Jerry is another Tribe Writer. I've never talked to him outside of his submission, and yet - as with Clara, Becky, and Tristan - felt an instant connection. Because of writing, obviously, but also because of choice.
If there's one thing I'm learning in my own discovery, it's that my story of belief is not unique. There are many of us who have experienced similar histories of religious upbringing (or lack thereof), that leave us wiggling in and out of a system we aren't sure if we buy into for one reason or another. Finding each other, our single stories are given the weight they deserve because they become our story. We create a new sort of "like-minded" community that has nothing to do with what we currently choose to believe and whether or not we agree - because it's not about believing the same thing, It's about making our own choice to believe.
Jerry's responses are clear and humble; and there's something beautiful about his commitment, his surety. You can connect with him and read his words here.
Responses by Jerry Lopez
What do you believe, and why?
I am a Christian. I know this can mean a lot of different things to different people, so I’ll just boil it down to the following:
- I believe the Christian God is the one true God.
- I believe the Bible was written by the hands of men but are the inspired words of God.
- I believe there isn’t a reasonable or rational argument I could ever make to persuade anyone to believe what I believe.
Most of my life, I lived as an atheist. I’ve seen what’s on both sides of the fence. I believe the side I’m currently on is the better (and correct) side. I know that the answers I seek will never be fully satisfied by science and/or rational thinking. For every argument I’ve come across against Christianity, I have discovered there is a convincing counter-argument. And vice versa. I’m willing to let go of everything inside of me that fights against believing in something I cannot prove. Some call this blind faith. Maybe it is. Nonetheless, I have chosen. It wouldn’t be called Faith if I could prove it.
How did you discover your beliefs?
Through much study, research, and introspection.
Like everyone else, my beliefs were molded over time. My mother taught me what she knew about Catholicism and Jesus, but it wasn't much. It felt more like superstition than anything else. However, because of society's emphasis on science and rational thought, and the marginalization of faith, I was taught that religion and God were just made up to help us explain things we didn't understand. I was taught that everything we don't know today will some day be explained by science.
I believed this for a time, but something kept nagging at me. It was a question that I believed science could never answer: Why do we exist? What's the point of anything?!
For years, I ignored the question. But every so often it would come to mind. I would ponder it and get frustrated. To sooth my frustration, I sought to affirm my atheistic beliefs. I would study the works of well-known atheists of the past like Bertrand Russell. But it didn't help. Even today's current crop of atheists (Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc.) did nothing to quiet my soul, my spirit, my inner-self, or whatever you want to call it.
So I decided to study the other side, and I discovered through the likes of C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Dinesh D'Souza, et al., that I didn't have to abandon rational thought. I learned that for every God Is Dead, there's a What's So Great About Christianity, for every Religulous, there's a Expelled. However, it's impossible for me to completely explain exactly what turned my thinking (and my heart) around. For brevity's sake (if it's not too late for it), I'll just say that the only thing that satisfied me was a deeper and truer understanding of Jesus.
How do I interact with my beliefs?
I do my best to let my beliefs drive everything I do. I’m of the sentiment expressed in the saying, “The glory of God is man (or woman) fully alive.” Therefore, each day I strive to BE better and DO better. Love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, joy, peace, wisdom, patience, and faithfulness are just a few of the things I work toward. However, I have to remind myself that if I ever worry about being a “good” Christian, then I’m doing it wrong. You see, I accept that I’m human and that I’m going to screw things up every once in a while. But, hopefully, I continue to learn and keep moving forward.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
I love this question because you assume we all have doubts. And we do! Even Mother Teresa had her doubts.
I like to think I’m a trustworthy man, a man who keeps his promises and commitments. I like to use the example of my marriage. There was a time when I convinced myself that I needed to divorce my wife. In my mind, I had every “good” reason to do so. I went to my best friend and told him of my plans. He listened to my case intently and then responded with, “You’re not getting a divorce.”
I said, “Sure I am. Why shouldn’t I?”
He said, “Because you made a promise to your wife that you would love her until death do you part. You’re not dead yet. If you divorce her, you’d have broken your promise. Is that the kind of man you want to be? A man who breaks his promises?”
I was speechless. He also said to trust that if I re-commit myself to loving her unconditionally (keeping my promise), things will get better. I was skeptical, but I put my faith in his wise counsel. I committed myself to loving my wife even when she was being a bitch. I loved her when she complained and nagged. I loved her when she was spiteful and thoughtless. And wouldn’t you know it; things got better.
I know this advice sounds a bit simplistic, but it had a huge impact on me.
When the doubts creep in, I remind myself of the commitment I made. I have committed myself to being a Christ-follower for the rest of my life. Therefore, I will continue to follow him even when the doubts are shouting in both ears. When bad things happen, when my prayers aren’t answered, I remember my commitment.
All of my chips are in. Am I 100% certain that I’ll win this hand? No. But I’m willing to stay in the game until I find out.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.