How I Found The Light


How I Found The Light

I grew up in North Carolina, in the heart of the Bible Belt, and
was confirmed Methodist.  My mother and I attended the Methodist
Church regularly.  At the age of eighteen, I injured my back,
causing pain and partial paralysis of my legs.  Surgery was not a
viable option.  Eventually, the pain medication stopped
working.  It appeared as though I would spend the rest of my life
in agonizing pain.

One day, as I was
watching television, the “700 Club” came on.  I reluctantly
watched it.  Pat Robertson was praying.  He said, “I have a
word of knowledge about a young man in North Carolina.  He has a
severe back injury, and has lost hope of recovery.  That young man
is being healed this instant.”  I was stunned.  Immediately,
warmth began in my lower back – a pleasant burning sensation.  The
heat grew in intensity, and spread to my entire spine.  My back
was straightened and healed. 

Following
the miraculous healing of my back, I began working on becoming a better
Christian.  I read the Bible more, watched religious television
shows and prayed frequently.  I went back to school and majored in
Religion. 

My mother had been a
psychologist, but decided to change careers.  She was offered a
position as a youth minister at a Methodist Church in Georgia.  I
moved with her to Georgia, because it was an opportunity for me to
attend the University of Georgia and be involved in the church. 

The
church was in a town north of Atlanta.  The congregation was
large, and the minister was lazy.  My mother handled most of the
regular duties of the minister – counseling, sick calls, organizing
events, overseeing the Sunday school, taking the elderly members on
trips, as well as the youth activities.  I helped as much as I
could.  We each worked more than twelve hours a day, seven days a
week, in and for the church.  It was exhausting work, but we both
thoroughly enjoyed it.

Several problems
presented during this time. The minister was not only lazy, he
was also dishonest, lecherous and spent the church’s money freely on
his own comforts. One of his sons had mental problems.  He
was twenty years old, violent and presented a danger to the girls in the
church. The minister refused to do anything about him.  The
other problem was a lady who volunteered in the music ministry – she
was a lesbian. She lived with another woman, in an openly lesbian
relationship. They attended church functions as a couple. 

The
congregation of the church turned a blind eye to both situations. 
It was hoped that the issue of the lesbians would be resolved at the
Southern Methodist conference held that year in Athens, GA. Although
the delegates to the convention mostly agreed that the Bible
opposes homosexuality, it was resolved that the Methodist church would
make no statement of how to handle homosexuals within the church. It
would be left to individual churches to decide how to handle matters
as they presented. They did, at least, decide that the Methodist
Church would not sanction homosexual marriage…yet. 

The
situation with the minister’s son reached a breaking point when he
threatened my mother. In desperation, we took the matter before
the church council.  My mother and I were, essentially,
shunned and told that our services would no longer be necessary at that
church. 

After the events at the
Methodist Church, I began to have a different view of doctrinal
orthodoxy. Most doctrinal issues were clearly explained in the
Bible.  Unfortunately, Protestant Denominations lack an absolute
authority. The basic Protestant belief is that each man may read
the Bible for himself and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit may
clearly understand its teachings. I wondered if this could really
be the case, since there are over 20,000 Protestant denominations –
each professing different beliefs and doctrine, each claiming to be
right. 

Southern Baptists seemed
less likely to moderate on issues like abortion, homosexuality,
etc. My mother and I moved to a small town near Lynchburg, VA,
and I began attending Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. 

At
Liberty University I found people who fervently believed in God, loved
Jesus and read the Bible. They spent a great deal of time in
prayer groups, church events and “praise and worship”. I will not
criticize Dr. Falwell or anyone else at Liberty. They are good
people mostly, who do their best to live out their faith as they
understand it.

As I encountered new ideas,
I questioned them. My questions were often met with
hostility. For instance, Liberty does not allow its students to
dance. Once, students were mildly complaining about this rule to
a professor, who replied with bemused sympathy.  I opened my Bible
to where it reads that “King David danced…”  I joked that Dr.
Falwell didn’t seem to agree with the Bible. The classroom fell
silent, and the professor said sternly, “Our doctrine is Biblically
sound.”

In another class, we were
assigned a project on the Biblical view of marriage. I asked,
“Where does the Bible command monogamy?” The professor seemed troubled
by my question, and replied only that, “It is in there.”  I
replied that I had not found it anywhere; in fact, it seemed that those
who pleased the Lord in the Old Testament were usually blessed with
many wives. He suggested that I research the issue and present my
findings the following week. 

I
found no Biblical command of monogamy, but found that it was a doctrine
owing to the tradition of the Catholic Church.  The earliest
reference I found was by Saint Augustine in On The Good of Marriage, written around 400 AD. He stated "Now indeed in our
time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take
another wife, so as to have more than one wife living."
When I presented my research, the professor informed me that I must be wrong, because “Catholics aren’t really Christian.”

“How
can Catholics not be Christian,” I asked?  “The Catholic Church
was the only Christian church for the first 1,000 or so years, until
the Orthodox Church split. It remained the only church for most
of the world until about five years ago when it wouldn’t grant a divorce
to King Henry VIII, so he founded the Anglican Church.”  
“We do not believe that,” he said. He then declared the topic
closed. 

Later, Dr. Falwell
preached a sermon against gay marriage, stating “The Bible says that
marriage is between one man and one woman at one time.” I agreed
with him that such a marriage was the ideal, the one held as valid by
Christian tradition. But, that was Catholic doctrine, not found
in the Bible. “How can a Biblical scholar not know that,” I
wondered?

