left the Anglican Church, we attended a church where the members sang a-Capella. Singing was an intrinsic part of their worship. This is where my original desire to be a preacher was born, and how could I do that without singing in tune? I concentrated on other aspects of becoming a preacher by studying the Bible, visiting the sick and even preaching at the local church, from time to time.”

“Eventually I found myself at Abilene Christian University where I received a bachelor’s of Arts degree in New Testament Studies, with minors in Greek and Speech. As prepared as I thought I was, I felt I needed more, so went into a Master’s program. I finished all the class work and just needed to complete a thesis. Everything was set, but events around me were pressuring me to leave school and return to South Africa, which I did, with my thesis undone.”

Myself:

“How do you feel about not completing your thesis?”

Ivan:

It’s regretful, but only in the sense of personal achievement. I’ve thought through the whole subject millions of times and written it in my mind a thousand. I loved the subject which was a study of the relationship between Love and Perfection. It was a humbling study that taught me a great deal about how one should behave, not only in my relationship with God but also with others.”


Myself:

“It looks as if you arrived at a great place and you were on the right journey as far as your religious life was concerned.”

Ivan:

“Whoa, not so fast. If that was all there was to it, we would not be talking about this now, and this interview would not have been necessary.”

Myself:

“How so? You were happily married, children on the way, a church waiting for you in South Africa. You were well prepared, people believed in you and supported you in every way. What more could you want?”

Ivan:

“Seems idyllic doesn’t it? You are seeing the whole picture from the outside, not from the inside. That is where the real battle was taking place. I was going to East London, South Africa, and replacing an “old guard” preacher. He was responsible for bringing most of the members into that church, and being their “father” in so many ways. He was older than most of them, while I was younger. I knew that I could not simply step into his shoes, and I would have to play a different role than he had. Then there were doctrinal issues that I was having with the church.”

Myself:

“How so?”

Ivan:

“Their ‘doctrineless’ teaching was just another doctrine. Their evidence for non-instrumental music was circumstantial at best, and the churches were split into many sub groups; some based on the whims of either the local preacher, others on members of the church who felt that the preacher had either overstepped his authority or “undercut the gospel.” I had rumblings of all of that in college, and now I was going to have to be in a leadership role that demanded loyalty and was beyond my understanding. I was definitely worried.”

Myself:

“Now you are sounding just like a “tjankbalie” (crybaby). Everyone has challenges. Are you saying that you were not capable of meeting yours?”

Ivan:

“You might be right.”

Myself:

“Oh, come on! I am not going to let you get off that easy. I ask again, what has all of this to do with your spiritual journey?”

Ivan:

“Wait a minute! I did not think we were talking about my ‘spiritual journey,’ the topic here is ‘religious journey.’”


Myself:

“Oh, dear. I think semantics are going to play a role here. What is the difference? Does one not affect the other?”

Ivan:

“I have never said that I did not have a spiritual side, or that I was not spiritual. I have only rebelled against the ‘religious side,’ and its definition of what is spiritual.”

Myself:

“Here you go with semantics again. You are playing games! Just because you disagree with your denomination, and choose not to go to that church, why not consider your options and make a better choice?”

Ivan:

“You think I haven’t tried? I’ve gone up and down the religious spectrum and always come away feeling the same. Let’s just leave that there. I have resolved that matter, and am happy with my decision.”

Myself:

“I think you are being defensive. We shall proceed with ‘spiritual’ matters, then, and leave the ‘religious’ for later. Maybe they are more connected than you are willing to admit now. Let us start with some basics. When I think of a person who is spiritual, I think of one who has ‘faith.’ What does it mean to you and do you have it?”

Ivan:

“Wow, you don’t fool around do you?” Now I have a question for you. Faith in what, or faith in who?”

Myself:

“I don’t have to answer that. I am not the one who is having a problem with their religious journey, you are! What’s more, I am the one doing the interview. Here you go again with your “avoidance schemes” just so that you don’t have to answer a simple question: ‘what is Faith?’ Get on with it and quit fooling around”

Ivan:

“Quit being so impatient. My question was serious. I will ask again and give my own answers. That will help you understand why I am asking them.

