One Faith, Many Paths: Mike Bezalel

mikeb

This time for my One Faith Many Paths Project, I interview one of my newest Facebook Friends, Mike Bezalel.

1. You’ve told me that your father was a member of the KKK. Can you tell me what that was like?

Growing up with that mentality hanging over me was terrible, to be flatly honest with you. I was led to believe that simply because of my race that I was superior to all others. He refferred to anyone who was not white always in reprehensible racist terms. I was punished for associating with htem, beaten. My parents were both just terrible human beings.

2. How did your Maw-maw help you unlearn what your father was trying to pass on to you?

Well she resucued me. Saved my life in very real terms. I was taken away from my parents at around 13 because of the physical and mental abuse I had suffered. My maw-maw, my paternal grandmother, helped me to overcome all of the refuse I had been forcefully inundated with over the years. I never felt like I was worth anything. A person spends years being told they are worthless…it kind of stays with you, you know? I still battle with that sometimes. It was the gift to me that still seems to be giving back, I guess.

Maw-maw gave me the space that I needed to grow as well. Perhaps a little too much I was very angry after I escaped from the hell of my early life and I went wild. Drugs, partying, drinking…and even worse at times. I was even angry with God and dabbled in Satanism at one point of my teenage years. I fled from that after about a year, though, and never allowed myself to return to that point.

3. You have epilepsy. When did this first manifest?

The doctors seem to think it stemmed from a steries of head injuries over a 3 year period. A fall down a flight of stairs that resulted in a severe concussion, another concusion about 8 months later and then the big one, a motorcycle injury that resulted in a TBI so severe that I was in a coma for about 2 weeks. The seizures first began when I was in a coma. That was 26 years ago this September.

Unfortunately, I have what has been deemed as an intractable case of epilepsy.. I have been on at least two dozen different medications over the years and none of them stop the seizures completely. MMJ comes the closest, but it is not covered by insurance, and being medically disabled, I cannot afford it. Seems to be my luck…lol.

4. How did you become a Christian?

My maternal grandfather, who I called Pap-paw, was a devout Methodist minister. I grew up in his church every Sunday for much of my childhood. He instilled i nme a love for God and the pursuit of life, love, and light.  He was the best man I have ever known and I could never stray away from what he taught me. He was also the very reason I didn’t believe th garbage my mom and dad tried to brainwash me with I know they hid their beliefs from my grandparents for a reason, after all.

Anyway, later as a teenager, when I went through that period where I was mad at God and messed around with devil worship, I even knew then that I was wrong. I was just very, very angry and was lashing out. I had a dream with my Pap-paw in it, and he was just staring at me with disappointed eyes. When I woke, I began weeping and asked God to forgive me.

A few days later, my friend Steve and I were at a Perkin’s restaurant at around 3 AM. he and I both were longhaired metalhead kids. I looked at him and commented, “Man you kind of look like Jesus this morning.” He really did at that moment–scruffy beard, dark hair. Kind eyes…a little glazed from weed, but it was true. He began to witness to me. It didn’t take much coaxing or convincing to help me find my way. We went to a parak just about a mile away and I prayed the acceptance prayer. Right before I prayed, I implored to God, “I want to believe in You, God, but so much evil has happened to me. I need You to show me a sign. Please God, if You are there, please show me. I know I shouldn’t ask You…but if you exist, You know my heart. I need this.”

When I closed my eyes and prayed the prayer, I felt peace like I had not felt for so long. That would have been enough, but God is good. I opened my eyes and saw the night sky in all its glory. Then the single brightest shooting star I have ever seen flew across my line of sight, exploding right in the center of the sky, and then vanished. I broke down in tears. I have never doubted for an instance since that day.

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Debunking Lies: Are Christians Copycats? Part 3: Mithras

In the past two parts of this series, I’ve debunked the claims that Jesus is a copy of the Egyptian god Horus or the Greek god Dionysus. Now for the first of these claims I ever heard: Jesus copied the Mithras cult.

Mithras was  a Persian god who supposedly was born of a virgin. Nope. Wrong. Most sources do not say virgin birth. There were three versions of Mithras, but since most of the claims are based on the Roman version of him, we’re sticking to that one. That virgin of Mithras came AFTER Jesus. If anything, they were the copycats, not the other way around.

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Debunking Lies: Are Christians Copycats Part 2: Dionysus

dionysus

Last time, I broke down why Jesus is not a copy of Horus. But the atheists don’t stop with him. They’ve also proposed Dionysus. So for part 2, let’s continue debunking the meme.

Dionysus was a lesser god in Greek mythology, not even one of the major ones like Zeus. The whole thing started because someone wrote a book called The Jesus Mysteries, featuring an amulet that had an image of Dionysus on a cross. So does this mean we copied crucifixion from the Greeks?

