“What Happened to You?” Finding My Way By Losing It.

I’d been out of Christian Music for a number of years when I was asked to do an interview for Down The Line Magazine.  My beliefs had changed over the course of my journey and some friends had been insisting that I had an obligation to let people know where I stood. I saw this as a good way to do that in a controlled setting, rather than leave the story to the winds.  I had opened a Facebook account and had been involved in a number of threads on religion, evangelical Christianity, fundamentalism, Christian music, love and relationships in all their forms, and until I learned better, politics, especially when it collides with religion (and it almost always does). People were rightly a bit surprised by my points of view and how they had evolved, and I think that, and the amount of traffic I was seeing on some of the posts are what led to being asked to do it.

I’ll fill in the blanks by and by.  In the meantime, I am still frequently asked the question in the headline.  “What happened to you?”  One recent thread even had people telling me they were saddened, disappointed, felt betrayed, that I may have been insincere or even fraudulent in my Christian practice, that I am living evidence of the great falling away the Bible talks about.  On the other hand, there are those who are encouraged, who feel they are not alone in their doubt, skepticism and questions, who know that life is much more about love than correct beliefs, who have grown through their literalism and for whom life is much better on this side of guilt and fear.

I understand what Undercover has meant to many in their own journey.  I know we had a place in the cultural youth revolution within the church.  I understand how that can lead to a sense that somehow I switched sides, that I abandoned the team, fell away, backslid.  I will have much to say about all that too, but one thing at a time.  Following is an excerpt from the interview which appears in Down The Line Issue #7, which you can safely download in its entirety here.  I wrote these answers over a number of weeks in the Summer of 2010.  Although I have come a long way even since this interview, here I answer two questions: “Where do you stand now in regards to your faith/belief,” and “What are your views on Christianity these days?”

Where do you stand now in regards to your faith/belief?

I am sincere and open in my search for truth no matter where it leads. I know there are many who think that doubt and inquiry are wrong if they do not somehow lead back to the truth of the bible as they see it. I can’t outline my whole process and arguments for what I believe here.  But is it really all about correct beliefs?  Many think so and I’m certain that to them I am no longer a Christian. To my theologically liberal friends all my questions probably seem like the blinding flash of the obvious. I have had to go through it and I am, of course on a lifelong path but one that has now taken me beyond the idea of the value and potency of correct beliefs and the constructs of Christianity.

On my Facebook page where it asks for religious views, I listed Music, Freethought, and Lovism. To me that means that I value rationalism, I believe in reason unrestrained by deference to religious authority, and I am firmly committed to the cultivation and practice of love.  I express this most deeply in music. That’s the framework for what I believe. Again I refer to a discussion I had with Jon Trott who suggested that there are two kinds of knowledge, rational and experiential.  The beliefs I held have not stood up well to reason and rational inquiry.  I acknowledge and accept the validity of religious experience, although those experiences are unique by definition and cannot be used as a logical defense of any one god or belief system over another.  All faiths lay claim to those kinds of experiences.  Ultimately, you are going to have to bring that experience into the realm of reason if you want to communicate meaningfully with others.

In the end, the important question is, “What is the basis of what I choose to believe?” I have heard and expect all the arguments because people like to believe that their beliefs stand up to scrutiny.  I have been told that mankind is corrupted, fallen, and that we should not rely on our rational minds in spiritual matters, although that is itself an appeal to reason. I have been told that love and a healthy moral code are not possible outside of God, and in fact just the opposite is suggested by research. Many hold that genuine love is not possible outside of Christ, and that somehow only Christians have the truth.  I have been told that the secrets and the mysteries belong to God, that we cannot know, and yet I am expected to assent without reason under threat of eternal suffering.  I suppose then I am agnostic. I don’t know, and outside peoples’ individual experiences, nobody else does either.  It’s necessarily a matter of faith.  If one’s faith could be proved by reason and logic, it would no longer be faith.   I align most closely in the end with Einstein who said, “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

When I talk to people about the early days of my journey with evangelical Christianity, they often ask if I really believed all that stuff literally.  It’s a good question.  I went forward at an altar call at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in 1976.  I began asking questions right away, not borne of skepticism, but thirst. I remember driving to Calvary the first week after that altar call and asking anyone who might have been even standing around in the parking lot what it was supposed to be like to be a born again Christian. I had been brought up Catholic.

Now Calvary in the early days for example, taught that the rapture was going to take place no later than 1988. I heard that taught explicitly, that Hal Lindsey line of thinking that the generation that witnesses the second coming would be the generation (40 years in the bible) that saw Israel become a nation again in 1948.  Chuck Smith had written books and tractates on the end times and biblical prophecy.  There was a nagging question I had about the way one verse in Matthew 24 was used repeatedly with regard to the end times: “So likewise ye, … know that it is near, even at the doors.” Well, the “…” made me curious so I looked up the verse and the missing words, “when ye shall see all these things” seemed important to me.  Why omit them?  It seemed to argue against the idea of an imminent second coming because the “things” we were supposed to “see” were not at all yet evident. So I asked Chuck personally at a baptism at the ocean.  I did not get a good answer and the sense that I had was that I should not be asking the question.  To be fair, Chuck was busy with a baptism that day and I was just some kid asking a question, one that he could have possibly interpreted as confrontational, or at least tedious.  But that was not my motivation.  I wanted to know.

Not having received a good answer led me to explore other explanations and interpretations of the apocalypse and the end times and I stumbled on George Eldon Ladd who had a completely different view than the Lindsey camp, that the end of days and a rapture of the church were not imminent, a view that made much more sense all things considered.  I adopted that view quite early which left me at odds with the people at Calvary for whom this was such an important and central issue and I avoided many such discussions. Did I really believe all that, my friends ask?

There were many other such unanswered or poorly-answered questions on crucial matters that I had over those years and coupled together with the decline of my personal life up through our first few albums, my faith necessarily unraveled and changed in many ways. I did feel in the first half of the 1980s like I was “hanging by a thread, out of control,” that I had tried so hard and in the end after years of study, worship, church attendance, travel and evangelism, this belief system granted me no more personal power or sense of transcendence than if I had no belief at all.  It was to be then, a matter of complete faith. The rain falls on the believer and the unbeliever alike.  I wrote as much on the liner notes to an anthology of our albums in the late 1980s, that I had had to re-evaluate my faith and had chosen to toss out quite a bit of bathwater without losing the baby, those core beliefs of my Christianity.  In my disillusionment with evangelicalism, between 1986 and 1990 my entire religious efforts were gradually refocused on Catholicism.  I did not accept many of the tenets but had promised to stay open when I made my return to Rome official.  Those doctrines seemed no more outlandish to me than many of those I was exposed to in evangelical fundamentalism anyway, and the Catholic church at least had historical accountability going for it, so I thought.  There I remained for the next 15 years.

I moved to the East coast in 2007 to teach at James Madison University. I knew nobody and went there alone. I made the acquaintance of a bright and interesting woman and I asked her out.  She was a secular humanist and had learned of Undercover and my role in Christian music. She told me that if I believed she was going to hell and if I was going to try to save her from hell, she would not go out with me.  That simple exchange gave me pause and I told her I would consider the question and would get back to her on it.  It ended up being a transitional event for me.  I had not believed in a fire and brimstone hell in some time, although I did believe in a kind of hell, an eternal separation made of our own choice to turn away from God here on earth.  Did I really believe all that?

This had lurked in the background, all of these many mental exercises, contrivances and convolutions one must necessarily go through to reconcile the bible with itself, with history, with orthodoxy, with what we know from science and archeology, with our own experience.  I had to admit to myself that my own mental exercises, convenient as they might have been, as orthodox as some of them could be considered, were not at all what the historical church, the early church fathers, or the bible taught even though I had long since abandoned the doctrine of sola scriptura. I told her I did not believe in a future reconciliation of the cosmic sin ledgers or a fiery hell and that I would not try to save her from one, although if objective discovery of such a place ever happened, I would make her aware of it and would in fact try to save her from it. I said so half-joking, but she was serious about this, and I told her that the bottom line was that my idea of hell was only my own, that I didn’t know for certain, but that I didn’t believe in a lake of fire.  So we talked this kind of thing over, faith and belief, for hours.

The floodgates of inquiry were now open, and in the three years since, I have done an intense amount of reading and have opened myself up to any reasonable question and have demanded adequate answers in exchange. It seems the only responsible thing to do.  I have the time to devote to it because I am on the East coast to teach and have very few other obligations there. Once one accepts the validity of scripture as a sacred document it may make sense to have discussions about theological matters, the finer points of doctrine and practice.  I watched the documentary “Frisbee” recently and a friend of Lonnie’s in the film said that he had never read the bible before and once he had, it opened a whole new world to him.  If the bible is approached like that, it makes sense to have those kinds of discussions.

