How I Accidentally Swindled My Way Out of Conservative Christianity: Dallas’ Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Dallas” is a pseudonym.

Once upon a time, I won awards for citing Ann Coulter and defending her viewpoints. I’ll get to all of that in a moment, but to fully appreciate this story, you first need some background about my homeschool upbringing.

Living as a teenage atheist in a home of pastors and devout Christian lifestyles is one of the strangest American experiences I can think of having — yet that was my reality. For most of my growing up, my father was heavily involved in church life, eventually becoming commissioned to be an ordained pastor around my ninth birthday. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who picked her battles, and my three younger siblings were and are all very active ‘Jesus Freaks.’

I was one of those myself as a small child, but I was quickly withdrawing from the church by the time I was 13. As church community was stripped away from me as my father’s church grew, then shrank, then reinvented, then rebuilt, my need for people was taken away as my parents felt dogma and religion was the most important elements of a “Christian Walk.”

Part of that “Christian Walk” at the age of 15 was being forced into participating in Impromptu Apologetics under the NCFCA umbrella.

(Background concluded, we now resume the buildup for why I defended Ann Coulter.)

Now, I was already a strong speech and debate kid by the time I was 15. I had already qualified for Nationals in Impromptu Speech, Extemp and Lincoln Douglas debate, and I served as a ‘Senior’ student in our local club. I was ready to try my hand at something in the interpretives, but my parents had a different idea in mind. By gosh, I was now the son of a pastor, and I needed to know how to defend my faith (despite the fact I was already well-weary of Christianity).

I protested. I fought. I cried. It didn’t matter. I was going to do Impromptu Apologetics, and that was the beginning of the grand swindle.

The next school year came up, and at first, Apologetics wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was given a lot of non-direct questions about Christianity, with questions like “Why does a society needs laws?” and “Is there such a thing as absolute truth?”

Sure, those questions asked for a slanted answer and biblical references, but I was able to use reason and historical examples to defend my points on a philosophical level. I was placing near the top at club mock tournaments, and I was feeling very comfortable during the events.

Then, the next semester came, and my fears came true: I started getting the weird questions which could only get dogma-based answers, and even worse, several questions were touching the subjects of Christianity and modern politics.

Unsurprisingly, I started getting low marks for not giving specific Southern-style, conservative Republican, Christian answers on gay marriage, abortion, the infallibleness of the Bible and the historical proofs of Jesus.

Although I was uncomfortable, I pretended it was all fine and good. I embraced my inner Lee Strobel and Frank Turek, giving the circular reasoning that the homeschool mothers who judged the club events were looking for. I didn’t like it, but it let me keep winning.

My faith declined and declined further as I gave arguments I didn’t believe in, but in February, my Lightbulb Moment hit.

In front of the club president and head coach (a deeply Southern Baptist Republican 50-something woman who was campaigning for Mike Huckabee while actively lobbying against civil unions in our state), I pulled out the first question I had zero answer to. As an adult, I still don’t know what it wanted.

The question was this: “How does the Book of Acts describe the moral code of the church similarly to the one seen in Genesis 2?”

I was in a deep panic. I was the ‘senior student’ who routinely knew his business. I was supposed to never flinch. I was supposed to answer the question and give a logical answer rooted in Christian belief. Stuck at my wit’s end as the timer told me my prep time was up, I was active in my Lightbulb Moment.

For the next seven minutes, I made up Bible verses, biblical characters and spat out fake philosophy that I credited to the 14th century theologian St. Saban.

Did Stephen the Martyr really command to obey the Lord fully like Adam as he was stoned to death? Did a prophet really foreshadow the church’s early movements in the book of Nehemiah? Did St. Saban, a man I made up based on the then-Miami Dolphins head football coach, actually exist?

I don’t know. Nor did I care. Because when I got my ballot back, not only had I won the round against nine other speakers, but I had the highest speaker praises including “Well-credentialed arguments and excellent research points”.

That was my Lightbulb Moment: If it sounded good, then that’s all that mattered for Christians and defending Christianity.

After reading that ballot, I decided to try an experiment. For every club event, for every practice and for every tournament, I was going to make it all up.

The 3rd-century Roman historian Nicholai was going to have lost works that explained the miracles of Christ. Verses like Matthew 17:48 and Exodus 49:11 were totally going to exist and be real. Hezeriah was going to be a part of the Old Testament of Biblical prophecy, as would be Surach and Baruch.

Surely, I thought, surely one of these deeply fervent homeschooling mothers, fathers or friends would call me out on it. Surely someone at the regional tournaments would smell something off, right?

I got my answer when I reached out round after out round, eventually finishing in second place in my region, qualifying for the NCFCA National Tournament.

As a 15-year-old who was learning how to bend the rules and get away with it, it didn’t take long to take my deceiving to other speech and debate fronts.

I’m embarrassed to say I was winning extemp rounds by saying Hillary Clinton told reporters at a campaign stop that she’d be willing to invade Israel. Likewise, I won Impromptu rounds by citing that Christianity was blackballing a Russian pop act from entering a recording studio.

What I’m most embarrassed about though is that I qualified for nationals in Team Policy by quoting an Ann Coulter column disguised as a “study by Yale University,” resulting in a standing ovation after that quarterfinal round debate.

