I’m not new at trying to understand the past. I looked into my own personal history for about two years in my early 30’s because I had a lot of issues, with a lot of angles involved, that I needed to understand and “put to rest” as best I could. Living with a severely mentally ill father can do that to a person, even if he leaves when you’re still young. A lot of my father’s messages about me had religious overtones, so some of the time I’d spent in therapy had to do with where he got those messages, and if they were true or not. My family’s religious ancestry was ultra conservative Roman Catholic, and since the church had been around a long time and was well established, I thought it would be fairly easy. Boy, was I wrong.
Back in the day, before the Vatican II Council and major changes in catholicism, the church didn’t really have a whole lot of positive messages. It was focused much more on power and money and control through guilt than it is today. (Imagine that!) And control of the Message, too, as masses were still said in Latin, which most of us didn’t know. As kids, we weren’t encouraged to ask questions as there was always the possibility of being rapped by a ruler, or worse.
So there was a lot of mystery about the church, unless one undertook a serious study of it, which I ended up having to do during therapy. And I continued looking into religion, and spirituality (and there is a difference), when I was trying to discover who I was after therapy, because I wanted to understand where I stood when it came to me and God.
Trying to study the history of the church, much less the history of religion itself, is kind of like trying to walk through a desert full of sand dunes. It’s hard to get a strong foothold to begin with, and then it’s easy to find oneself sliding down some slippery slope of opinion rather than facts. You may not even realize that they are opinions, because so many opinions are presented as facts.
And, when one is trying to understand the history of Christianity, one necessarily has to understand at least a little bit about Judaism, because Jesus and his followers were Jewish. There at least, I thought I could find some solid ground. If only it were so.
While I was undertaking my own study, there were a lot of others doing the same, but they all had degrees. It turned out that at the time, Biblical scholarship was just beginning to blossom.
I was fortunate, though, that in the midst of all the archaeological studies and all of the biblical scholarship and all of the translations of the “new” ancient text discoveries at Nag Hamadi and elsewhere, there was this one man, who had been just as miserable in his life as I had, who’d gotten good and frustrated and decided to ask God some questions.
And God answered him. His name is Neale Donald Walsch, and the first of his books called “Conversations With God – Book 1” came into my life right in the midst of my study.