For the last three years though, I have been in the crawlspaces of inquiry, examining the foundations, backfill, the joists and girders. I read the new atheists, skeptics, scholars of many disciplines, artists, mystics, pastors and theologians, conservative, liberal, and mainstream.  Bart D. Ehrman, New Testament scholar and Chair of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina was particularly powerful.  At that level the questions take on an entirely different nature.  I never knew, for example that there is no archeological evidence at all for the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.  Millions of people wandering a small patch of desert for 40 years, and there is not a trace of evidence.  Why, if there was a worldwide flood with all remaining life on an ark, are there no kangaroo remains between Ararat and Australia, or penguin fossils between Turkey and Antarctica?  I never knew that many of the New Testament epistles are pseudonymous, in some cases outright forgeries (not necessarily motivated by malice, but pseudonymous nonetheless), and that we know a good deal about the fascinating origin and evolution of the scriptures, the thousands of manuscripts available, no two of which agree completely, their selection and compilation into the canon in the fourth century, and the early church apocryphal writings that also show what early Christians believed and practiced.  This is all well-known by biblical scholars, and anyone who is serious about their practice should know this stuff.  These are just some examples of problems for literalists who rarely think through such things because they are like the guy in the documentary who have gone in with the assumption that it should all be taken at face value.  Did I really believe all that?

To the believer, it will sound as if I am cut off, down a bunny trail of error and blindness, a heretic, apostate.  I feel no such thing.  Things make much more sense to me, I am more alive, I feel more connected, I am not worried nor do I fear.  I am incredibly grateful to the forces responsible for my existence. No god I am interested in knowing would begrudge an honest and sincere inquiry, honoring the only faculties I was born with.  I assume responsibility for it.  I know love more than I ever have.  I have grown.  I am more complete in every way.  I have ongoing discussion about all this and my ongoing process on Facebook, and I invite anyone to sit in and continue to grow with me, just as it was with listening to Undercover.

What are your views on Christianity these days?

That’s such a broad question.  First, there is no unified or singular “Christianity” that I can really offer a view on.  Even within mainstream orthodox Christianity there is so much division and disagreement over so many critically important issues of eternal consequence.  That alone is telling.  Perhaps we should not have such strong views on things we don’t understand.  Also very sad is the politicization of faith. That is not unique to Christianity but it’s rampant within it.

I have two cousins who are retired missionary nuns in the Maryknoll order.  They have been instrumental in my growth over the years.  I remember talking to one of them around 1990 about the afterlife and she told me she didn’t believe anyone was going to hell.  I was surprised and asked if she meant “anyone” like even Hitler? She reaffirmed her answer.  Her view of course is way outside the mainstream of catholic teaching but it was obvious she had thought the issue through and I just hid the conversation away in my mind. Sometime later I was in the rectory at a nearby Catholic church (also Tommy LaSorda’s church) that was pastored by Augustinian priests, a conservative order.  They still wear self-flagellating belts around their waists although I hope they don’t still use them.  I had mentioned my cousins to the pastor whose face went a bit white and told me “Well, you know there are many who consider the Maryknolls somewhat on the fringe of Catholicism, maybe not really Catholic at all.” There is this fixation with correct beliefs, and allowing for certain tolerances, anyone outside those correct beliefs is deemed “on the fringes” or outside the camp altogether, and that has very real daily consequences for how people are treated.  That can’t be right.

I’ve experienced a real contrast of practices lately. I’ve been playing guitar for the Dances of Universal Peace.  It is an interfaith practice of simple circle-dances with musicians in the center.  They were begun by Samuel Lewis, “guru to the hippies,” in San Francisco in the 1960s.  A little research will show a number of connections between Lewis and Eastern teachers but again, the point is not dogma or correct beliefs. There is no belief system and no religious affiliation with the Dances, so there is really nothing to belong to. The point is practice, to come together as a people from many spiritual traditions or no tradition at all. It is a practice of renewal and meditation to promote peace, understanding and connection within ourselves and each other through song and movement. I have learned quite a bit about other peoples’ practices this way.  This might scare some of the “correct belief” folks away, but even the secular medical and behavioral sciences advocate meditation, breathing practices, relaxation, movement, chant (even the early church), all good for us in a number of ways.  Christianity can be overly cerebral.  Some sects integrate more activity in the way of practice, but more often in evangelicalism the service is focused on a person and the sermon, usually after the singing of hymns, perhaps prayer, which too often looks and sounds like begging God for favor.  I’m not sure about the practice in that kind of model.  I don’t mean this as a criticism at all.  The difference in practices and the results are just things I find interesting and noteworthy.

I don’t think that religion or faith are necessary for us to become complete human beings, to love, to have a strong and pure sense of morals and ethics. Religion and faith can do a lot of harm.  I am told they can do a lot of good too, although I think it’s also possible that the good could just as easily be done outside religion.  But good is good, love is love, and wherever it comes from is fine with me.  It’s just that love and good so often have to take this long detour through doctrine, dogma, speculation, mental exercises, contrivances and convolutions before it gets to love.  I am inclined toward complete acceptance and respect of others’ beliefs. On the other hand over 40% of Americans believe the world was created in 6 days just a few thousand years ago and many of them want to run for public office, rewrite science and history textbooks (as was recently the case in Texas), establish a state religion and enforce a moral code that has no basis in reason but is solely justified because it exists in ancient manuscripts, and in such cases I have a hard time standing by silently or passively.

I don’t believe I will ever be reunited with my mother in heaven. My heart is broken by that loss of hope.  We need to love now.  We need to live now, fully.  We are not going to be rescued someday from the pain and suffering of life here and now.  We need to be that rescue, love, to those in pain.  Some see this as meaningless.  I see it as urgent.  There is no reason why the loss of hope, or the absence of meaning or purpose should require the existence of a transcendent belief system.  I accept the practices of those singularly committed to love.

I’ve been asked how I reconcile my years in Undercover with my own beliefs and practices now.  Was it all a waste?  Am I just throwing all that away? What of all the people who listened to us and whose lives were changed in such powerful ways? How can I stand on a stage and play those songs still? These are all good questions.  I feel very fortunate to have been in Undercover, to have owned Brainstorm, to have been invited to be part of so many people’s lives, to have been changed by them as they were by us, to have been a catalyst in any way for good.  The message in the early days was one of “salvation” through Jesus only. I’ve many times expressed how we were young and the message necessarily simple and simplistic for a church not quite ready to go to the cultural or metaphysical edges.  They were also representative of our own growth.  I own that and assume responsibility for it. From Branded on, our message was one of self-forgiveness, acceptance and forgiveness of others, tolerance, kindness, wonder, love, all it means to be a complete human being.  I was not then at the point where I believed any of that was comprehensively possible outside of Christianity.  I know it is now, and that it’s not important what container love comes in.

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82 thoughts on ““What Happened to You?” Finding My Way By Losing It.

    • I love you, Joe.
      Many people ask the question “What is the meaning or purpose of life?” with the notion there’s only one answer. There are 6.9 billion people in the world; I submit there should be 6.9 billion unique answers which can and in most cases probably should change every so often. The only constant puzzle piece to my “meaning of life” puzzle is love. As a Christian, my love for people was always in the context of my religion. Love is quite a different animal outside of that context. Love, not for the sake of any agenda (such as ultimately leading people to Christ). Rather, love for the sake ONLY of the one who is in need of it. Nothing is more pure and beautiful as this IMHO. Nothing is more healing to receive.

      Gary Olson

      • Just wanted to say thank for the gift that Undercover was to me. As I read thru “What happened to you”… dwelling on this passage “There were many other such unanswered or poorly-answered questions on crucial matters that I had over those years and coupled together with the decline of my personal life up through our first few albums, my faith necessarily unraveled and changed in many ways.” I was reminded of some lyrics from another successful Christian music artist. “Shivering with doubts that were left unattended, so you toss away the cloak that you should have mended, Don’t you know by now why the chosen are few? It’s harder to believe than not to, Harder to believe than not to, oh” Again as I read thru your article my thoughts roamed thru extreme possibilities such as… Why not embrace a life of hate or narcissism, cutting or sexual bliss? Your decision to pursue and release love seems just as empty to me for this reason. This world comes to an absolute end whether your life and the lives of others around you experience joy, peace and fulfillment or endure bitter hardship, pain and hopelessness, All of this changes when you embrace Jesus.

