Dave Yauk: I Grew Up in a Ministry Family—and I Hated It

I was born and raised in a Christian home. My great-great-grandfather was Louis Talbot, a famous author, one of the founders of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, and a preacher who worked closely alongside Billy Graham.

Yet despite this lineage of faith, I grew up as a “moralistic therapeutic deist,” in the language of sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. I believed loosely in a divine mind that created the world, and I believed that this being would want us to be good and nice to each other. But I knew this “thing” wasn’t especially involved in my life.

I attended my family’s church until I was 11 years old. In that time, I acquired a certain cynicism about religion and ministry. The word religion, at its root, means “to bind back,” and I witnessed person after person trying to somehow work back to God through good deeds and moral effort. In many ways, ministry became an idol in my home, and it often kept us from being a close family. Good things, like serving others, inevitably became “God things.” Our home life was emotionally arid and devoid of intimacy, and I grew to hate whatever god would allow this.

Anger and Depression

By the time I was 12, my mother sought to get us plugged in with the local Baptist church youth group. She desperately wanted me to be around Christian friends. I went to youth group begrudgingly, all the while growing increasingly bitter, angry, and repulsed by the idea of a god. My anger drove me headlong into pornography.

Around age 17, I began my first serious romantic relationship. But this girl quickly became my idol. It only took a few months before I was pouring my anger onto her. I became what I had vowed never to become: an abuser.

My life went into a tailspin. I entered a 10-month depression. It was truly a dark night of the soul. Not a day went by without thoughts of killing myself. Yet during this time, I started reading voraciously on the concept of love. I was desperate to learn how to love and be loved. So I studied psychology and read ancient holy books. Soon enough, there were books piled from floor to ceiling around the beanbag chair in my room.

One remained unopened: the Bible.

At this time, I still considered the Bible something close to lunacy. I’d already tasted my family’s religion, and it wasn’t any good. I was a narcissist, a self-styled “evidentialist” and a pragmatist, and Jesus just didn’t make any sense to me.

But one day, I opened a book—I can’t remember which one—that posed a question I couldn’t answer. The author asked, “Do you have a desire to be perfectly loved?” Of course, my answer was no. That’s impossible! No one can love us perfectly. And yet the author probed deeper, acknowledging that we still desire this sort of perfect love, even though no one on earth can provide it. We desire to live happily, to never be hurt, and to be loved for who we are.

This was the first moment I ever entertained the possibility of a personal god. The book followed up with a famous quote from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

As the truth of this insight sank in, my anger and pragmatism were shaken. Desiring a perfect love is pointless if finding that kind of love is impossible in this life. The persistence of my desire meant that something perfect must exist out there, somewhere.

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Source: Christianity Today