I was raised in a pretty typical “Christian” household. That is – with the exception of Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day – my brothers and I were loaded up on the “ministry bus” each Sunday and carted off to Sunday School and Church. I listened pretty intently to the sermons, especially the ones about Hell. It definitely seemed like a place I did not want to be and, after an extremely frightening sermon about spending eternity in a pit of fire, I took “the walk”. I was baptized shortly after and went on my merry way for 15 years. Through a set of self-induced extreme circumstances I found my back against the wall (won’t go into details – it doesn’t affect the story) and I did what all “good Christians” do, cried out to G-d. I “rededicated” my life and upon returning to my home town I sought out a Bible teaching “spirit filled” church. Yep, I was one of those….but not quite. I refused to accept any of the “spirit-led” stuff unless I could verify it scripturally. Now, that is not a huge step better because there are plenty of teachings that twist and use scripture out of context, but I did have some level of discernment. About this time I felt “the call” on my life to preach. I began taking distance learning classes to attain my ordination. Upon my ordination, I set out to find a church to lead.
After a couple of years running a storefront outreach in one of Macon’s worst neighborhoods, and while I was working as a counselor at a Christian substance abuse program, I got a call from a small Baptist church in need of a pastor. I was on my way. My work with addicts had planted some interesting seeds in my fertile mind. I began to see the reality that most of the men were simply swapping one addiction for another. They were relinquishing the control of the drugs in order to come under the control of “the spirit”. One specific occasion comes to mind when one of the men, during an extremely powerful “move of the spirit”, stepped forward and said – as if asking for a hit from the crack pipe – “I want some of that sh**.” This stuck with me, and brought some interesting self- discovery in later years.
I began “preaching the house down” in my little Baptist church, working odd jobs to supplement the very modest stipend I received. But I had plenty of time to pray and study. Early on, I had asked G-d not to let me get deceived – to lead me in His truth. I didn’t realize it, but there were two trains of thought that were wending their way through my heart and mind toward a collision course that would change my life forever.
As a pastor, I studied the deeply pagan origins and symbology of Christmas and Easter. Much of what I learned was gleaned from Christian histories – such as Haley’s Bible Commentary. In my idealistic belief that Christians wanted to know the truth, I began to share what I had found. My wife and I stopped celebrating such obviously pagan rites and we told all who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) what we had discovered. An interesting thing happened. Our Christian friends began to distance themselves from us. It made me realize that, just like the addict from before, the Christians wanted to be controlled – but by something they were comfortable with. When I quoted scriptures that condemned such idolatrous practices, I often received a puzzling response, “I know that’s what it says, but that’s not what our pastor teaches.” I later realized this is the Christian version of “Oral Law” – a concept of Judaism they vehemently deny.
During my bible school days I had taken courses on the “Feasts of Israel”. Something drew me to begin looking at these Feasts, as presented in the Bible, and their significance. Imagine my surprise when I read, as if for the first time, that the passages actually referred to them as the “Feasts of the L-rd”. I was further surprised to read that they were “an ETERNAL Covenant” to Israel. This speeding thought train collided with my realization of the pagan roots in Christian practices and derailed my Bapto-charismatic-“replacement theology” beliefs. During this time, I was involved in several “Stand with Israel” groups – one of which was organized by a “Messianic Rabbi”. Having discovered that the bible (the Old Testament – hereto referred to as Torah or Tanach) was really about the Jews, my wife and I decided that we needed to check it out.
The preacher (I found there’s really no such thing as Rabbi who believes in Jesus) was very charismatic and engaging. But I soon found the very same things that had troubled me in the church, were still nagging at my subconscious. There were answers that, given my increasing knowledge of Orthodox Judaism, that the church did not have. I found discrepancies in the whole Jesus mythos – and soon came to understand that the very concept of one person dying for the sins of others was foreign to, even forbidden by, Torah. I found interesting information on the commonality of the Jesus story with that of many pagan deities. As I gained a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew, I found the so-called “messianic prophecies” that Christians claimed clearly pointed to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah were contrived. It was during this time that my wife and I, now people without a faith, began to look for a Jewish lineage (through our mothers of course) that we could plug into. At this point, those who are reading this and are at the same place can take solace in knowing that you have a place as B’nai Noach (sons and daughters of Noah). We knew no such thing.
Upon finding a hint of Jewish lineage we sought someone to help us “become Jews”. We met a couple who were, at the time, engaged in the Partners in Torah program. They had discovered their own (verifiable) Jewish lineage and were studying, via telephone and internet, to become Torah observant. For the next three years, we spent every Shabbos and Feast with this family, learning how to “be Jews”. My wife and I were living a very observant lifestyle. I wrapped tefillin and davened daily. My wife dressed frum and covered her head in public. We kept a strict kosher diet. For all practical purposes, we were Jews.
During the three-year period, we had opportunity to meet some of the top Yeshiva Rabbis in America. The level of kedusha (holiness) these men possessed was tangible. It went way beyond any of the drummed up, emotional “feeling” created by music and group expectation I had experienced in my charismatic days. At this time I began to realize how those times when I thought I was “prophesying” to someone were simply skills in “reading people” that I had picked up in my many years as a bartender. Anyone interested in the truth about these matters can contact me for a personal discussion.
Our friends soon decided that the time had come for their children to live in an Orthodox community. It was here that our path to Jewishness hit a major snag. We had continued to seek verifiable evidence that we were indeed Jewish, but found roadblock after roadblock. Finally we were resolved to the choice between moving into an Orthodox community to complete conversion, or becoming (as we were now aware of the movement) Noahides. Life, family, and job situations made the former impossible – for now. So here we are – Noahides.
We certainly miss the depth with which we once kept the mitzvos, especially as we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I am still adjusting to the mitzvos which I should not keep, and we are learning what our responsibilities are as Noahides. At first, our pride told us that now we were “something less” than what we had been. We are daily seeing Ha’Shem’s hand in our lives as he sends others across our path who are struggling to reconcile the inadequacies and contradictions of Christianity. It is now our joy, our passion, and our reason for being to share the real “good news”. Those in the Middle Georgia area interested in learning more should contact us via our web site – Middle GA B’nai Noach.