  1. Joey – I really enjoyed the DTL interview and I sincerely appreciate your honesty and truthfulness…life is a journey and we must search out the truth and not be afraid of what we will find. Thanks for sharing your journey with us:)

  2. Thanks for taking time to share what is going on in your life. I can imagine the heat you may take on this.
    For what it is worth, the Undercover years were not a waste. Those CD’s from the 90’s’, Balance of Power, Forum, Devotion are among my favorite music. They had something to say. I still listen to them.
    You can never know what another’s walk is like. The Gospel is simple. It is our layering of stuff over and over on top of it that mucks it up. I for one wishes they would run Lindsey and his ilk out of town. He’s done alot of damage.
    It is sad what the American Church stands for. Alot of it has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.
    I do hope you find what you are looking for, and many of your questions find answers.
    But I would be careful of Ehrman. I have read interviews where he has stated his goal was to tear down Christianity and all belief systems. I would be careful of someone like that as much as some super faith apostle who claimed to have all truth.
    Anyway, enough rambling. Thanks for your honesty. It is needed everywhere.
    Be well.

  3. First of all, thank you so much for your honesty and candor. I did not play in a band (no musical talent whatsoever) but rather played your band over and over on college radio. In college at West Virginia University in the very early 90s, I took a lot of elevated pride thinking that my christian alternative rock show would “save souls”.

    Today, my beliefs have moved very far from that time of “saving souls”. The evolution is simultaneously empowering and frightening.

    Your courage to be honest and thus vulnerable helps all of us who are on the journey with you to find love, hope and peace in this quite odd thing called life.

    Thank you!

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  5. As a Catholic convert, I don’t agree with everything from those days either, although Ojo was, of course so much nearer to it. I still love Undercover, especially “Boys and Girls” and “Branded”. I also don’t think Bart Ehrman is the last word or even a reliable source. He’s wrong about the lack of archeological evidence, for instance. More is discovered everyday. There is a History Channel documentary based, I think, on Bamber Goscione’s “The Christians” (although perhaps not) which says there is no evidence for the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod. But there is an episode of “Underground Cities” where they stumbled on all the skeletons of those innocents. It really depends on who makes these documentaries. If they go from the “Jesus Seminar”, those scholars had a hidden agenda. This is all answered in “Reason to Believe” by Dr. Richard Purtill at http://www.alivingdog.com (click on the Richard Purtill bone). I read Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” and these are very old objections which have been answered time and again, not in a final sense, but it’s not like there are no answers. Unlike Ojo, I am amazed every time I read St. Paul. The question is what it always has been. Who is Jesus? What has he done? If he is the beloved invader come to save us out of the love of the Trinity, then that’s information from outside that changes everything. that’s what fills up the God-shaped hole.

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  7. I think the apologetic for orthodoxy is considerably stronger than is given credit for here. It is quite true that Christians can be ungracious, unloving, and legalistic jerks. We’re an often intolerant bunch, sometimes more concerned with being right than with loving others.

    The solution here is not to retreat from Christianity to agnosticism, from legalistic orthodoxy and blind faith to loving others and rationalism. The implicit assumption made is that orthodoxy is opposed to love and that faith is opposed to rational thinking. This simply isn’t true, and plenty of Christian apologists have written on both subjects. Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God is a worthwhile read and relatively short. It exposes the gospel’s solution to some of the issues raised in this post.

    I would point out that this interview says literally nothing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it is on this historical and rational fact that Christianity rises or falls. Christianity rests on its historical foundations, not on moral obligations or dead legalism. It is from the resurrection that the rest follows. Easter changed everything: it taught us the depth of our sins, the immeasurable expanse of God’s love, and what it means to be truly human and to truly live.

  8. “and what it means to be truly human and to truly live.”

    I live near lots and lots of Mormons. They will state that it is when you come to Christ through the church that you will that you will truly start to live. Charismatics state that it is when you are filled with the Holy Spirit that you truly start to live. Every group seems to be navel-gazing and self absorbed enough to believe that the outsider is not truly living until they have become part of the sub-group.

    I contend that there are scores of people who have chosen not to be Christian, or have never even heard of Christ, who are truly human and fully alive. To make a move to your belief structure would be a step in reverse.

    Every group seems to think that everyone else is missing out… it is not true. Your belief in this regard is far from unique. You are part of one of tens of thousands of subgroups who believe everyone else is living a part-life…. and you all think you are right and special.

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for your reply. Christianity says a lot of things about what it means to live. They may or may not be true, of course. Why anyone should believe that they actually are is because Jesus rose from the dead. If he didn’t, then it’s not only reasonable, but appropriate, to discard anything Christianity offers. If he did, then it seems appropriate to take the gospel seriously.

      What the resurrection shows us is that none of us (including me) is fully human—sin dehumanizes us. Christianity does not look to Jesus simply as a moral teacher or a good example, but as the True Man. He is human in the way that humanity was meant to be. The Christian gospel includes the restoration of humanity to its natural and good state through the reconciliation of man to God in the person of Jesus Christ. (This, incidentally, is a difficult problem for Mormons because of their Christology.)

      In my experience, as limited as that may be, most people reject Christianity because they don’t care for the idea that sin is the problem that Christians say that it is—not because they don’t find the resurrection credible. (That doesn’t mean of course that they think the resurrection is credible, just that they haven’t really considered it as a foundational part of the gospel. Christianity gets lumped in with other moral systems more often than not.)

      I would echo Lewis’ words here, that I believe in Christianity like I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

  9. “The solution here is not to retreat from Christianity to agnosticism…”

    I run into this a lot, and I believe it is a misunderstanding of the process that is happening. Christians will often assume I am reacting to some bad point of Christianity and have swung to the other side in response. It isn’t the case with me, and from his writings I don’t think it is the case with Ojo. It is that my view of Christianity has changed. I no longer see its religious claims as unique or even true. A fellow blogger described it like that picture where you see a duck, but if you look at it the right way you see a bunny too. Some people never see the bunny. But once you have seen the bunny, you can’t NOT see it. It can’t be “un”-seen. In effect Mem, it seems like you are asking those who have seen Christianity in a new light, with a new vision, to NOT see it that way anymore. It can’t be done.

    • Hi, Andrew.

      Thanks again for the reply.

      To this I would respond that I think many Christians turn from their faith because they haven’t acquired a sufficiently nuanced view of it. They often mistake Christianity for American evangelicalism, for example, or for New England Catholicism, or neo-Calvinism, or 6-day-creationist fundamentalism, or worst of all some kind of Da-Vinci-Code conspiracy.

      That may not be the case for you and Ojo, of course. As he was raised Catholic, perhaps he has read Irenaeus and can evaluate his claims regarding man fully alive. Perhaps you, too, have read Against Heresies or Eusebius’ History of the Church, and can evaluate the perspectives of martyrs and confessors against today’s more postmodern view of truth and knowledge. If so, I commend you both on research well done.

      It is true that Christianity makes claims that are made in other religions: it is not the only religion, for example, to feature a god-man dying and rising again. Of course, it is the only religion that claims that it happened historically and stakes its validity on that single fact. If Jesus really rose from the dead—and no one has offered any plausible explanation for Christianity except for the literal truth of the resurrection—we are left to wrestle with historical fact, not American evangelicalism or 6-day-creation, et c.

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  11. there is evidence for everything and evidence for nothing. it all depends on who you ask and who you are listening to. Religion is flawed, because it human and we are all flawed. Love is to over look the flaws that we all have. Jesus was a man who attacked religion and its leaders. The prize of the gospel is that nothing we ever do, our love inside or outside of religion, will ever be good enough. the acceptance and the belief that Gods sacrifice is the only thing that one can have that is actually worth being proud of.

    • When they walked away from God one day
      They turned to me and asked if I was going to stay
      But oh, where can I go, where can I go?

