#Youngerself. What Advice Would I Give Myself at 25?

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.”

Tibetan saying 

“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! 

Very Respectfully, 

David Bonner (Older) 

6 thoughts on “#Youngerself. What Advice Would I Give Myself at 25?

  1. Dave (Wondering),

    That is really good advice…for anyone, really.

    But it’s NOT TOO LATE to take that advice. Depart from the anger, and you will be much happier.

    Do you remember the movie, “Devil’s Advocate”?

    There was a woman that was being considered for jury selection. Keanu Reeves didn’t want her on the jury. Why?

    YOU are that woman. Someone hurt you, and you want revenge. That’s not healthy, either. I’d kick you off that jury, too.

    Follow your advice…then…

    FORGIVE. A vengeful heart can’t forgive, nor can it move on.

    Cuz ya know what? Your hurt isn’t gonna change evangelical culture at all. It’s been this way for MANY hundreds of years in the CALVINIST/Baptist circle. They were the ones who angered many in the founding of this nation, too. Hence the massive federal debates about one word…RELIGION.

    Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. They will get theirs…eventually. If not in this life…the next. John Calvin, especially.

    But your quest for God needs to be just you and God alone, but ya gotta kinda get to know God by reading the Bible, then you have knowledge. Then if you step into a church, any church, you will already know if the preacher is teaching truth, or lying his ass off.

    Your heart is in the RIGHT PLACE…you are just a bit misguided. Take a vacation from all this, and SMILE.

    Ed Chapman

    Like

    • That’s another problem with churches, they tell you to let go of your anger. They say to forgive, get over it, smile more, act like you’re happy, “let go and let god”. But this is a recipe for abuse, and for enabling church leaders to take advantage of their flocks with no repercussions.

      Anger is an important thing. It’s a tool, it protects us and motivates us. We shouldn’t let it eat us up and make us non-functional, but we should focus it, and use it. Many people who made positive change in the world did so because they were deeply angry about something, and used that anger to motivate their action. Eagle’s anger will protect him from ever getting involved with one of these evangelical churches again. And his focusing that anger by investigating and blogging about problems in these churches may help warn other people off them, or help those trapped in them get themselves out. He’s turning a negative into a positive.

      Eagle, stay angry! Don’t let people tell you that you have to “just get over it”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand what you say, but if you’ve ever attended any kind of drug addiction therapy that has nothing to do with religion, forgiveness is a topic discussed. The perpetrators could care less about your anger. It’s not about them. It’s about the victim. Power. The victim is holding on to anger, GIVING the perpetrator power over your life. Anger is part of the process, and forgiveness takes a ton of time, as the anger has to be processed. Phoney forgiveness isn’t forgiveness at all. But, genuine forgiveness is not about the perpetrator at all, cuz they could care less, one way or another, so it’s not about them. It’s about the power they have over the victim. Religion doesn’t do a good job at all explaining this forgiveness stuff.

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      • Anger can CONSUME someone to the point of massive depression, and too much anger is just not healthy, both emotionally, and it can turn to bring physically, as well. Anger is healthy to a point, but after that line is crossed… It’s dangerous to your health, hence therapy.

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  2. I have always been prone to second-guessing myself, and looking back and wishing I had done some things differently. I play and replay past experiences over and over again in my mind, and it can get me into trouble. If I don’t keep things in perspective, I can end up beating myself up about things in the past and driving myself towards depression.

    I have to try to remember that the things that have happened in the past have all contributed to making me who I am today, and that I might be a different person if things had gone differently, and that could be either good OR bad.

    The struggles and hurt I experienced during a season of church conflict were painful and I wish things had gone otherwise. My struggles at times with depression and anxiety have been seasons I wish had not happened. But . . . I learned from these things, and it helped to shape my perspective, and I know that today I would not have the degree of empathy and compassion for others who are struggling without having experienced those things myself. My own past difficulties have made me more sensitive (and hopefully a better friend) to those who are experiencing difficulties themselves.

    The experiences you list here were painful and frustrating. There is no glossing over that, and yes, it would be better in many ways if you had not had to experience them. But they have also definitely brought you to a place where you are able to be a help and resource to others who are having difficult experiences, and particularly to those who are wondering if there is anyone “out there” who can understand what they are going through.

    It’s hard, I wrestle with it all the time, but I hope you can keep some of that perspective, even while acknowledging the reality of the hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Sharing Thoughts on Montana, Evangelicalism, and the EFCA in an Open Letter to Lee Kisman (EFCA District Superintendent of the Northern Mountain District | Wondering Eagle

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