I took a Catholic to a Franklin Graham crusade, and a geologist to a lecture by a young-earth creationist.
But let me back up.
As I progress through this story, I’ll be jumping back and forth in the timeline, so bear with me. If this ever makes it to book form, it’ll be in chronological order. Probably.
The height of my Evangelical zeal came during my time attending a Pentecostal church. I taught a bible study class for college-aged kids, and was taking classes on the New Testament by correspondence. I wouldn’t say it out loud, but I knew I was laying the groundwork for a possible move toward the ministry.
I took my bible study class to a lecture at the Pentecostal church on the other side of town; the one with the better acoustics and the nicer basketball gym.
Evangelist Kent Hovind was speaking on young-earth creationism, which advocates for a literal interpretation of the events in Genesis, and postulates the age of the earth at 4,000 – 6,000 years. This means that dinosaurs would have coexisted with man.
After the lecture, one of my students exited the church in a state of exasperation. She was studying geology, and began listing all the holes in Hovind’s theories about the age of the Earth. I remember teasing her for her unbelief.
I wish I couldn’t remember that part of the story.
I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. As a born-again Christian, my priority was to spread the Gospel and to bring others to Christ. Specifically, the modern American Evangelical Christ.
Though I knew that the life I lived should have been my witness, my weapon of choice was my skill in debating. To my way of thinking, a convincing logical argument could win someone over to Christianity even if they were adamantly atheist.
Yes, I was that guy.
Among my targets was a friend and coworker, who was a semi-practicing Catholic.
I invited him to come with me to an event put on by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. It was a stadium event complete with music by contemporary Christian bands and a sermon by Graham’s son Franklin. To his credit, my friend gamely came along and stayed for the whole thing.
As is customary at the end of a Billy Graham Crusade, people are invited to come from their seats to the stage to accept Jesus as their personal savior. I was slightly disappointed my friend did not join the large crowd accepting the offer.
After the event we drove to one of our favorite pubs, where I would try to close the deal over a beer. Evangelicals don’t drink, of course. Not in front of other Evangelicals.
To be honest, I’ve blocked out most of what we talked about in that pub. I’m sure I went through my best arguments from turning away from his Mary-worshiping ways and joining a church with a praise band and a projection screen. I did my best. I asked for the sale.
My friend is still Catholic. And as I write this, I can look up from my computer and see the icon of the Theotokos on my wall.
In Part 4, which you can read here, I reach a crisis of faith that ends my walk with Protestantism.