I haven’t really forgiven myself for that one. Sorry Yale.

Regardless, there was my moment.

By faking everything, particularly conservative Christianity in culture, history and philosophy, I became an award-winning speaker and debater.

The epilogue is that I refused to go to the national tournament, selling my parents that the tournament was “old hat” and that I didn’t want to return to that competition. They saved the money they would have spent on that trip and we went on a family vacation to Arizona instead, where I happily played golf with my uncles and saw the Grand Canyon with my dad – experiences I’d take any day over bickering with teenagers about why I like AC/DC and why Obama isn’t a secret Muslim terrorist.

Anyway…

To this day, I cannot believe the dozens of Christians I somehow managed to dupe and I now play the “what if” game on what would have happened had I tried my strategy at the national tournament.

17 comments

  • Since he already admits to and glories in lying, why should I believe anything he writes?

    • Missing the point, much?

      • Not going to the national tournament seems to admit that he didn’t think he could pull it off there. The parents I’ve known who have judged these tournaments would have seen through his act. I am sorry he felt he had no choice but to fake it. Life is more complicated than we often want to admit. The message in this story did come through loud and clear: Conservative Christian homeschool parents are ill-informed. In fact a lying sixteen-or-so-year-old can fool a lot of people most of the time. I’m pretty sure there are many people in the public eye – liberal, conservative, self-declared Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah Witness etc. trying to fool people most of the time. It is a good reason to become informed about a myriad of topics. It is also a good reason to read this story and consider the possibility that the story is not 100% accurate. That is not to say it isn’t partly or even mostly accurate.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Dallas just proved there was no Substance there, only Appearance.

        And if you could fake the Appearance, they’d swallow anything you said as Substance.

        Showing that these Uber-Christians were wide open to any sort of Deception.

    • It doesn’t sound like he looks back on it fondly. From the context, it is clear he was testing the leaders of the debate club to see if they really cared about good debating (using facts), or if they were just using confidence in saying anything as the metric. He obviously got his answer.

    • Jesus H. Christ

      Your not-so-subtle ad hominem attack on the author kinda makes me wonder whether you’re the author posing as someone else, as you so perfectly illustrate his point. Which is that idiots will accept a lie if it supports what they want to believe.

      What’s interesting to ponder is how far he could have gone. He could have become another Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly in this day and age. In another place and time he could have convinced people he was a prophet, or even the son of a god. Two millennia later, there’d still be entire religions defending his lies and attacking anyone who disagreed with them through apologetics, sans evidence or logic or even the slightest modicum of common sense.

    • Typical fundie copout. “John drinks Budweiser. Therefore, nothing he says can ever be believed.” But….”Bill drinks root beer. Therefore, everything Bill says can be believed.”

      If I had a dime for ever time I have ever heard 700 different versions of this clap-trap, I could afford to buy popcorn at the movie theater. Oops, I forgot. It is a sin to watch most movies because every movie produced in Hollywood fails to do what every movie should be doing—finding a Bible subject and building a story around it to glorify God. It is a sin to chew that brand of chewing gum because it does not glorify God. Please!!! You guys even bore God to death with your inanity.

      I’m being persecuted!!! I’m being persecuted!!! No. You are being accurately evaluated.

  • If you were to write this in detail, point by point, scene by scene, as your main character shifts from dutiful child to rebellious self-thinker, you’d have an absolutely fabulous novel. As it is enjoined by the Prophet Zedekekiah, you are hereby commanded to do so. (Except I’d end it at the tournament before the kid backs out.

  • Disturbing to hear this and sad.

  • @samantha: A picaresque novel, to be precise. Very 18th century.
    @raswhiting: No: I did not feel that he glories in lying.
    What are you in now? Politics or journalism? – You have a bright career before you, young man.

  • This story is brilliant. I hope my kids are this free-thinking and astute when they are teens. Maybe they won’t get sucked into cults or abusive relationships then.

  • This is a great read! And it goes far in explaining why fake “scholars” like David Barton get away with so much in conservative circles.

  • I don’t doubt this story one bit.

  • David Barton has basically made a career of this. Crazy.

  • Of course, you realize why you succeeded. Generally speaking, Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism avoid intensive and extensive studying and teaching of the 2,000 years of Christian church history all over the world, and they do it for a very good reason. Opening up that dusty old trunk would quickly reveal that Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism ARE NOT authentic, historic, Orthodox Christianity—as they often falsely proclaim. For example, the Substitutionary Theory of Atonement did not even exist in world Christian thought until the 1500s in Europe when John Calvin invented it out of thin air and a few Bible verses—and you fundies later adopted it under the false pretense that it was original, Orthodox Christianity dating all the way back to the first century A.D. There was an atonement by Jesus, but it was not substitutionary (meaning Jesus was not God’s intentional sacrificial lamb taken to Golgotha to be slaughtered like the lambs in the temple were slaughtered to atone for sin). One of these alternative theories of the atonement dates all the way back to the 3rd century A.D.—1,300 years before Calvin and his invention.

    Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are some of the most gullible and easily deceived people on planet Earth. It just amazes me how any group of people could be so blind and so stupid at the same time—and hold ignorance up high as a glowing virtue. Feel free to visit my blog at the following link:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

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