(because I wanna tell my story …)
According to Richard Dawkins, religion is a successful meme because it offers the most and threatens the most. I guess he is talking about Heaven and Hell, but when I came back to Christ I was a young chap not even thinking about the afterlife. I reconsidered Christianity because I believed that a non-theistic world views were false. The atheism that I had felt pressured into adopting did not adequately make sense of human experience.
I can remember feeling so clever when I told a Christian fellow art student that I used to be a Christian and no longer believed in God. I felt I had experienced and travelled so much further in life than him. He was part of a crowd of wild young things in our home town of Windsor in Berkshire, who had all become Christians. One of them was a trouble maker from my school who had been expelled, but was now a completely different character.
My conversion all happened over the Easter weekend of 1979. I was working at a cinema during the holiday when a united churches parade enacting the stations of the cross around the town stopped in front of the cinema. A Catholic priest read the account from Luke’s Gospel of the crucifixion. Some local ‘yobs’ taunted him as he read, but when he read the words from the cross: ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.’ – something happened. I saw the yobs mocking the priest and I saw Jesus crucified and I saw that there were only two choices. I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of my own guilt before God, that everything I was living for was complete rubbish. I turned away in tears.
I spent the rest of the weekend fighting Christianity in my head, going through every argument I could against the church and what it had done in history. How Christianity was out-of-date and didn’t really satisfy people. Look at all the people who had tried it and left, like Van Gogh and my Dad! But none of this worked, because atheism was, I knew, total rubbish! No argument against Christianity worked in comparison with the certain knowledge of trying to live as an atheist and knowing it to be a lie!
I was sitting outside our family house when I just thought ‘Why don’t I go back to Christianity if atheism is rubbish whilst Jesus changes people’s lives for the better?’ On Easter Monday I told my artist friend of my decision and I went round to see a Methodist lay-preacher who was an old family friend. When he told me to get on my knees and ask Jesus into my life, I halted. This was serious! At that point I had a vision in my mind of all the stuff I was living for: rock music, alcohol – girls! I knew this would have an effect on how people saw me. But then I just remembered all the sadness these things had given me in return and I called out ‘Jesus, come into my life and do the best you can with it!’
It was like an energy rushing into my being like I had never known or thought I could experience. It was the opposite of despair. Jesus said: ‘Anyone who follows me has crossed from death to life.’ I had now experienced that to be true.