      All of us have gone astray
      Lonely all along the way
      When our hope came shining down
      We turned our heads, we turned around

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  13. an old Assembly of God youth group friend of mine sent me a link to this blog. we used to like Undercover and trying hard to be Spirit-filled Christians. we went our separate ways after high school. I’m married with 3 kids in CT and he’s single teaching English in Japan. but both of us share the unraveling Joey Taylor has experienced in regard to American Christian dogmatic faith.
    like Joey, I wish I could see my daddy again, but know I won’t. once I realized that, it made each day of this life a lot more important than anything that “is to come”. I’m done living as though this life “is a test” for the “real life that happens AFTER you leave this body.”
    no. THIS is LIFE and I AM LIVING, and as far as I can tell, no 3rd person of a Trinity (H.S.) is guiding me in any way. and the words of the Bible provide no magic (yet can definitely provide back-up for real harm).
    yet the funny thing is, my actual life is more in line with all the rules and externals that mattered to the family values camp (married, monogamous, work from home, well adjusted decent kids, get along with in-laws and relatives, etc.). this is probably due in part to upbringing, but the first 10 years of marriage and parenting were often quite miserable for me due to the terrible fear of failure, not living up to the standards of Doug and Nancy Wilson and the like, and the worry that I was probably ruining my kids. plus I as a person had no authentic joy. we coulda ended up broken apart (as does indeed happen in “Christian” marriages) but what is kinda funny is what ended up saving ME (and as an extension, my marriage and in part, the happiness of my kids) is me RIDDING myself of almost ALL of it.
    what helped was being uprooted and leaving this country for 2 years, as corporate expats. in a one year period we had 9-11, my dad dying, me having our 3rd child, and a move to Switzerland. this was 10 years ago.
    being removed from here was like being lifted out of a bucket of liquid that you never even knew you were in, and just held above it, dripping dry, slowly, for 2 years. I was able to see differently, and eventually breathe differently. and allow myself to believe differently.
    the biggest change by far has come from no longer hating myself, as some sort of sin infested, rebellious spirit, a vessel who the Holy Ghost could not fill. each shortcoming no longer had to be a tally for Satan in the battle of my immortal soul.
    I had always wondered at the lack of joy I experienced as a Christian. now that I am committed and fully connected to who I am, here and now, and where I am, and who I come in contact with, viewing each day as possibly all I will have, accepting myself, allowing myself to be, the joy I have found is unmatched and deep and real, and I know it.

  14. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the glory of God in the face of Christ” You don’t go to hell for rejecting the chrsitian religion. You don’t go to hell for being a skeptic and questioning. you go to hell for rejecting JESUS, God’s Gift of mercy. God’s only source of born again life. sin separates us from God and the penalty is death. God is a just judge, we all are criminals. Jesus and his blood sacrifice are the only way back. “God is just and the justifier of all who call on Him”. If you don’t want Jesus you dont get God. “he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life”.

    “This is the testimony, God has given eternal life, this life is in his Son, he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the son, does not have life” If you die without JESUS you won’t be deemed a good loving or moral person. God has seen every sin and secret thought. “whoever stumbles at one point is guilty of breaking the whole law. Joey, if you’re like me and I’m sure you are, we have sinned thousands of times. Think of how much is cost for God himself to condecend to our level and become sin for us and to be publically ridiculed and tortured and emotionally broken and shamed.

    God has done the hard work to save sinners, if you try and “be good” you are bribing the judge with your two pennies. It’s an insult to God to reject his loving sacrifice of his only Son. He will let you go to hell and refuse his kind gift.

    God is a gentleman. He will not force his Son on you. But he will give you justice based on your deeds.

    Death is a built in consequence for separating yourself from God in rebellion.

    Let’s face it, you didn’t reject “christianity” because you no longer believe it and you are “searching” you rejected it because it no longer fit your views and your lifestyle.

  15. Wow, its like my mind was opened up for all to see. I am a truth seeker who has had his struggle printed on the pages of this blog. I’ve studied enough to know that even if you accept evolution and say we developed from amoeba and say that all matter developed from the hydrogen atom, you have to admit that within the hydrogen atom there had to be incredible intelligence embedded for all the periodic table and biological design to spring forth. If you simply look up at the stars, you realize “eternal power and godhead” because it is eternal and science has shown that it all started somewhere (Big Bang – singularity – call it what you like). Then if you accept incredible intelligence and eternal power, along with the fact that this incredible intelligent power made people who are personal and have a conscience, it brings you to exactly what the Bible describes – an eternal, all powerful, personal God. The question is what is true? Is the resurrection true? Can we know truth? It makes all the difference in the world.

  16. Thank you so much for your honesty Ojo. I have been on the same quest for truth as yourself. Love is unconditional. Conditional love an oxymoron. The equal opposite of fear. Love is bigger than a god concept that attempts to contain it. Love your enemies that are within you and you will have no enemies.We have become our own enemies, because we were told to be from exterior sources. But, within us is where our individual experience lies and here is what matters most. Love that we feel within us is the creating force of life.There is no need to create any illusory mental divisions of infinity any more. Bless Your Hearts.

  17. Wow. I know this is an old post but I had to read about your journey. I was born again at a Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa Saturday night concert in 1982. My high school friends and I attended numerous Undercover, LIfesavers, Altar Boys (etc) concerts throughout high school. I was deeply committed and remained so even as I attended U.C. Berkeley and entered full-time ministry right out of college. I went on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ and that turned out to be the catalyst for my eventual apostasy.

    Like you, I am much more interested in what really is true over what I want to be true. My favorite quote in high-school was: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” (Descartes). I loved it because I “knew” I had THE ULTIMATE TRUTH in the gospel. It wasn’t until I went into ministry and really saw the seedy underbelly of the evangelical machine that I began to seriously pay attention to all of my doubts and questions, though. It was a long process and quite difficult. However, I have never felt more free (truth really does set you free, huh?) than I do today.

    Congratulations on your honest journey. I loved what you had to say all those years ago and now I look forward to hearing what you have to say today!

  18. Joey, God is my Father and He knows every single detail about you, and He still loves you and He wants you back!!

    JESUS IS GOD, the God of Israel and He’s MY FATHER!



    You had been brought up Catholic? My mother (83) had been brought up Catholic, but my father was an atheist and I had been brought up as an unbeliever, though for one school term Jesus was my HERO when I was an infant, because my mother sent me (and my brothers and sisters) to a Protestant kindergarten while my father was at sea as a ship-machinist, and at that kindergarten I was confronted with the gospel and the Bible by a nice female teacher and I was the only one of us five children who believed.
    After that school term my faith faded away because it was not stimulated by my catholic mother who didn’t and doesn’t have Biblical knowledge, but mostly because of my dad who was an antichrist and a alcoholic, and because I was sent to a public school and later sent to a public high school.
    He died when he was 53 and I was 25, and two weeks after his death I saw you play with UNDERCOVER in the Netherlands in 1985 at the Flevo Festival as the opening act.
    I had become a follower of Jesus Christ since januari 1984.
    UNDERCOVER made quite an impact on me as a former lover of hard rock and heavy metal and punk rock, though at first I had my doubts about this controversial way of communicating the gospel, and so I watched you play and I prayed: “God, if this is coming forth from you then bless them, but if it isn’t then let them drop DEAD”…and at that very moment you ALL fell on your knees and you started to pray with a low voice behind your keyboard, and you were telling the audience that you weren’t only there to play music but to tell the people about God.
    I’ll never forget that!
    You didn’t die but you continued to play and the concert was a blessing!
    I know all about falling away from faith: I fell away from faith in late 1980, the first time Jesus regained me since He lost me as a child and that was because of listening to this song: GILLAN – Mr Universe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z57eHhPbMss
    I only believed for six days or so and then I fell away again: satan was too strong at that time, though I didn’t believe in God or the devil or in anything. I was ‘my own ‘god’.
    After that I became more and more an antichrist and in january 1984 Jesus regained me for the LAST time after a big struggle with the devil, who wasn’t willing at first to let go of me…it was AWFUL! It was hell on earth and it felt a bit like during listening to that song of Ian Gillan, late 1980, but it was much WORSE and Jesus told me the same words as in late 1980: ‘Hans, you can do two things: commit suicide or read the Bible’, and He told me that when all of a sudden I experienced His peace and love after experiencing a seemingly endless tempest of misery, which was raging in my head, in which I knew I deserved to go to hell.
    That was more than 27 years ago and I still believe and ALSO because of the music and the lyrics of UNDERCOVER!

    Read this about this so called catholic ‘church’: http://xembryo.blogspot.com/search/label/Roman%20Satanic%20Church

    This is for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VHa_45hnco

    Loved this band in the day! Very sad that O Joe Taylor has renounced his confession of faith in Jesus Christ..


    ( xembryo )

    I know what you mean: ojotaylor dott wordpress dott com slash 2011slash06slash23slash a-heart-cry-for-legitimacy

    Ojo needs this wisdom: K.I.S.S=Keep It Simple Stupid, and he needs to say this to him self.

    He’s seeing things much too difficult and he should believe as a child and he should acknowledge that JESUS wasn’t just a man, but that He’s G O D!!

  19. Very interesting story. As a teenager, I attended evangelical churches and “Christian rock” was a huge part of my life. Actually Christian music led me to becoming a musician myself, but the funny thing was that later on I discovered music itself was what gave me those feelings of joy and transcendence while I was religious. The emotional content of the services, sermons, “spiritual gifts” the music and wild sweaty preaching led me to believe there was really something there, despite my doubts.

    There are Christians that will claim to know BETTER THAN YOU why you lost religion, that you are hard headed, that you want to live in sin, whatever.
    In the end their claims are about supporting their web of finely balanced beliefs, rather than about you.

