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EPISODE 75: Looking Past Hypocrisy to Christ - Loren Weisman's Story

Former skeptic Loren Weisman rejected the Jewish beliefs of his youth to embrace atheism.  Although he encountered bad examples of Christianity in his search for truth, he looked past those experiences and found Christ.

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Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to Side B Stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast, we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or a skeptic but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of these stories at our Side B Stories website or YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page or through our email, at [email protected]. We love hearing from you.

As a reminder, our guests not only tell their stories of moving from disbelief to belief in God and Christianity, at the end of each episode, these former atheists give advice to curious skeptics as to how they can best pursue the truth and reality of God. They also give advice to Christians as to how best to engage with those who don’t believe. I do hope you’re listening to the end to hear them speak from their wisdom and experience as someone who has once been a skeptic but who is now a believer.

There are different stories of reality, and we live within some narrative that defines who we are, how we got here, where we’re going, what’s broken, and how it can be fixed. Some stories are closer to truth than others. Sometimes we look at people who are living out of certain stories and beliefs and make a judgment about the truth of that story. If someone says they believe one thing, but their lives reflect something else, something that is rather unattractive and hypocritical, then those looking on often think that that story must not be good or true.

Many have rejected God because of bad experiences with or observations of people who say that they are Christians, but their words and actions don’t seem to line up with someone who’s supposed to be following Christ. In my research with fifty former atheists, right at half of them, 48% to 50%, said one of the reasons that they rejected belief in God was because of a perceived sense of hypocrisy among Christians. Of course, although someone’s behavior may not, and often doesn’t, align with their beliefs, it doesn’t mean that the beliefs themselves are not true, but hypocrisy can and does fuel reasons why people walk away from God.

In our story today, former atheist Loren Weisman encountered Christians who lived as if they were not. That is, their attitudes, words, and actions did not reflect well on their faith. Surprisingly, despite these bad experiences and exposures, Loren’s heart was open, and he was willing to seek towards truth to see past those negative examples to look towards Jesus. Now, Loren strives to live a life of authenticity and truth in order to be a positive, winsome ambassador for Christ. I hope you’ll come along to hear of his journey past the obstacle of hypocrisy to come to know the real and true Christ.

Welcome to Side B Stories, Loren. It’s great to have you with me today.

Thank you for bringing me on.

Terrific! As we’re getting started, let’s paint a picture for our listeners of who are a little bit. Give us an idea, Loren, a little bit about you, about your life now.

My life now. I'm a messaging and optic strategist for the Fish Stewarding group, and what I look at for this organization is how we share our story, how we share what we have for products, and looking a little deeper than the idea of here's how we market or advertise, but much more so how can we be heard organically, authentically, with authority, when a lot of people say a lot of things. So, to me, it's almost like the first step before marketing to know if that story is true, if it's moral, if it's honest, if it's real, and when we build that foundation, regardless of what we do or who we are, we're building on a rock and not on the sand.

Wow. Okay. That is very intriguing to me, especially in light of the story that you're going to give us today. If those values you hold dear are truth and transparency and authenticity, I'm anticipating an amazing story of your own. So let's go back. Paint a picture for us of your childhood. Talk to us about what your life was like and the family that you grew up in. Did you go to church? Was religion or God or any of that a part of that picture?

It wasn't. As you can probably assume from the last name, I grew up Jewish, Passover was fun. Hanukkah was presents and lights. I went to Sunday school, preparing for a bar mitzvah. I do remember being a little child and frightened and saying, “What happens when we die?” and being told nothing. That was a terrifying thing when I was smaller. I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, which is the center of a five-college circuit area. You had the University of Massachusetts, the Ivy League Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Hampshire. It was a very broad experience in growing up at that time.

And my parents, things did not go well with them. I make the joke of it was the uncommitted divorce that took many years. I think they got together and separated numerous times until finally divorcing a little bit later in my youngest years. But that back and forth was a bit of a thing. I'm sure that had a little bit more of an impact. I was a lot more emotional than my brother was. My brother seemed to hold it all in. I was emotional, and in some ways, I feel like that let it out. And, in growing up in that, I found the drums. And the drums were everything. I found the drums at 13. And I didn't want to do anything else. I had had a drum set from a neighbor for about two weeks, and nothing was interesting to me. I needed to be a drummer.