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Debunking Lies: Are Christians Copycats Pt. 1–Osiris and Horus

 

HorusPapyrus1Some years ago, a so-called documentary called Zeitgeist circulated YouTube, supposedly exposing the myth of Jesus. It said that He was nothing more than a copy of various gods from ancient mythology: Horus, Osiris, Dionysus, Mithras, even Krishna. So-called comedian Bill Maher, host of the HBO series Real Time With Bill Maher used it as the basis of his satire, Religulous.  But how true is this, really? We’ll start with the supposed connection to Osiris and Horus.

First of all, the date’s wrong. Horus was not born in December, he was born in October. And even if it was December, the Bible does not give an exact date for Jesus’s birth, because we don’t have one.

Second, Isis, Horus’s mother, was not a virgin she conceived him. She was impregnated as a bird flying over Osiris’s corpse. (Yeah, mythology is weird, but fascinating) The text of the myth implies a sexual union, not what we see with the virgin Mary.

Horus did not have 12 disciples. He had followers, yes, but followers are not the same as disciples. And they were more than 12.

Nor was Horus crucified. Crucifixion was not only practiced by the Romans, they also invented it. And their civilization comes AFTER Egyptian civilization, not before it.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Kasey Smith

kaseyThis time around, I interviewed Kasey Smith, a good friend of mine who also participates in Special Olympics!

1. What was your childhood like? My childhood was sheltered. Living in a small town, of course everybody’s life is sheltered in some form or another. I was a premature baby. I had fever seizures, brain bleeder, and a deflated right lung. I started going to school in my little not long after we moved in March of 1990. By the grace of God and with the support of many people, I graduated in 2007 after nearly 20 years.

2. When were you diagnosed as autistic? I was diagnosed as autistic in my 6th grade year in 2001. This just happened to fall not long before September 11, and I honestly believe that if it had waited, it would have been a disaster for me.

3. How did you become a Christian? Let’s backtrack 4 years to April of 1998. It was  a small town Sunday…it was a lazy laid-back slow Sunday. Our family got ready to go to Church that Sunday morning, and I personally had no idea that what I was going to do that day would change my life. We went to church and I don’t exactly remember what our pastor was talking about that day, but when it came time for the response, I walked forward with my older brother. (Funny side note: This was just about a year after our original Church building burned to the ground, we had just moved into our new building, which wasn’t completed yet.  So we ended up being baptized in another church. We were bigger than the baptism tank!) Our family was excited. That was 20 years ago! God has blessed me with so much it’s not even funny.

4. What is your favorite Bible passage? My favorite passage is Psalm 139 because in it, the Psalmist clearly says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and that we should rejoice in that fact.

5. Who is your favorite Biblical character besides Jesus? It would have to be Paul because of what he had to go through–all of the persecution and the problems that he had to go through but he persevered and was very influential in the Bible.

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Debunking Lies: The Sex Abuse Scandal

Many times in autism groups on FB when I or someone else break the unwritten rule that the atheists there have specified–never mention Christianity in any way–the atheists there will use different tactics. There are some that I can just shrug off, but one tactic that is so misinformed really bothers me: the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. So I’ve decided to talk about it. Originally, I wasn’t because I wasn’t quite sure how to address the issue. But I’ve recently learned some methods that I can use.

First of all, the media misrepresents the issue. The number of priests who are pedophiles is actually not as big as the media would like you to believe. The secular media has been against the Catholic Church for a very long time. I think it stems from the fact that the Catholic Church has always opposed many things that the secular media promotes, such as abortion. The media see Catholicism as an enemy, so they look for anything that happens within the church to use against us, whether it’s taking the pope out of context or the scandals. That’s not to say the scandals don’t exist at all; that just means it’s overblown. Also, there are steps being taken. Why isn’t that reported? Because why talk about a positive, when the negative is far more interesting and appears to be more damning.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Karly White

karlyThis time on One Faith, Many Paths, I’m interviewing a longtime FB friend Karly White, who I’ve known since my days in the Fans For Christ FB group. She is married to her husband Edward, and they have a newborn son named Hezekiah.

1. What was your childhood like? In some ways, it was very idyllic. I grew up in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of West Virginia and white Christmases during my childhood, and have fond memories of things like playing flashlight tag on summer nights, and sledding in the winter with the neighborhood kids. In other ways, it was pretty bad. My mother had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and could be verbally abusive, which got worse after my brother Keric died in infancy from HLHS, a rare heart condition. West Virginia is also a predominantly white state, and my father is Cuban. My parents were always very lonely and pretty excluded from our community. I didn’t really think about until I was older that racism played a part in that.

2. How did you become a Christian? My father is a Pentecostal pastor, so Christianity was a huge part of my upbringing, so I was always aware of scripture and Jesus’s ministry. Like most teenagers, I went through a phase where I questioned whether Christianity was a bunch of magical nonsense or not. Ironically, what brought me to faith was a fantasy novel. I read the Chronicles of Narnia the year my nana (my mom’s aunt that raised her) died, and on the plane ride to her funeral, I remember looking out the window at the patchwork of land beneath me and thinking, if there was a being like Aslan, the lion God-figure of the books, who was merciful, loving, regal, and righteous, I wanted to follow him. In the next moment, I remembered that CS Lewis was a devout Christian, and Aslan was his version of the Christian God. That’s who he was describing in his books, and that’s who I wanted to know and follow. I’ve wrestled with my faith a lot over the years, and still do, but I still want to follow that God.

