Home > Uncategorized > The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter IV: The First Change

The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter IV: The First Change

Part of my Christian discipleship was to read the Bible every day and pray every day and to try to have some kind of self improvement every day.

 

Hello my name is Mike

 

 

The Nazarenes came out of the Methodists and the Methodists get their name because they have a method. It’s kind of an important thing. It’s the same principle they use in recovery. It’s having an organized, systematic, accountable way of having spiritual improvement. When you start doing that, your life starts looking different because instead of having the negative things and the things that are what I would have called then sinful and I would call now not helpful, you instead focus on being a better person and looking out for other people, and trying to make things better. That’s a really neat perspective to bring into life.

Some of the things we did was Bible quizzing where you start to learn to memorize scripture. I’d be reading it every day and there’s big stories that you learn, but you’re also doing the language and digging into what sentences mean and how do they apply to life. When I did Bible quizzing, it was great because it gave me a chance to shine even though I was socially awkward because I was really good at it and I got to know my Bible stuff.

After I read the Bible, I went back and read interesting parts and I probably read the New Testament a few times. By this time I’m maybe 16 and a junior in high school. I had really come to see that my favorite part of the whole Bible was the stuff that Jesus said and the Red Letter Edition of the Bible.

I had this Bible as literature class that was really great in public school and where I learned to look at the Bible as a literary device and see it from a different perspective. Then I had this idea that you work out your own salvation. What it meant was important to me. One of my favorite parts is the Beatitudes where Jesus is preaching and it gets kind of the core of his message. And he said you should love of your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

I read that and I knew it and I knew it by heart from Bible quizzed Matthew. It just hit me like a thunderclap: War was wrong. I thought about what it meant. I just went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and my parents were proud to be the only people in Sumeria township who voted for George Wallace. They had this kind of apolitical kind of independence, mostly not liking anybody, not being that into politics. They read the paper.

My church was like a center of right-wing activism, both like the Jack Kemp campaign was organized out of my church because the evangelicals had gotten really political with Reagan and pro-life. I had adopted these kind of politics without really thinking anything and I was a little Reaganite and and then I’m reading the Bible and I believe in an active spiritual process and it strikes me that war is wrong. And then what do you do with that?

You start thinking about everything.

If you’ve read a lot of history, and I had, I loved history after, you know, from the child that mythology is history and hearing stories. So I had read good history, most of the history of the world and so imperialism was right there. It was something that under American empire and the Great Commission and the Christianization of the planet, it seemed all very right and proper and good.

I brought this whole critique and in like three days I abandoned all of my political beliefs and I started to question, and then I looked at the Book of Acts where it talked about the early church where they they shared everything amongst themselves and lived as a community and and didn’t go to these churches but lived in each other’s houses and they pooled their money to take care of the widows and the orphans.

I looked at Jesus who said that the love of money is the root of all evil. When the rich young man came to him and asked what they do, h said sell all you have and give to the poor. And suddenly this Reagan politics of getting rid of welfare and government is the problem, it all became just terrible. I thought it looked like anarchy when I read about the early church and I thought that we ought to live like we were in the early church and that that was the goal of this whole thing that we were doing on Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday night. I saw what they were doing. They were doing this weird thing that I couldn’t believe in anymore. But anarchy struck me as overly idealistic when I thought about politics, what does it mean about politics?

I really got into politics and found as I read that I found the social gospel movement where I found these wild left wing reformists socialist Christians who were trying to use government as the arm of religious zeal. In a way that helps struggling people and reorganizes the economy in a way that was more fair for more people. And that looked like what I had seen in the early church and Jubilee and in the message that I had got out of church and the in the Bible. So, I got into the social gospel movement. I got into utopian communities and reading about people who are really trying to do it and started to think about why it worked and what didn’t work and then I really became a democratic socialist. I believed in democracy.

But I also believe that the workers needed to organize the economy rather than capital dictating the decisions. I got into socialism and I also got into social movements of how did these things happen, what actions did a small group or an individual do that precipitated that?

I still did it through this kind of spiritual lens even though I had had this amazing political transformation where I went from a right-wing Republican to a democratic socialist and about two weeks. I know it was rapid. I think it was over Christmas break because I remember being pretty conservative in the first semester or if US history in the second semester being the most liberal kid by far in the class. And really being able to talk to the instructor in a new way where the instructor in the first semester, Mr. Rossi had called me a racist.

I believed in capitalism and freedom and felt that if I had built a company with no help from the government. He was Italian. I have no ill feelings towards Italians. I’m of German immigrant stock. Both have interesting histories and cultures. I said to Mr. Rossi “Just for sake of argument, if I didn’t want to hire Italians for whatever reason the government didn’t have any right to be able to tell me that I had to any.” Rather than attack that kind of philosophical point, he was like “You’re a racist.”

It was like this Zen koan. I was shamed. I was baffled that he didn’t engage in the discussion. And I had read a lot of arguments on the topic, so was confident in my ability to defend my position. Was I?

I didn’t really do anything with it at the time, but later I started to really question all kinds of things about myself and apply myself to this kind of lens of privilege as I was able to identify it. As a younger man, I had all of this shame from trying to fit in in middle-class environments without the social skills and the background and the training to be able to do it.

I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I made one that turned out to be really important after we lost our house. We lived in that town called Ida. And I had been in this farm school. I had been at this more kind of suburban elementary school because that country had become in the excerpts. Even though we were pretty originally or rural stock most of the kids at that school were like bedroom community of Toledo, Ohio, white flight middle-class kids. When we built the dream house and moved to the country, I moved to a smaller farm school where I was kind of the new kid at fourth grade, and I was a new kid at ninth grade when we lost her house. And because I was oriented towards church and I went to church in Monroe, I really pushed my mom to move into town.

Monroe’s about a city of 30,000. Ida didn’t have a flashing light until 10 or 15 years ago. It’s a pretty small town. My mom liked the country. We were pretty close and spent a lot of time together and, and we picked the house together and she got a place in Monroe.

There was this older kid at church when I first started going, but then he kind of quit going. I met him before he stopped coming to church. His name was Scott Woodward. He had a big, powerful impact on me in this phase. We would talk politics. He was Christian. He was weird. Before we were hanging out, he was known for like skulking around town in a cape. This is 1983 and people didn’t skulk around in capes then. He got over that, but he was into high weirdness.

He had a car and we’d go around and we’d go to bookstores and we would make fun of the New Age movement. I had read some Christian books about conspiracies and cults. To me the New age movement seemed like a threat to Christianity. He got me to become a vegetarian. I felt like you couldn’t really follow the Hebrew diet without getting all the blood out and a lot of Jews were becoming vegetarians and Jesus never really ate meat. 

I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons and not having to to kill. It was funny because he was a vegetarian for about three months and then ended up staying a vegetarian for about seven years. He came and went with the church and got in to other ideas. He had a more open spirituality. I would frequently argue with him. I ended up reading a lot of background stuff to be able to talk to him. And so I read a lot about God and magic. we would go UFO hunting. We’d get a pizza and we’d drive around in the back rows and look for UFOs. We’d go to all the occult bookstores in Ann Arbor and Detroit, just kind of roam around. I was intrigued by that stuff. I’d been playing Dungeons and Dragons but I was still a hard left-winger at this point. I was a left-wing fundamentalist Christian. I still didn’t really question that whole kind of system.

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