Soon after, another professor
was speaking with a student about a mission trip to Mexico. She
told the student how important it would be to read the Bible to them,
“because they are all Catholic, and don’t read the Bible.”  I
asked, “Why do you say Catholics don’t read the Bible?  I know
some Catholics, and they read the Bible.” The professor then
informed me that the Catholic Church forbade Catholics to read the
Bible, “on their own.” 

In my research, I had found only one or
two instances where such was the case. I explained that centuries
ago, faulty translations of the Bible were being circulated by heretics
in certain areas. Only briefly did the Church forbid the reading
of those Bibles, confiscate all they could find, and replace them with
real Bibles. I also explained that each day, at mass, the priest
reads four sections of the Bible. I told her that the entire
Bible is read to Catholics who attend daily mass.  “In fact,” I
said, it was the Catholic Church who compiled the Bible, and decided
which scriptures to include or not.  When you read the Bible, you
are reading a Catholic book.”  She replied, “I don’t think that is
the case.  Catholics aren’t really Christian.”

The
breaking point came when Dr. Falwell preached a sermon in which he
said, “The Bible clearly teaches that drinking even a drop of alcohol
is a sin.” 

I learned that Dr.
Falwell came from a family that had problems with alcohol, and that he
was adamantly opposed to alcohol in any form.  I understood his
feelings. But, to say that his views were Biblical, as opposed to
his own opinion, was a lie – a well intentioned lie, but a lie
bordering on heresy.

Wine is featured
prominently in the Bible. Genesis states that wine “gives joy to
the hearts of gods and men.”  The first mention of a priest in the
Bible is Melchizedek, who served “bread and wine” to Abraham. Wine is a
key component of the Passover feast, in which each phase of
the meal is marked by a cup of wine. The first miracle performed
by Christ was the turning of water into wine to be served at a wedding
banquet. At the Last Supper, our Lord says of the wine served,
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
(Luke 22:20)  If drinking wine were inherently sinful, then in
making wine, serving wine and drinking wine, Jesus sinned. God is
incapable of sin.  Therefore, if Jesus sinned, he cannot be
God.  If Jesus is not God, our Christian hope is in vain.

I
realized that the Southern Baptist Church, like all Protestant Churches,
suffers for lack of a final authority to declare what is and isn’t
orthodox.  Dr. Falwell’s rural, southern values and personal
experience had so colored his doctrine, that the line between what was
Biblical and what was his opinion had been blurred. Nearly any
concept can be supported by Biblical passages taken out of
context. Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop says that the
Bible implies Jesus is homosexual. In both cases, men read what
they wanted to see in the Bible.  Each is likely convinced that
the Holy Spirit has given him insight into the truth and prevented him
from error. Both are surrounded by people who reinforce their
beliefs. Both are wrong.

My
experiences at Liberty University could have destroyed my faith in
organized religion altogether. However, the first anti-Catholic
professor I encountered did me a great service when he challenged me to
research the origins of monogamous marriage. 

I
began to read Catholic writers. I became hooked on Dr. Scott
Hahn’s books. He had been an anti-Catholic Presbyterian minister,
before converting to Catholicism. He led me to read the Church
Fathers. The Church Fathers learned either directly from Jesus,
from the apostles or the first few generations of Christians. The
practices and traditions they taught were identical to the doctrines
found in the Catechism of The Catholic Church, published in 1992. 

I saw the heresies preached against by
St. Augustine and Tertullian popping up anew in various Protestant
denominations. For the modern heretics, due to their Protestant
belief in the Bible as the only authority, there was no one to correct
their errors. All churches must have a final authority, which
cannot be based on human reason.  Only the Catholic Church carries
the God-given guarantee that its doctrine is free of error. Jesus
said to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I
will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I
will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on
earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be
loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:17-19)

Jesus
Christ said those words. If the Catholic Church ever ceases to be
the one, true church, then Christ is a liar.  If a Protestant
denomination ever surpasses the Catholic Church in truth or authority,
goodness or genuine Christianity, Christ is a liar. If the powers
of hell ever prevail over the Catholic Church, then Christ is a
liar. If Christ is a liar, then He is not truly God, and
all of our beliefs are a sham.

Archbishop
Fulton Sheen said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who
truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what
they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”  I found this to
be the case at Liberty University; I did not find anyone who fully
understood Catholic doctrine, but many who hated the Church with an
unreasonable passion. However, I make no claim to have discussed
doctrine with every person at Liberty – once you have found the truth
of the Catholic Church, there is little reason to hang around and argue
with those “so blind they will not see.”

Saint
Augustine said, “One cannot have salvation except in the Catholic
Church. Outside of the Catholic Church one can have everything except
salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can
sing the alleluia, one can answer Amen, one can have the Gospel, one
can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit and preach, but never can one find salvation except in the
Catholic Church.”

On December 23rd, 2005,
my mother and I were confirmed by Fr. Christopher Goeber at Saint
Bernadette Catholic Church, in Linville, North Carolina.

 





1 Comment »

  1. Ana-508787 January 21, 2014 Reply

    Is wonderful!! How God’s get in to your life through a TV program that isnt ‘t Catholic and your love and passion to look for him trying different denominations and finally you find Jesus Christ chuch. I give thanks to the Lord to born in a catholic family! God bless you Judson, thank you for your beautiful testimony! Glory to God!!

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