Mm. So it completely captured your heart, or your passion, immediately it sounds like.

Yeah.

So before we get into that and your musical career, so this home that you grew up in. You had a Jewish heritage, in the sense that you went through the motions of Shabbat and high holy days and bar mitzvahs and things like that. What was that to you? Was that just some tradition that your family took part in? Was there something real there? Or was it just something that you did?

I'm sure we'll go in later in the conversation, but I’ve kind of enjoyed sharing this quote a little bit, that I learned more when I became a Christian about Judaism than I ever learned about Judaism growing up steeped in it. And again, that's why kind of the first-gear Jew concept of, you know, Passover.

We would read about the sons and the Elijah cup. It would sit on the table, and we'd ask questions, and sometimes it was, “Oh, we're going to celebrate Shabbat,” but then we're not. And Hanukkah was lighting candles and even going to the synagogue occasionally. It was all very ethereal and not directed. When we were learning Hebrew—Hebrew school was on Wednesdays and Sundays, preparing for the bar mitzvah. And what we were learning inside of the Torah was how to read Hebrew and not understand the words that were written. So the focus in the Jewish community of Amherst, and I'm not trying to bad mouth, but it was a sense of, “Here’s the alef. Here’s the bet.” My Hebrew name is Eliezer Ben Shimol, and the most that I understood is that it's your name, son of your dad's name. And we'd sing the stories about Noah and the forty days, and we'd sing small things in the seven days of creation. But none of it was ever put together or delivered, even for a kids’ level, in anything that to me would plant seeds.

So would you say that these stories that you were taught, were they merely stories, some mythology? Or or did you think that there was some historical veracity behind them? Obviously, the Jewish people, over centuries, have been celebrating things like Passover, and that's historical, right? But I guess what I'm trying to ask is: Did you think that there was something real to even the Jewish God? Or was it just a story or a ritual?

During especially inside the separations, I wanted it to be real. It didn't feel it. It didn't exhibit anything. But it seemed very allegorical. It felt like, “Okay, maybe this is just a story to teach you a lesson.” And, “Okay, they're roaming around the desert for forty years.” None of it seemed anything outside of fiction. The closest that I had, my grandfather. I remember going with my grandfather a couple times to a synagogue. And the heart that he had in it, and the way he prayed, those were a little sparks of maybe there's something more. But then there were times years later, going like, “Maybe this is just kind of like a boys club or a thing to do.” It didn't feel rooted or anchored in anything beyond tradition.

Okay. All right. And how long did you stay… I know you mentioned that your parents divorced, and your mother had actually taken on a Jewish identity, I presume because of your father. So once they divorced and separated, did you continue in any kind of Jewish practice at all? Or was it just something you left behind once they separated?

Well, the bar mitzvah, which… and that was closer. I mean they had divorced finally shortly before, but the bar mitzvah was sort of like the out. It was, “You have to study,” and then it was Hebrew school and Sunday school and a Hebrew tutor, and getting everything ready for, I think it was June 13, 1989 or 1990. I can't remember exactly. It was getting the suit. It was inviting all these family people. I mean, even walking around the bar mitzvah afterwards, it was like it was for everybody but me. And, again, not trying to make it a selfish thing, but it represented, in a way, “I don't have to do this anymore.” And then I would go to synagogue for my grandfather, and I would do certain things, but I mean I was kind of skipping out on most of the Hanukkah stuff and Passover. Passover was kind of a weird thing at my family on my father's side of: It was the same jokes done each year. I mean, Passover at that time was a whole bunch of food with a pre-game of ritual tradition. And then find the afikomen and get a couple bucks, and it was very… I don't know And I'm not trying to disrespect my grandfather in any way, but it was just… it was out there to me.

So that was something that was easy to leave behind.

Oh, yes.

And your attention then turned towards the drums. So it sounds like that captured your full, or at least primary, attention. Talk to us about that part of your life, in adolescence. So you were kind of leaving this religious thing behind, and of course your parents had separated, and you're an adolescent, so that's a very interesting time of life for anyone. So talk to us about that part of your life.