  20. Cris Besette, did you ever REALLY meet your maker, JESUS CHRIST?
    Did He save you from the abyss?

    OJo, thank you for reading my post.

    I’d like to tell you that I’ve changed my YouTube-username xembryo into ezkl38rptr and that I’ve a new YouTube-channel ( http://www.youtube.com/user/ezkl38rptr ), and I’ve deleted my xembryo-YouTube-site, because I wanted to get rid of my username xembryo, because of various reasons, and this means that some links in my previous post aren’t working anymore.

    But here are the new urls:

    the first time Jesus regained me since He lost me as a child and that was because of listening to this song: GILLAN – Mr Universe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHpDZYetO6c

    Read this about this so called catholic ‘church’: http://ezekiel38rapture.blogspot.com/search/label/Roman Satanic Church

    This is for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lpFvjjpWSE

    He’s seeing things much too difficult and he should believe as a child and he should acknowledge that JESUS wasn’t just a man, but that He’s G O D!!


    Years ago I was the first one on YouTube to post UNDERCOVER-videos as a tribute and as promotion of your (previous) ministry and since then it was picked up by others, so the band wouldn’t be forgotten.

    I didn’t do that for my own gain, but for the sake of my Lord and Savior JESUS.

    Finally: I have three brothers, and all of them are still not saved, though I know you’d disagree with me, seeing things from your current perspective..

    Only God Himself can make you see things from HIS perspective, and I’m sure He will do that…..but will it be here on earth or in the afterlife?

    With kind regards,

    Hans Steenhagen,


  21. “Cris Besette, did you ever REALLY meet your maker, JESUS CHRIST?
    Did He save you from the abyss?”

    If I met him, he was “undercover” so to speak. 😉
    I have met my makers though: Mom and Dad.

    I have met HUNDREDS of people that “have met Jesus” but when you question them about the experience, then you find out that they “met” Jesus in their heads, in a “feeling” or in some other vague undefinable way. IE, When YOU met Jesus- how tall was he? Deep voice, or high squeaky voice? What was he wearing? Did he come in the door? down the Chimney? Did he speak English / Aramaic?

    My “abyss” was fear and depression, both brought on by religion. What saved me from those things was thorough study and comparison of religions, philosophy, logic, science, history,etc.

    • Oh please be smarter than that: your mom didn’t create ‘her’ egg and your dad didn’t create ‘his’ sperm: God=JESUS created them.

      When JESUS spoke to me it was in plain Dutch.

      What’s wrong with fear and depression?

      These emotions are functional and are also made by JESUS, because He created EVERYTHING!

      Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

      See my YouTube-video about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1Ko0W6hJY0

      I wasn’t raised as a Christian and my only ‘religion’ was believing in myself, but when that belief left me stranded en hopeless, there was nothing left but emptiness and a deep feeling of failure and meaninglessness.

      I could have ended my life in that state of mind, but that was the moment when JESUS stepped in and saved my life.

      And what makes you think you don’t need your maker, Jesus Christ?

      I used to be an atheist and I really didn’t need God and I thought that believing in God was the dumbest thing to do and I mocked Christians and Christianity, God, Jesus, the Bible and EVERY religion or philosofy, and I really believed people were just stupid animals.

      Without knowing it I was in the grip of satan, because I didn’t believe there was a devil and I tell you that’s also the case with you.

      satan is haughty an proud and arrogant and his evil spirit makes you think that you can rely on yourself and that you don’t need a savior.

      I’ve two messages for you: you’re lost without Jesus Christ and Jesus loves you!


      What’s wrong with fear and depression?

      These emotions are functional and are also made by JESUS, because He created EVERYTHING!

      Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

      see my YouTube-video about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1Ko0W6hJY0

      I wasn’t raised as a Christian and my only ‘religion’ was believing in myself, but when that belief left me stranded en hopeless, there was nothing left but emptiness and a deep feeling of failure and meaninglessness.

      I could have ended my life in that state of mind, but that was the moment when JESUS stepped in and saved my life.

      And what makes you think you don’t need your maker, Jesus Christ?

      I used to be an atheist and I really didn’t need God and I thought that believing in God was the dumbest thing to do and I mocked Christians and Christianity, God, Jesus, the Bible and EVERY religion or philosofy, and I really believed people were just stupid animals.

      Without knowing it I was in the grip of satan, because I didn’t believe there was a devil and I tell you that it’s also the case with you.

      satan is haughty an proud and arrogant and his evil spirit makes you think that you can rely on yourself and that you don’t need a savior.

      I’ve two messages for you: you’re lost without Jesus Christ and Jesus loves you!


      • >>>Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. >>>>

        I think I will stick to Wisdom that works in real life. I “despise” no wisdom or instruction that can back up its claims. “Despising wisdom” doesn’t even make any sense- if something is true, then it is true, deciding if something is true or not based on feelings like hatred and fear is likely to be wrong.

        I had the opposite experience of you- I WAS raised as a Christian, taught to fear something I could neither see or experience, taught to fear knowledge, taught to not question, taught that I was a worthless sinner (which made me depressed, insecure, and no self confidence)
        I’m not saying that everything is perfect now, but at least I don’t have the weight of fear and self loathing keeping me from making things better.

        >>>I used to be an atheist and I really didn’t need God and I thought that believing in God was the dumbest thing to do and I mocked Christians and Christianity, God, Jesus, the Bible and EVERY religion or philosofy, and I really believed people were just stupid animals.>>>>

        Just to clarify- an “atheist” has no choice whether he “needs God” or not- because he doesn’t believe in any such thing. (Exactly the same as I make no choice whether I need Zeus or not- he’s not real, so there is no choice)
        I think the character and ideals of Jesus are mostly pretty great, Too bad God could not be more like Jesus. The Bible shows Jesus’s kindness, acceptance, humbleness- but God as pretty much the exact opposite. (IF God=Jesus, then Godjesus has a split personality disorder- just another one of hundreds of reasons I question the veracity of the claims of religion)

        No, I don’t mock Christians or any faith, I question bad reasoning and illogical claims. A good sign that someone cannot back up what they believe is responding to doubt or questions with complaints of mocking or disrespect (instead of just simply showing the evidence)

        As even the Bible itself says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test everything. Hold on to the good.”
        That is good advice.

  22. >>>I think the character and ideals of Jesus are mostly pretty great, Too bad God could not be more like Jesus. The Bible shows Jesus’s kindness, acceptance, humbleness- but God as pretty much the exact opposite. (IF God=Jesus, then Godjesus has a split personality disorder- just another one of hundreds of reasons I question the veracity of the claims of religion)<<<

    Allright Cris, here's something for you to think about and it's from Ann Barnhardt, who really loves Jesus, but who paradoxically feels connected with the (pernicious) Roman Catholic Church*, but apart from that she's intelligent and she has written a very good article about this theme with which I agree, because I wrote something similar in Dutch on my site, before I read her piece: http://ezekiel38rapture.blogspot.com/2011/11/god-evil.html


    • I did read that article, but like everything revolving around religious claims- there always seems to be a smoke and mirrors element.

      “Think about it. If God just started snuffing beings out of existence when they made a choice that wasn’t in accord with His will, wouldn’t that cheapen all life and existence to the point of meaninglessness? ”
      Think about it. This only works if God DOESN”T KNOW what will happen. The Bible is full of stories of God being “surprised” or “angered” when something UNEXPECTED happened. Yet, on the “mirror side” there are also repeated claims of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

      To put this on a human scale- If I knew that tomorrow a guy would walk by my house and throw a rock through the front window, would I then wait for tomorrow, sit around and do nothing, then suddenly get “surprised” and “angered” when the guy threw the rock?
      I knew it was going to happen, even if I didn’t want to intervene (the excuse made for God) I certainly would not be surprised or angered.

      “In other words, the Heisenberg Timelines are the timelines that WOULD have happened IF we had made a different choice. ”
      This still solves nothing, as an omniscient God would be aware of every single possible outcome of every timeline. This just adds unnecessary complication to the original premise.

      In the end, omniscience is a trap by definition. If God knows everything, then he cannot change anything- if he does something that he didn’t know he would be doing in the first place, then he wasn’t omniscient in the first place.
      If he KNEW that he would change something, then it wouldn’t be a CHANGE, because that is what he KNEW he was going to do in the first place.
      True omniscience would be a prison to any being that had it.

      • Exactly. Which just means that god created millions of people TO GO TO HELL. He knew they wouldn’t choose him and created them anyway. What kind of monster is this god???

  23. >>What kind of monster is this god???<<

    'YEAH, let's CRUCIFY the BASTARD!!'

