Recently on Twitter there was a hastag of what you could tell yourself at the age of 25. Many people posted a lot of ideas they wish they could advise their younger self. This is my open letter to my younger self. This is coming from someone in their 40’s. The basic theme of the letter? Dave, stay away from Evangelical Christianity. If you stay away you will spare yourself a lot of pain and trauma. This is what l would say to myself if l could.
“The wise understand by themselves; fools follow the reports of others.”
“There’s a vintage which comes with age and experience.”
Jon Bon Jovi
As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
Proverbs 26:11 NIV
Does that quote from Proverbs describe me trying different churches despite being burned?
After getting baptized at Fresno Evangelical Free in Fresno, California in April of 2000.
Dave at 25,
Do you remember that day don’t you? That Sunday morning in April of 2000 when you got baptized at Fresno Evangelical Free. You plowed ahead and in the process upset your parents. I wish l could impart this advice and share some knowledge with you. Listen to me please and consider what l am saying. You could spare yourself a lot of pain and trauma. By the time you hit your 40’s you will be fried and burned in so many ways. If l could impart some advice it would be this…
Dave, stay away from Evangelical Christianity.
These are all the reasons why you should stay away.
1. You will honor and respect your parents much more. There would be less conflict at home and you will be closer to them in the early 2000’s. This will mean more to you one day after you bury your parents.
2. At the time you took that picture you thought the EFCA was a healthy denomination. This was based on your positive experiences with Fresno Evangelical Free. Later on you would learn that your former church would put someone in the pulpit who covered up a voyeurism and child pornography scandal. And it would disappoint you deeply.
3. Dave shortly you would attend the Minneapolis Christmas Conference of Campus Crusade for Christ. You would hear Bryan Loritts talk about planting an upcoming church in Memphis, Tennessee. You respected Bryan and thought deeply of him. Little would you know that years later you would write a blog and drag out a dark voyeurism and child pornography scandal at his church called Fellowship Memphis. Dave if you stayed away from Evangelicalism you would be spared from all this.
4. Dave in embracing Evangelicalism in time when you hear the word pastor your stomach would go into knots. You don’t need that stress. Life will be hard enough for you.
5. Dave you would plant a Campus Crusade chapter at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Later on when you saw the problems in Evangelicalism you would regret doing this at times. Dave stay away from Crusade.
6. Dave in Wisconsin you would get involved in a Third Wave Charismatic church that tried to raise someone from the dead and also sent out the high school youth group to fight a demon in a convenience store. Dave Wooded Hills Church is a cult. Stay away from them.
7. Dave it’s okay to have a beer and drink alcohol. It’s fine! Reject Evangelicalism on this issue. You heard some bad stuff early on.
8. Dave, sex and dating is okay. It’s a part of being human and growing up. Your obsession with purity would keep you single longer in life than you desire. And why the strong emphasis on purity when many organizations are covering up child sex abuse, infidelities and more? Why beat yourself up over mistakes when others have no remorse at all and have protected the brand?
9. Dave, almost every single church you were involved in: Fresno Evangelical Free, Wooded Hills Bible, Elmbrook, McLean Bible, and Fairfax Community Church would experience disturbing scandals or problems. If you stay away from Evangelicalism you will spare yourself pain and disillusionment.
10. There will be times when you gave money because you were caught up in a moment that was emotional. Don’t give money to a church Dave. You are wasting your resources. Save it and invest in yourself.
11. Avoid anything taught by John Piper. Dave you would be deeply influenced by his teaching and it would screw up parts of your life. You would make decisions thinking that your life would be a waste unless you did something grand for God. This would backfire. Also you would tell your Mom at one point that her pancreatic cancer is a gift from God. Your mother would weep in front of you as she would correct you. Dave do you want to know what a wasted life is? Being into Desiring God ministries and some of these churches you once called home.
12. Dave later in life you would befriend an Air Force Captain who made a comment to you while you were in a faith crisis. You shared more and he wanted to evangelize you. His goal was to get you involved in the deeply corrupt Sovereign Grace Ministries church plant of Redeemer Arlington. Knowing the pain he would cause you if you stay away from evangelicalism you would spare yourself deep psychological trauma.
13. Dave this military officer would break the relationship while giving birth to a false accusation. This happened from someone who boasted about how godly they were and how much they listened to Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and others. In the process this military officer by the false accusation he triggered would teach you why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the U.S. military. He would never own his mistake or seek to make things right. And years later you would feel stuck.
14. Dave you would emerge from a faith crisis by approaching nearly 140 people and asking for forgiveness. You would do something that not even Mark Driscoll or C.J. Mahaney would do. In the process you learned that Christians don’t own their mistakes. You would later lose a number of friendships two years later because you would reject Christian nationalism in the 2016 election. And many Christians you know would embrace it.
15. While you would try and re-build your life you were at Fairfax Community Church as led by Rod Stafford. You would learn that Fairfax employed a violent sex offender and they concealed it from the church. It would fall into your lap. And as you were trying to move forward from that Sovereign Grace mess you ended up being a whistle blower in a mega church because you feared that a child would be sexually abused. And you already saw one church live with the scars in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and you didn’t want that to happen again in the Washington, D.C. area. You don’t need that stress stay away from Fairfax Community Church.
16. In time you would see the issue of Christian nationalism. You would lose a lot of friends. They would include your pastor’s family from Wisconsin. Joe and Ruth Jenkins son Josiah would scream at you to fuck off. Then your former Campus Crusade director from Milwaukee would troll you on social media and question your Christian faith. Why? Because you were a normal and traditional conservative who rejects Christian nationalism and believes faith and politics should be divorced.
17. Dave you would remain baffled at so many things. Here is one question that haunts you. If God would accept celebrity pastors who destroyed lives and covered up allegations of criminal activity into heaven; and yet reject honest atheists and those who were nothing; then why worship a God like that?
18. Later in life you would write a successful blog. Little did you know that you would learn a lot about domestic violence, the legal system, child pornography and financial shenanigans that many churches or ministries have engaged in.
19. One thing that should never happen as well Dave. That unresolved mess from that former Sovereign Grace church would pop up in your Mom’s hospital room in a terminal illness. If you stayed away from evangelicalism your Mom could have lived out her life not worrying over what happened to you as you tried to find new employment. Dave many Christians aren’t committed to peace and that is why these situation happen and will continue to take place.
20. One last point to you Dave. Religion can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction. Religion can tear apart families and relationships. Some religions can operate like cults and you would brush against all that.
Dave the point of all this is to try and tell you if you could…stay away from evangelicalism. Love yourself to stay away and spare your life from harm. Really not a lot of good things emerge from evangelicalism. Just pain, psychological trauma and scandal. If you stay away from evangelicalism how much healthier can you be in life? The answer is very. You can’t say you didn’t try because you did. But Dave if there is a way you would walk away from that baptism at Fresno Evangelical Free do so. Later in life you will thank me deeply.
Love you buddy!
David Bonner (Older)