There was a confidence, and there was a fun in the drums. I think I picked up the drums, and a couple months later, I had a girlfriend!

Oh, yeah! You were suddenly cool! Right?

Oh, yeah. It was great! So, you know, I don't know if I was shy as much as a little withheld, and the drums gave a confidence. And there was an assertiveness in, “I want to be a drummer.” And then I got to meet a girl. And then there was an opening of just a fun direction. I didn't want to be a lawyer like my father. It was just nothing. I mean, I would visit his office, and there was nothing about that that I enjoyed. I was looking at what different people were doing, and then some people would say, “Oh, you'll get into what you want to do later.” It was immediate. I mean, sitting at the drums, everything felt in place. And when I was playing the drums, the divorce wasn't an issue, or school wasn’t an issue, or God wasn't an issue, or…. You know, at that time, if we die and turn to dust, at least I have this time with the drums. And so the drums became everything to me.

So you had mentioned a couple of kind of big questions that you had asked as a child. What happens to you when you die? And that sort of thing. But you said, when you played the drums, it filled you with so much joy, and you were able to escape into it, essentially, for a while, and obviously you were very good at it. I mean obviously, with the breakup of your family and all of those big things that you deal with, Were you still asking some of those big questions? Or, I guess, was the drums just a way forward out and through all of that and to a different life?

It was both. I mean, the drums were a way forward. I had a great fear of death, and I had a misunderstanding about the universe, and I listened to the things that we learned about, and it didn't add up. And there was something that was just off, and it took me in later on, which made more sense in the apologetics journey later down the line.

But I remember being in eighth-grade science class and just the stories at that time about, “Well, everything's just been here, and it's always going to be here, and, oh, the sun will burn out.” So how did this happen? And these other elements about the Earth and these other things, they were bothering me. I mean, when I was in ninth grade, I remember—and again, I was tucked away in the world of drumming, but I found myself asking the questions of, “Well, if there's nothing, why do we have to be nice? Why can't we rob a bank? Where is this law set that, ‘Okay, so we have to follow these laws,’ and there's nothing?” And then, at the same time, this chaos theory that's been so scientifically explained, and yet, if there's nothing, why are we not in chaos?

And I think some of that was anger at the chaos of my parents and just watching relationships and watching things happen. I was, even as much as the pleasure that I got from the drums, I was angrier in that eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh grade.

Yeah. Because obviously you had experienced some personal brokenness and chaos, I guess you could say, in your personal world. “If this is a godless world, what does it mean?” You know? Right and wrong, good and bad. Where does it all come from? How do things all fit together, whether it's in the universe or in the world or in my mind? Those are all big, big questions. So talk to us from there. What did your life look like as you were continuing to pursue music, I presume. Was that something you pursued professionally? Or what did that look like?

Yeah. I went to Berklee College of Music. Not the California one.

Right.

Berklee College of Music summer program. And after that, and for many of the drummers that I admired, they all went to Berklee. And I explained to my mother that I was going to apply to one college, and if I didn't get in, I’d get good enough to get in. And my plan was to go to Berklee.

I felt Berklee was where I belonged, where I wanted to be, and so I put all the eggs in one basket. I did get in, and I remember opening the letter and being like, “Okay, is this really stupid?” And I got the acceptance, and I make the joke about, if you graduate Berklee College of Music you become a professor or a teacher. If you drop out, you've got a chance of becoming a drummer, or a musician. And so I was only there for a couple semesters and began to work with different groups.

I only wanted to be that hired gun. And I learned about how there were other drummers covering Ringo Starr's parts for The Beatles, and I understood about The Beach Boys and all these people that were considered ghost musicians. And they would come in, and they would clean up things, and they would not get the popularity credit, but they get the call, and it became this idea that I really enjoyed, and then I began to meet more people, and I met guys that were becoming famous in Boston, and I liked the idea of the discretion, of the quiet, of the being behind the scenes.

I mean I enjoyed playing live, but I didn't need the credit or the popularity. And so it was a TV show and a movie theme. I got called in while a drummer was sick, and he got credit for it. But I got paid.

Right.