    'Christ remains in waiting
    Christ has paid the toll

    He died for you, He broke the chains
    Unlocked the prison doors

    Why do you choose to run from Him?
    There's nowhere else to go
    The sinless Priest, the awesome King
    I think you probably know

    Go ahead, suit yourself
    Forget the truth
    Do it on you own
    Your time is just wasting'

    • You didn’t answer the question Hanss. God died to save us from what he would do to us if we didn’t worship him? Nice god you have there.

  24. excrusader, you really don’t get it: you’re already condemned for being the offspring of Adam and Eve, and only because God is merciful He chose to bear our punishment on the cross.

    You only have to believe that it was necessary, because of (y)our own sin, and to be thankful towards God, to be saved, but it won’t help you to accuse God by reminding Him of those people who weren’t and who aren’t thankful and who were and who are not willing to admit it was necessary because of their own sin.

    If you think it wasn’t necessary for God to become JESUS and to bear the punishment for (Y)OUR sin, than you deserve Gods punishment for being like satan, the accuser.

    Mercy is a gift and NOT a right.

    • Perfect. I am condemned by simply being the offspring of Adam and Eve. Something I have no control over and for which “the creator” is entirely responsible. At least you are honest and consistent about your monstrous god! You can have him. Have fun with that! And with reveling in what you think will be the punishment for those who refuse to accept blame for something they didn’t do. I will enjoy the life I have and live it loving those around me and not worrying about pleasing a tyrannical overlord.

  25. What are you complaining about? No man can pose any objections against God, and it’s NOT God’s fault we’re MORTALS, which is part of His punishment for our sin, and you and I and everyone have NEVER been innocent..even when we were babies!

    God had made us as mortals because He loves us, because mortals can be forgiven, but if He had created us as angels, we could never be forgiven.

    You’re not innocent: you’re calling God, your own MAKER, a monster.

    It’s nonsense to say ‘You can have him. Have fun with that!’, because He’s still your God and your maker, wether you like it or not.

    • You said: “it’s NOT God’s fault we’re MORTALS”

      Then, you turned around and said: “God had made us as mortals”

      You might want to look at your (lack of) reasoning here. Is god omnipotent or not? Did he not KNOW people would “sin” before he created them? He did. Therefore, he is guilty of creating “sinners.” Punishing “sinners” because they are who they were created to be is tyrannical and nonsensical. God is at fault either way. That is not loving. That is a power trip.

      You do realize that “sin” is simply not worshipping/following god’s supposed rules, right? Like any good advertising, your religion creates a problem (sin) then tries to convince you that it has the only solution for the problem it created in the first place. I’m not buying.

  26. God didn’t create sinners: that’s a mindless lie.

    You can go on and on with your ‘arguments’ but in God’s eyes we’re all CRIMINALS….but He LOVES us humans and He wants to heal our CRIMINAL MINDS, and the only way for us criminals to receive this healing, is to admit we’re transgressors of Gods holy laws and to admit dat the human being Jesus Christ was the only person who ever lived, who really was and IS* without defects en errors. (*he rose from the dead)

    Now one might say this was easy for Him, because He was God in the flesh, but when you read the gospels you must admit it wasn’t easy at all, but He fulfilled the demands of His alter ego, His Father in heaven, and He died on the cross for all of us, and He bore OUR punishment, so that we may go unpunished if we are willing to believe that it was necessary, due to our criminal nature, but mostly because He doesn’t want us to be lost.

    If you keep on believing you are innocent, than you are lying to yourself and to God.

    Stop lying and admit (to God) you’re a sinner=transgressor and become honest to God and repent.

    But if you LOVE to sin, than your ‘arguments’ are only excuses to keep on sinning.

    Read Isaiah 53 http://www.biblija.net/biblija.cgi?m=Isa+53&id42=1&id7=1&id33=1&l=nl&set=10

  27. ‘God had made us as mortals because He loves us, because mortals can be forgiven, but if He had created us as angels, we could never be forgiven’

    I should have said that God turned us humans into mortals.

    Of course this was AFTER the fall of Adam and Eve, because if Adam and Eve would not have sinned, they would have been IMMORTAL.

  28. Ojo,

    I hope this makes sense. It’s late and I’m getting really sleepy.

    It’s been a year since your post, but I haven’t looked you up in a long time and found your blog.

    I wanted to make an observation and say a couple things in response to your post. Please don’t take any of it as a slam, but maybe constructive criticism, or not at all, your call. Some of it might sound harsh, but the scalpal is harsh when cutting out the cancer. So is shooting a guy in the face when breaks into your home, but you do what you gotta do.

    Your path is your own to travel and especially as Christians we certainly can’t judge you, only love and pray for you. I was taken aback a bit when I read your post, but I understand, because the way people perceive things change all the time. People are people. Besides, questioning everything is probably one of the wisest things someone could do. Especially some of the stuff in the Bible like the kangaroos on the ark and other stuff that you mentioned. As far as weather or not there is a hell or not or if there is even an afterlife, we really won’t know for sure until we’re dead.

    At one point you said,

    “She told me that if I believed she was going to hell and if I was going to try to save her from hell, she would not go out with me. That simple exchange gave me pause and I told her I would consider the question and would get back to her on it.”

    I thought this was hilarious, because it was a woman that was used as a tool to screw up man in the first place in Genesis and it seems to have happened to you too. If I believed reincarnation were true I’d say your name was Adam Again.

    I see too many times here, the words, “rational”, “truth” and “reason”. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
    Children don’t know anything about, “rationalism”, “truth” and “reason”, but they do question things, especially about the sky being blue.

    Personally, I think it would do you and anyone else reading to take a break from the heavy duty higher learning system and go for a long, quiet walk alone for awhile.

    Just my thoughts.

    Aleister Crowley said, “Do what thou wilt”. So do and believe whatever you want. No skin off my back or my teeth for that matter, but we all still love you and that one song about abortion that was on the flipside of that 45 Undercover put out was pretty cool. It was like 1 or 2 chords over and over or something and a bunch of yelling over it. I used to play it on a radio show I used to do. God Rules was awesome too, especially on the live record.

    Peace to you and yours. Night, night.

    Steve S.

    • Steve,

      Thanks for reading and for your concern, kinda (the Alistair Crowley quote carries ambivalence, but I acknowledge enough concern to at least read and write a comment).

      I agree with a couple of your points, especially about questioning. But the one about hell, as if I was somehow beguiled by a female for some kind of carnal gain as your allusion to Genesis points out, suggests you either did not read or understand that section and my point, motivation or process correctly. You might want to give that one another go-’round, or not.

      I also find your point about children puzzling. They are incredibly rational! They ask “Why?” all the time, and while they do not have the facts, education, and maturity necessary to process the answers fully, they want to know and make sense of their world, and they are hungry for it. On the contrary, they are not brought into the world having any kind of faith or inherent belief in the supernatural. That all has to be taught, to young, unsuspecting minds who cannot process. Must religion continue to rely on anti-education, as you suggest, when it is clear that all advancements we have enjoyed as a race depend on it, where pure theology, on the other hand, has brought us nothing tangible or of any benefit that we can know? Perhaps that is one of the differences between us, between believers and freethinkers; I will keep both my long walks alone and my higher learning. It is the best I can do with what I have been born with.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment.

      • Ojo,

        Maybe I wasn’t clear, but I was sleepy. I probably should have waited until after getting some sleep to post a comment and please don’t take anything personal, because communicating over the internet is the opposite of personal.

        The Aleister Crowley thing was just me trying to say that you can do what you want and think what you want, because there’s no judgement, at least not from me.

        I do understand about the hell and girl thing. I just thought it was ironic and funny. Again, probably not clear on my part.

        As far as children and rationality. I do think children are rational, more so than adults. It’s just that they don’t think about being rational, they just are. They
        don’t ‘t have to try to be rational like adults do. That’s what’s so great about them. They automatically have a large number of qualities that adults only strive to get back. That’s probably why Jesus liked them so much. I know I’d rather be around kids than most of the adults I spend time around.

        I’m not sure I understand the anti-education comment, but I will say that I do believe in education. If you’re still at James Madison, you’re at one of the finest learning institutions. Virginia’s full of them and me being a bit partial, because I am from Virginia, think that the most intellectual people in U.S. history have been Virginia natives. The thing is, how do we carry on with our education. I don’t mean by getting a job, or teaching or whatever, but how do we use it, or, how do we let it use us. Take the internet for example. It’s an unbelievable tool, but it’s as easy to abuse as drugs or alcohol. An education is also an unbelievable tool, but how it’s wielded is what counts? Again, nothing personal, it’s just some people think they are awesome, because they know how to learn and pay for a degree.