3. What is your occupation? Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom. I do freelance writing and editing and am currently working on a novel and regularly blog.

4. What is your favorite biblical passage? Tough to say. When I was in high school, Ps 143:7-8 meant a lot to me, as the NLT says, “Come quickly, Lord and answer me, for my depression deepens. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.” It was reassuring to me when I was struggling with depression. In more recent years, Isaiah 62:4-5 was given to me when I was praying for wisdom from God about whether I should marry my now-husband. The passage in the ESV says, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight is in Her and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” There are many more, but those specifically always stand out to me.

5. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus? I love the stories of strong women in the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Mary, Deborah, Jael, but over the years the story of Joseph is one I continually come back to.  There is so much reassurance and hope in his story, so much of what Christ would later reveal in Jesus. The fact that he was able to forgive his brothers, the fact that he took bleak circumstances and was able to rise above them.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jane Lebak

This month’s interview is with Catholic writer Jane Lebak!

1) What was your childhood like?

I grew up in New York City, so it was a strange distortion of too many crowds and too much isolation, but I think it was just right for making me who I am.  I went to high school in a different borough (the local public high school wasn’t a great place; I remember three high school girls attacking a cop in the hallway) and getting there required an hour and fifteen minutes on the subway in each direction. Because of the distance, I got a subway pass.

That was freedom. It was amazing to have complete freedom to wander Manhattan with my allowance and my bookbag. After school, I’d walk from 83rd Street and head down to wherever I wanted. Forbidden Planet (both of them!) or Strand Bookstore or St. Francis Bookstore…I found so many amazing little shops and awesome little stores with ethnic food, and I could go all over the place to explore and learn and experience. I loved that so much!

Contrast that with early release days, where if I bolted out of school the moment the bell rang, and if all the trains and buses were right there to connect, I could get home in time to watch the last fifteen minutes of Transformers. 

2) What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

My personal reason is that I’ve had personal experiences that lead me to no other conclusion. When you reach out and something reaches back for you, you have no more doubt.  When you fall and something catches you, you feel secure in what you felt. That’s not data for anyone else of course, but it holds me fast.

Overall though, and even before I had that kind of one-on-one experience, I knew order doesn’t arise from chaos.  Things fall apart on their own.  They don’t become more ordered or more complex.  So the tremendous complexity we see inside a cell or the way galaxies are constructed, for example, tells me something must have created and sorted, and organized everything that went into that.

3. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

That’s hard to pick. I like the Archangel Raphael in the book of Tobit. I used to have the worst crush on the Archangel Gabriel.  But on the human side of things, I really like the apostle Thomas because he seems to have this sarcastic and pragmatic edge that really speaks to me.

4. Favorite biblical passage and why?

“Kindness and truth shall meet. Justice and peace shall kiss.” I love the sense of completion.  In some ways, these things could be opposites (think of the answer to “does this make me look fat?”), but with grace, they become complementary.  In the end, all our differences are harmonized so they retain their character but all work together to show the many facets of God’s glory.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Steve Condrey

condreyThis time, I’m interviewing the Moderator for my Autistic Christians Facebook group, Steve Condrey.

1. What is your denomination? How long have you been a Christian?

I am officially a Baptist (my baptism was through a Southern Baptist-affiliated church), but I see myself as a nondenominational progressive.  I first professed Christ as my Savior in October 1982, and while I may not have been the most faithful of believers, I have never once stopped believing and acknowledging Christ’s lordship.

2. What was your childhood like? 

My parents were believers, but for the most part not actively churchgoing.  They stopped going to church regularly once the church started getting heavily involved in politics.  My parents were tough-minded, no-nonsense people.  Dad was a Marine and mom was a floor nurse–two professions notorious for not taking nonsense from anyone.  They were however, very fair-minded and even though they didn’t know any more about autism spectrum issues in the 1970’s and 1980’s they did their best. Frequently they did much better than the professionals recommended!

3. How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife offline in 2003 when Yahoo Personals was still in business. It is the first marriage for both of us after a lot of very dysfunctional relationships.

4. When were you diagnosed? Have your children been diagnosed as well?

I was diagnosed in April 2008, shortly after being placed with our son. The challenges of marriage were more than enough to stress my usual coping mechanisms beyond the limit; parenthood only made the situation more stressful. After a series of referrals, I ended up with an excellent neuropsychologist who pinned the problem down in a single office visit! My son (adopted and no genetic relation to me at all) was formally diagnosed this year; we had suspected he was on the spectrum, and some of the people who worked with him back in California thought so as well but the diagnosis was always considered of secondary or lower importance compared to his severe ADHD. My daughter is so far as we know neurotypical but still very bright.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

jannah

This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

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