And then I became a contact. And then I began to build that life of being this behind-the-scenes guy. And it was a lot of fun. I mean it took a while to build, but to go in and have something… it was like trying new dishes or traveling to new places. I didn't know what the music required. I didn't know what the music was. I didn't know what had happened. I didn't know why I was coming in, and the other guy or girl was going out. So it was constantly exciting. It was all new. I look at some of my friends that are in bands that they've been in bands for thirty, forty years, and they play the same songs every night. God bless them for the money they've made, the chance they've had. I would have been bored out of my mind. And so to be able to jump in and almost play like the Columbo detective, of finding out what's missing, what went wrong, where does it need to go? And, you know, I'm out the door, and nobody knew I was there. It was a lot of fun.

I bet. I bet that was really exciting.

It allowed another side to see things, and even then, in some of the anger. I mean, not to point it. I did a Christian album. I’m not going to name the band right now, but I found myself, even in that anger based around faith of like, “If you are all you claim to be, how can you be this crass, this mean, this insulting? If you're preaching this whole love thing and then saying the things that you're saying….” I found so many people in that time turning me away from faith. And I mean like being mocked. I came in, and they're like, “Are you a Christian?” I’m like, “No.” And they’re like, “Okay, well, we need you for this.” And then I'm hearing Jewish jokes. And it didn't hurt that much because I wasn't that close to it, but to hear some of the mockery and some of the condescension that I was getting from Christian sources, made me go, “I want to stay as far away from this as possible.”

No doubt. And so, when you were being exposed to hypocritical forms of faith, and it just—I would imagine that it pushed you farther and farther from even considering God in any kind of a serious way. Did you label or identify at any point, as like, “I'm agnostic,” or, “I’m atheistic.” Did you ever take on that label or identity?

I took on atheist for a while, and then it was—I still remember. It was a recording session. I was sitting in a beautiful wooden drum room, and we were redoing a part. We had done a part the day before, and there was something off, and I was going to pack up my drums and return the next day to go over other stuff, not playing the drums. And I felt at that point: “Leave the drums. We're going to need to do this again.” And I came back the next day. It was one of my first real, what I look back on and think it may have been a spiritual experience with God. And I came back that next day, and I felt this gratitude for being there. I felt this gratitude for waiting. I felt this gratitude for the particular song, that just… it drew me in, and I felt this thing where it flipped the switch to me not saying it was the Christian God or the Jewish God or Buddha or anyone else, or Muslim. It was just a moment that made me question atheism, and it was a shift. I mean, it's interesting. I’ve forgotten many things. I can still remember seeing what I saw, where I was sitting, when I just had this moment and went more toward the agnostic of, “I think there's something out there. I don't think it lines up with this Jewish God or this Christian God or any of this, but this seems like something more.” And I felt like that was a moment.

Hmm. So what did you do? How did you respond? When you have those moments, an epiphany or a feeling or a sense that there's something more than the atheistic worldview, which is there is nothing beyond nature or matter. There is no God. So did that, in a sense, startle you in a way? Personally? Did it make you question your assumptions? Again, was there something arising up in you that said, “Well, maybe there is something more.” What did you do with that, essentially?

Well, it wasn't the best story in the end of it, because I tried to pray, and praying had been what it was when I was a little kid, where it just didn't make any sense with…. You know, your sort of TV dinner Jewish prayers. Read this prayer. Read this prayer. Read this prayer. So I tried to pray for a second and give thanks, and then it just felt stupid. And so I packed up my drums afterwards. I kind of had this moment, and then I went off to see some friends, and we went out drinking. It was a moment that was incredibly brief. It was left behind. It didn't stop me. It shifted me a bit to think that there might be something more. But I kind of made the joke of, as I put my hands out, I'm like, “What am I doing?” And then it was, “Well, I'm not going to my knees.” And then after that it was, “Let’s go get a drink.”

Okay.

And so it was more dismissed.

Okay. All right. So what was your life like? Whether it was during your period of expressed atheism or not, this kind of reality of living in a way that God isn’t part of your life, it's not part of your picture. Was it a good life? Were you still asking the big questions? Or were you just kind of going through the motions, enjoying your drumming, and really not thinking about the big questions anymore?