        I certainly don’t think that religion should depend on anti-education, but I can see how you can ask me that, especially with all the things that we see in our society pertaining to our westernized version of Christianity. I think the biggest problem is that because of the current path of decline in civilization, Christianity has become meaningless. It’s a label like anything else.

        Here’s a good pop culture example of what theology can bring, as far as something of benefit. If you haven’t seen the movie “Signs”, watch it. The scene where Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson are sitting on a couch talking about feeling comforted. That’s one thing that religion can hopefully deliver to a person. Joaquin Phoenix’s character at that point is feeling comforted and is someone you’d want to be around and Mel Gibson’s character is an asshole because he doesn’t think there’s anything “out there” to help them. Nothing against atheists, that’s just the way the story and characters go, but I can see how it might really be that way.

        If you can say that theology hasn’t brought anything tangible to the table then couldn’t you also say that free thought hasn’t brought anything either, since it is free and both could be considered types of philosophy? And since free thought is free wouldn’t that make it unable to produce the advancements that we enjoy today since a structured method is what produces? I will say however that when free thinking, somebody probably did come up with a couple good ideas here and there. I also know that you don’t really mean that kind of free thought. You might mean free from other people telling you what to believe or how to believe.

        There was a Steve Martin show on television years ago and he was playing Socrates. When he found out that he had been poisoned he said something like, “It’s always Socrates, what is truth? Socrates, what is wisdom? Not once did anyone ever ask Socrates, what is poison?” I think that’s hilarious. How’s that for wisdom.

        Who said believers can’t be free thinkers or freethinkers can’t be believers. I think that if you don’t believe that someone could be both, then maybe you’re not as free of a thinker as you might think.

        I also think that more times than not a higher education anymore is going in the opposite direction of being a free thinker. It’s more of an assimilation. You become one of them and think their way just like you would with religion.

        This is fun.

        I just looked and this is a pretty darn long reply and it’s getting late. Sorry about that.
        I saw your post about the 25th Anniversary of Branded. Hard to believe.
        Peace out brutha.

      • Thanks Steve,

        Just for the record, A freethinker is defined in the dictionary as “a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.” THat might shed some light on the question you asked at the bottom of your post. COuld religious people focus solely on reason? Perhaps, but not entirely. It is the very definition of faith to look past the lack of evidence. It also brings some light to your question about reason having brought us nothing either. Of course now it’s easy to see that reason is the basis of science, which has brought us all the advancements we have as people. Faith, not so much.

        On education, I don’t know you really, but it is my experience that those who decry education are usually uneducated. Having been on both sides of that one, I can say without any doubt at all that I am much better off with my education. I know very few if any people who have been on both sides who would assert otherwise.

        Thank you for the comment. ~J

    • Steve said, ” I thought this was hilarious, because it was a woman that was used as a tool to screw up man in the first place in Genesis and it seems to have happened to you too.”

      One of the biggest reasons religion sucks. The god of the bible is a sexist pig.

  29. Pingback: Huffington Post Interview – Extended and Unedited | Ojo Taylor

  30. It is fine for one to choose to either believe in God and live according to Biblical precepts or not to. But if one chooses to leave his or her faith behind, then it is an exercise in futility to ‘circle the nest’, as I have seen it called. Just leave and be on your own way. There is an abundance of judgementt, hypocrisy and condescension in Christendom, but what is not acknowledged by those who do not believe is the over-abundance of those same flaws on their side of the fence. I am quite sure my post will be regarded as closed-minded, harsh and judgemental-maybe so. However, it is something I’ve yet to see someone say.

    • Thanks for the advice, but no thanks, I think I will stick around and continue to be part of the dialog, and I will do that on my own terms for the benefit of those who are still held captive but are looking for a way out of the fear, guilt, and harm that religion can cause. But yes, let me acknowledge that there absolutely IS an abundance of those same flaws on all sides of the fence! It is Christianity that claims to be make people new creations, give them new hearts, is it not? But noticing that all peoples act just like all other human beings act regardless of their faith or lack of faith suggests to me that things look just like they would be expected to look if all faiths made no difference whatsoever, that it is just plain human nature at work everywhere.

      • I totally agree with Ojo’s reply and would say the same thing. It is very important he not leave or just say, to hell with all of them and not try and communicate. Many people do indeed relate to him and may be surprised to find out, and also relieved, then also maybe hopeful (like me), so…

    • As for “closed minded”, maybe rather “seeing the world through Christianity filtering glasses” , something you might want to consider is that there are more than TWO choices (Christianity= True / Christianity= false)
      Even under the umbrella of Christian philosophy you have many flavors (denominations) to choose from, the differences between say, Southern Baptists and Primitive Baptists are quite wide in their “Biblical precepts” for an example.

      You also left out the billions that have faith in Islam, in Hinduism, Judaism, and hundreds of other religions. Discounting the faith/s of these people as being unimportant is a bit condescending.

  31. Pingback: Love, Not Religion, Is the Big Umbrella | Ojo Taylor

  32. Great to read this, Joe.

    I must say that my story parallels yours in many ways. Although I stopped being a ‘Christian’ in the late 70s (when I was 17) I only started listening to Undercover, Daniel Amos, 77s and the other ‘cool’ CCM bands a few years later. These days my philosophies and thoughts are similar to yours.

    Many thanks for the music and the honesty.



  33. This was an interesting find today, in my perusals on the internet. Wikipedia linked to this site when referencing you as a self-proclaimed agnostic. Being a stalwart Undercover fan (even having the God Rules bumper stickers, buttons on my trenchcoat in the 80s etc), at first blush I was a little shaken by your change of views. But as I read the essay, I was even more shaken by the fact that I have had many of the questions and contrasts you have had.

    I applaud you for “coming out” with your change of perspectives. And I love you and your heart and writings no less. I’ve challenged some of the common things we accept in the church (such as fire and brimstone hells, the idea that we have to actually go to a building to worship God, etc) myself and, though, I find myself disagreeing on some of your points (there is archaeological evidence of the exodus of the Jews, for instance), your overall perspective is fresh and appealing.

    In recent months and years, many of the so-called “pillars” of early Christian music have been coming out with various “sins”–homosexuality, alcoholism, affairs–and I think I like it. We are all, at the end of the day, human. I like your word ‘lovism’. I don’t know if it’s a real word or not and as I’m typing this frantically so I can get to work on time, I won’t take time to look it up. But I like it and I think that’s the core of all real benevolent philosophies and religions. Love.

    And that’s another thing: work. I’ve been locked into a job that I hate for 4.5 years, desperately trying to get out and praying–begging–daily for help from God to give me a new direction or job and nothing, nothing, nothing happens. I have so many Undercover songs memorized, that by default in my pain, I find myself singing those. I still will. As you’ve said, the music still has meaning and for that, any variance in spiritual direction you have is not for naught. And I’ve learned that to a large degree, I make my own way and if I’m stuck in a job I hate its’ because I haven’t explored my talents and gifts enough.


    • Thanks so much for reading and the thoughtful comment. I was just talking to Greg Lawless about this; the lord we get, the smaller the window becomes of songs that age well. Luckily there are still some that have done ok so far. ❤

  34. Hey Joe,

    I enjoyed reading about your journey. I was never a big fan of Undercover. I found the early stuff to be a bit ridiculous and the later stuff to be unbearably dramatic (no offense intended as I understand it was written from a place of sincerity). Nonetheless, “Relative” is an incredible album and has a permanent place in my queue alongside artists like Bruce Cockburn, Jenny Lewis, Mark Heard, Calexico and others. It is a remarkable testimony to the human condition. I listened to it again last night after reading through your blog and was reminded of how amazing it is. I could go on and on about how songs like “Sha Nu Mi” and “He Fell In The Water” impacted me, but I’m not sure that there’s any point to it other than to gush.

    Your journey in many ways parallels Bruce Cockburn’s. Although he never really appealed to the fundamentalists, so I suspect that his journey hasn’t resulted in the same degree of criticism.

    I share in your earnest quest for truth, your passion for reason, and your focus on love. I don’t think God is intimidated by our questions or our doubts. If God was able to love Thomas, who refused to believe without seeing, and Peter, who denied Him to his face, then He is able to love you through your sincere doubts. I think God would rather spend time with an honest doubter than a religious hypocrite any day.

    If God were to speak to you right now, I’m pretty sure this is what He’d say:

    Come and sit beside me now; the day is growing dim,
    Rest your troubled soul, and fall into my arms again,
    Close your eyes and dream with me, a dream of time and space,
    Dream away tomorrow and the fear that you embrace.

    Close your eyes, dream away,
    Dream in wonder.

    Follow peace, dream of love,
    Love in wonder.

    I will sit beside you when your eyes are growing dim,
    Hold your hand and kiss you, take you in my arms again,
    Close your eyes and dream with me – dream until the end,
    When time is all that matters, I will still be with you then.

