by Anselm George
During my 66 years of life, a lot has changed about my faith. I grew up in Germany in a family that was not particularly religious. I followed the tradition of confirmation and became part of our church youth group and got close to the youth group leader. On one of our mission trips we went to England to a retreat with an organization called Torchbearers, which was billed as “non-denominational.” Incidentally, this organization is still alive and thriving now with headquarters in Estes Park, Colorado, and 26 centers around the world. The trip was not without purpose and we were evangelized and converted in Billy Graham style. I experienced a new way to talk about faith, and it left a deep impression on me.
When we came home, I had missionary zeal in my belly! This changed soon when we learned that the pastor of a neighboring church “did not believe in life after death”! A few of us marched in righteous indignation into his office. With great patience, he gave us a rundown of contemporary theological thinking, starting with Albert Schweitzer’s “quest for the historical Jesus.” Although I do not remember all the details, topics like “God is Dead,”
transcendence and immanence, literary criticism, demythologizing the New Testament (Rudolph Bultman) and the “here and now” of Karl Barth were mentioned.
I left confused and with my missionary zeal in tatters. To the relief of my parents, I gave up my plan to become a minister and studied medicine. Life happens when you have other plans! I came to the United States, got married, and raised a family. But I never stopped looking for a continuation of the discussions I had experienced as a youth. In spite of active church membership, this reunion came about only gradually.
There was Charles Partee, a wonderful friend and teacher from Pittsburgh Seminary, who affirmed that even rational people can experience a life-changing religious event. This proved very helpful in my search for meaning. More recently, Tom Evans talked about the first and second naiveté and provided further direction. Marcus Borg managed to
see faith where I saw confusion and then snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat by explaining in his book how we can be passionate believers today. My wife gave me a little book by Corinne Ware that indicated that my own strange spiritual style is an acceptable spiritual type. Finally, I learned from Jack Rogers, whose message, when he visited North Presbyterian, was underscored by the statement, “We are not alone.”
Therefore, after several detours, I can now confess the good news: We are not alone.
This is the sixth in a series of stories by people who shared their “Stories of Good News” during the Lenten season at North Church in February and March.