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After experiencing the horrors of war, Bryan Mealer lost his faith. Morning runs with a priest — and a visit to a more welcoming church — helped restore it. We meet at 5. I was 40 years old, the father of three small children, and beginning to wrestle with some of the bigger questions that loom at middle age, particularly about faith. After growing up in the church and leaving for many years — even abandoning my beliefs at one point while covering war — I was contemplating a return.
God is Harvey. Harvey is what we called our Honda. The look my mother shot me is still burned into my retinas.
Decades of culture wars had sullied the whole institution for me and millions of others who stood on the same precipice, looking back in. David was a priest at an Episcopal church in south Austin and the author of two books. After the Texas legislature allowed people to openly carry handguns in public and concealed weapons into public universities, David wrote a piece for the Huffington Post advocating the open carry of prayer be, not bullets.
I thought he was a good writer and reached out to chat. Turned out he was also a runner, like me, so we planned to get some miles. This alone filled another growing void. I ran semi-regularly with an old college buddy, Lee, whom I met occasional for a beer, but I had no standing weekly engagements to look forward to. Recent studies show that for men, this middle-age drift into isolation can be more harmful than obesity or smoking.
The remedy? No more bowling alone, or running, for that matter. David and I were in the same situation: we were both 40 with three kids and busy work schedules, and we had little time set aside for friendships.
So we started meeting up every Monday, then again on Saturdays with Lee, before eventually adding Thursdays, too. Hot or cold, sleep or no sleep, we ran. But as the months passed by, we began to open up more, and I soon learned that David had experienced his own journey back to faith with some parallels to mine. While his father was a pastor, mine raged and rebelled against the fire and brimstone of his youth. But unable to chart his own spiritual course, he resorted to raising us with what he knew. While David ed the US Marine Corps reserves and enrolled in seminary, I went to college and, like my own father, built a great wall between me and the Lord.
While David got married and became a youth pastor at an evangelical church in Pennsylvania, I moved to New York to work in magazines. Infollowing the invasion of Iraq, David was commissioned as a chaplain in How do i get my faith back army and later went to Baghdad.
After rotating home, he discovered his wife — and the mother of his two children — had been having an affair. The marriage ended shortly before his deployment to Walter Reed army medical center, where he worked in the psych and amputee ward with men and women suffering severe trauma. The divorce, plus the crippling depression triggered by his own post-traumatic stress, finally forced a crack in his faith.
But that God disappeared on me when I needed him most and I was alone. I distanced myself from everything that represented that God — church, faith, hope and love. Around the time David ed the army, I moved to Africa to become a freelance correspondent and wound up in eastern Congo, covering a largely neglected war that had killed millions. For three years I reported military operations, massacres, and cholera outbreaks, losing count of how many children I saw buried in some unfamiliar ground where their families had sought refuge.
Eighty per cent of Congolese people identify as Christian, and like my own family during the Depression, they leaned heavily on their faith in times of tragedy. God was punishing them for not believing, people told me, for theirs was a vengeful god, much like the one I had grown up with, and the god our politicians often hide behind without conscience.
One day while I was visiting a displaced camp, my guide took me on a tour of tents where babies had died during the night, the mothers still cradling the tiny corpses, catatonic with grief. As I stood in a haze of cooking fires at the forgotten edge of the world, that god ceased to exist. The carnage of war and its heavy psychological toll pushed Tillich to the brink of his faith and beyond.
It was a god who met him in darkness when the other had proved trivial and inadequate. David had a similar discovery. One dark night, he found himself alone on his balcony, sobbing and cursing God for allowing his life to crumble. Not long after, David left the evangelical faith and became ordained in the Episcopal church, where the ritualistic liturgy offered a kind of spiritual liberation, one that not only helped ease his anxiety and depression, but renewed his bond.
During his early 40s, while I was in college, he and my mother left the church for several years before ing a more moderate Lutheran congregation. After decades of seeking, he finally found true spiritual peace.
In the years after leaving Congo, I knew that God was out there somewhere, waiting in whatever form.
Around the time I started running with David, my family and I began attending a progressive Methodist church here in Austin, one committed to social justice and offering sanctuary to the LGBT community. Our first Sunday, a man stood up and testified about being ostracized from his congregation because he was gay. Reclaiming the title is a moral protest against those who attack immigrants, refugees, minorities, and the poor and the sick, the very people whom Christ instructed us to help along the road, and without question.
As scripture tells us, and as Tillich and my father both understood, this journey of faith is best done down a narrow road.
There is no room for pulpit politicians or yammering pundits. How I became Christian again: my long journey to find faith once more. Bryan Mealer. Mon 25 Dec A few mornings a week, I go running with a priest. We're at the end of white Christian America. What will that mean?. Reuse this content.How do i get my faith back
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