    Close your eyes, dream away,
    Dream in wonder.

    Follow peace, dream of love,
    Love in wonder.

    • Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment, Steve. Greg Lawless and I were just talking about this a couple weeks ago; the window of our songs that have aged well seems to be getting smaller the older we get. Luckily there are still some that have done ok so far. ~Joe

  35. Pingback: The Via Dolorosa and Way of the Rose | Ojo Taylor

  36. I think I just had a funeral for my past religious life while listening to So Wonderful and reading this blog. Emotions flooding my mind. The dynamics of the music triggering memories of seemingly enchanted times. The highs and lows, the fears and doubts, the tight grip being loosed to a feeling of freedom, joy and excitement for the future. I don’t know what the song is specifically about. It may be about a loved one who has passed, but today, right now, it was my funeral music, my celebration of life. Not only a celebration of the incredible emotional connections of my teenage years and my christianity from that time, but a celebration for my new journey which has only just begun in the past decade. I really think I needed this funeral and I think this song will be a marker on my journey. A song I have heard hundreds of times before, but now with a fresh resonance in my mind. New neural pathways in my 43 year old brain are being formed and this blog and this song will now be cemented there.

    Thank you Ojo.

    • Dave,
      Thanks for the fabulous comment. The tune was written when my grandmother Rose died but I think it is more meaningful in the personal ways each of us bring ourselves to the song, just like you did here. That’s powerful, humbling for me as a writer, and beautiful. Thanks. ~J

  37. Wonderful and Insightful article. I saw you perform with Undercover back in 85 at Knott’s Berry Farm. I was in middle school and listening to those albums had a positive impact on me and my spiritual journey. At that age I asked a lot of questions ( I still do). I used to attend Calvary Chapel Alhambra and like yourself, asked questions, to which I never got “answers”. I was always told “you’re just a kid”. I eventually fell away and left Christianity completely because I discovered that there were other gospels, other ideas regarding Jesus’ teachings and I began to feel lied to. I remember hearing that old XTC song Dear God, which was radical in my view at that time. It really resonated with me and how I was starting to feel at that time. But, my spiritual quest would lead me to Islam twenty years later. And, even within Islam I had questions. Questions to which no one would answer or I was told “don’t ask such things”. I have come to believe that God, The creator exists and that people have goofed it all up. People have become entranced by the traditions, the rituals and true faith in God has taken a back seat. Faith is dynamic, living and always moving forward without limitations. The rituals stifle and create limitations. I heard Karen Armstrong say “when you make the system the ultimate truth that is idolatry”. I am glad I read your article and it was helpful because it lets me know that there are others who question, and have doubts in regards to faith and their spiritual journey. I still listen to those old Undercover songs as they are positive and uplifting. And, I am happy to see that you are still able to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

  38. i was in Calvary Chapel in the early 80’s and attended a Crystal Lewis /Lifters show in Phoenix .Az. The pastor had got up after the show and taught ” it is not necessary to preach the gospel anymore, just tell people about the rapture of the church. Then when this secret rapture happens, all the people will then get saved because you warned them that it was going to happen. You will get rewarded in heaven for telling them about this ” This did not sit right with me . First, when the rapture happens, the Holy spirit leaves with the church ,so i was taught… I thought, the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ and empowers us not to take the mark of the beast so how them folks gonna make it? I questioned this and was given the cold shoulder and i needed to repent for asking such questions.. I left Calvary Chapel but stayed a part of the VERY talented heart felt youthful music scene including the vineyard church.. I was ostracized by my the catholic side of my family (some who were homosexual pedophiles facing prison sentences) The Catholics side of my family were mad at my dad that he had broke him and his children from the catholic faith and started attended the “Calvary Catholic haters” Then my mom and dad were mad a me that i would not attend their Calvary chapel. I now attend the 7th day Adventist church because they seem to teach the bible in a way that makes sense. Doug Batchelor has a great testimony and Mark Finnely grew up as an altar boy. They are very impassioned ministers teaching what i believe to be the truth with scientific proof. They don’t seem to like Christian rock music though so i guess i’m still an just an”undercover christian”. Don’t let me near the sound board before the service or i might slip a DAS cd in the player. Man o Man!

  39. The story is fascinating, and much resonates with my own journey in many ways (especially via “fundamentalism.”) But self-idolatry is not the hope you’re looking for–neither now nor in the future (that you don’t believe in). Don’t fool yourself. The next step of one’s journey is not always beneficial evolution. But as so beautifully affirmed in “Stairway to Heaven,” there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Seek the Truth, not simply yourself.

  40. Fascinating read. I came to my faith backwards from you: raised atheist/agnostic, studied the great spiritual books late in High School, & college, slowly entering the faith over the course of 6 years due to a fascination with the historical figure of Jesus, aided by German neo-orthodoxy, overtime eventually landing somewhere near an Evangelical center. My creed might land as a blend of John Piper & N.T. Wright, if that is allowed (it’s obviously possible). That’s just to say, I encountered a lot of the question you’re currently working through in a very different order – I never even considered “Left Behind” theology “christian”, & have always thought of “Hell” very differently than the fundamentalist stream. Anyway, the one thing I missed in your writing: you have ABSOLUTELY GOT to read N.T. Wright’s books OLD TESTAMENT & THe PEOPLE OF GOD, JESUS & THE VICTORY OF GOD, & SIMPLY GOOD NEWS… challenging, very well researched, & fascinating reads. Now I need to check out your band – I wasn’t raised around Undercover… don’t think I’ve ever heard you!

  41. Ahhhh….so the real reason this all happened was because of a chick? LOL

    Of course that’s tongue-in-cheek and I’m being facetious but it is interesting how affections for a certain person can cause us to question everything that we ever believed.

    I realize I’m several years late to the party in finding this blog but I was listening to Balance of Power today and it reminded me about your “change of heart” which I found out about years ago.

    I’m not sure why it’s hard to understand why people feel saddened and betrayed by your questioning of faith. For many people music is such an incredibly personal thing and for many more, Christian music is the epitome of God giving a very personal gift to a musician who than shares it with the world. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that if that song was given to an artist from God, then there is truth in what they sing and play. I don’t know what to think now when I listen to Balance of Power. It is definitely one of my favorites albums of all time. It’s not a “happy” record per se but it definitely changed my life and solidified my faith in ways that I had never experienced before up to that point. I’m very confused now when I listen to it. Maybe confused isn’t the right word. I know what I believe and nothing will ever change that. Maybe a better word is sadness. That some of the creators behind the message don’t believe in it anymore? That is very heartbreaking.

    I love you Ojo and I wish you the best. Thank you for what you have given us through your music. Nothing will ever change the fact that I love you as a fellow human being and a friend. But I hope that you are not upset that I will continue to pray for you and that you will come to a newfound realization. That God is real, that Christ loves you more than you know and that there’s nothing you can do to change that. I just pray that you will embrace that once again because at one time your music helped me to embrace that very thing.

    • Speaking as a former evangelical Christian, I completely understand your sadness and feeling of betrayal at people leaving the religion.

      This makes perfect sense because of the faith based nature of religion.
      Loss of faith questions the basic premise of faith itself: “Faith is the evidence of things unseen.” (If “evidence” changes depending on how you feel or think about it, is it really evidence?)
      Personal faith is built on the foundation of the faith of others: of families, communities, cultures. That’s how religions work, They are castles built on shifting sands of thousands, millions of believers simply believing they are true.
      This is why doubt and questions are prayed away, this is why “rejecting the holy spirit” is the only unforgivable sin, this is why fundamentalist Islam imprisions an kills people that loose faith- because religion requires belief to function.

      This is perhaps the reason people feel sadness or anger when someone leaves their belief system: If THEY can loose faith, then maybe someday YOU might too?

      Speaking as a musician, music itself still fills me with joy, peace, excitement, passion, wonder,etc. as it did when I only listened to “Christian music”.

  42. Pingback: My Mailbag: Come Away With Me | Ojo Taylor

  43. Pingback: “Ojo Taylor Returns”: Interview #2 in Down The Line | Ojo Taylor

  44. Just found the first 2 Undercover vinyl albums on eBay – and they’ve revived my love of Jesus Christ. Saw the band in 1981 at Knotts Berry Farm and Marineland of the Pacific. As a Hollywood New Waver, whose secular band sounded a lot like Undercover – They spoke JESUS to me like nobody else, except Pastor Greg Laurie. I respect O-Joe’s decision, but pray he’ll reconsider. The road we travel can be a real bitch – but Jesus’ road was no picnic, either. Thanks for all you’ve given us, O-Joe. No matter what path you choose, we love you, dude.

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