My first question, ‘Faith in what?’ speaks to the very basis of fundamental Christianity. For many the ‘direct verbal inspiration’ of the Bible and its infallibility is vital. Here is where the scurrying around begins because no one really has the Bible. All we have are translations, and a cursory study of the history of those translations will find a great deal of lying, cheating, politics, murder and religious bigotry at its core. Typical of most human endeavors. Making the Bible verbally given to man, directly by God, as a miracle, is exactly what many people ‘of faith’ want. The litany of the ‘miraculous,’ both historically and continually in the lives of many, is a very sad form of idolatry

Myself:

“I am not sure that I am hearing you right. Are you saying that God is not responsible for giving us the Bible?”

Ivan:

“What I am saying is that we need to rethink what we have and how we received it. Christians are lazy when it comes to knowing how we got the Bible. But they are not the only ones. Mormons and Islamists are too. When one believes that your writings are inspired, it gives one the feeling of infallibility. As long as you believe and quote those teachings you can never be wrong and your teachings hence must be obeyed, regardless of whether or not one is quoting out of context. It is this kind of “blind” faith that once gave birth to the Crusades and now Isis. Is there a difference in those actions? In both cases, politics were driven by ‘faith’ and nothing good resulted.”

Myself:

“How, then, do we come to terms with what many refer to as “the word of God?”

Ivan:

“It seems that if the faith, I claim, needs to be confirmed by a phenomenon of some sort, then maybe it’s not faith at all. Could there not be an idea of faith with no magic and none expected. Is that not the idea of the Hebrew writer who said that ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen?’ It seems to me that we want to have faith, but we want God to hold our hands in order for us to believe. When do we grow up with no expectations, and simply do what God has expected, since the beginning of time? That is for us to learn to love each other? All the rest are gimmicks that distract us. Oh, they make us feel good, but is that all religion is? Well, I feel good when I eat ice cream. So is eating ice cream then a religion?”

Myself:

“Don’t be sarcastic! You are not making sense. You say that we are supposed to love one another, but by what authority? If the Bible is fallible, where do we go for direction? Moreover, how do we know what God wants of us?

Ivan:

“Good questions. Although I am not sure that I can answer them satisfactorily, I will attempt my best. I will start by answering your question with a question. Why not look to the Bible for answers? It has directions for almost any action and gives us the insights on how to deal with one another. There is no confusion in the bible between loving God, your neighbor or ice cream. Different words are used. There is absolutely no reason not to read and study the Bible for personal growth or even psychological health. The operative word, of course, is ‘personal.’ If we fix ourselves, personally, we will be attractive to others and it seems that the result will be that the message of the word of God is found and met. We must never forget that we are mere mortals, and left to our own devices, we are selfish, proud, and arrogant. None of those are good characteristics for interpersonal relationships. However, we have to live with one another and so we have to find direction. The Bible can and does give us that.”

Myself:

“Okay, now the Biggy. Who do you have faith in?”

Ivan:

“I believe in God!”

Myself:

“Come on, you are avoiding the question.”

Ivan:

“No, I haven’t. You want me to talk about Jesus, right?”

Myself:

“Yes, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” Is that too much ‘magic’ for you?”

Ivan:

“Yes, it is. I have to be consistent; otherwise, I am just a fraud. I have often remarked that I believe in God, and everything else is open to question. This is not a ‘religious journey’ for me, it’s a spiritual one. Once I believed it all, and there was only anxiety and strife in my life. “Hell” was too real, God was a murderer, and I was always on the outs. If you want me to believe in Jesus because of the magic that surrounded him, then I cannot. But if you want me to see him as a historical figure who pointed me to God and taught me to turn the other cheek, while loving my bother as myself, and that I could find complete maturity by loving my enemies, then I believe.”

Myself:

“Is that your final word?”

Ivan:

“Certainly not! Every day is a new journey and tomorrow might be even better. Learning to love takes discipline and I need a lot more. May God help me?”













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