I was enjoying the drumming, but I was angry. And I think that people that knew me would say I was angry. And I was a loving person, but there was always an anger. And I never really got in fights. I got in one fight in ninth grade, I think. And it was each of us passed two punches, and it was over, and we were in the principal's office. And I'm a big guy, I'm six four, but it's never been like a physical thing. But I was angry at my mom. I was angry at my dad. I was angry at my brother. I was angry at different bands. I was angry at lack of—I mean, for me, there was something very important about following through and drive and learning. And I was angry at lazy people. I mean it was just a strange anger, and at the same time it became an inspiration to not be lazy, to maintain drive, to go after things. And I look back on it now, and had you asked me then, I wasn’t angry. I mean I got annoyed and annoyed a lot more back then, but I was pushing through.

And in a way it was a darkness, and it was a wilderness, and I’d go after things, and I enjoyed alcohol, I enjoyed drumming, I enjoyed doing things sometimes and making money in ways in music that were not the most moral and reputable. I'm not 100% by any measure proud of some of the things that I did.

Yeah. Well, I think all of us could say that, right? So we've all lived compromised in some ways, but it sounds like there was an underlying anger, but yet you had… it sounds like a busy life, in many ways a fulfilling life, that you were accomplishing things, that you were setting goals, that you were pursuing your life, your profession, with gusto. And so it sounds like, too, that you weren't bothered necessarily by big questions, not any kind of existential crisis, or really thinking towards the end of a worldview without God or anything, but yet you had this moment. That appeared for a moment, and then it passed. So then what happened next in your life?

Well, I mean, it was a number of years of that. And I think that some of the anger, for me, might have been that constantly having questions and not having an outlet of a place of answers. I attended a church. It was one time. I'd run into a friend, and he's like, “Come to my church.” “All right.” And it opened up a lot of questions for me, and when I found that not a single one could be answered, and everything was countered at this particular church with, “You’ve got to have faith.” It didn't feel balanced. And in everything else, if I was going to learn this or I was going to study that, with music. If you want to be able to do this, you do this, this, this, and then you get there. And there were different ways to understand and balance and juggle those studious elements, the strategic elements, and when I went there, I brought that same state of mind, and this particular one church, “It had no answers.”

The pastor then—and I remember this, and this was shortly before I moved to the West Coast. A pastor took me out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Massachusetts, and he explained to me that my grandfather and my grandmother were going to hell—or were in hell. This was after they passed—because they were Jews. And even back then, thinking about messaging, going, “Well, this isn’t a great way to open!” And there was a moment of like, “Oh, my gosh! Is this true?” and then another moment, going, “There’s something very off if you are the representation of a church, and this is how you're opening doors to people. There’s something really off there.” That bothered me.

Yeah, you know, especially considering—I don't know what it took for you to actually even consider going to a church. I mean it was pretty amazing that you had a friend who asked you to go and that you actually went, but then to receive that as a welcome, it makes no sense to me at all. But what were some of the big questions that you were wrestling with as you were looking for answers? As you were going into this church environment?

Well, I was looking on a bigger level of saying, “Okay….” It was interesting with where I grew up. There was a Muslim community. There was a Buddhist community. There was a Jewish community. There was Christian. And it was like, “Okay, well, what's the difference between this Catholic thing and this Protestant and these Baptist people over here that scream?” There was his one guy I knew who just seemed like a cool Christian. And he seemed to…. When we looked at girls, he looked at girls with us. He’d talk about this, but he was not available Sunday mornings. He was in church. And there was something about that, of going. I almost wanted to see, “Is there more like that? Is there something a little bit more organic? Is there something where somebody could talk about this?”

And so I went four more times to this one church, because I wasn't trying to be, “Oh, I saw this once, and it was nothing.” And I came to him, and I'm like, “Hey, I'm a drummer, and I don't know if you ever need the help. I can handle this music and would be happy to support.” And again, beyond the pastor saying my grandparents are going to hell, it was a worship leader that's like, “You don't quite have the Spirit in you. I don't know if you can handle these songs.” “I'm the best player among all of you. I can lift this up musically,” and maybe, looking back on it, maybe by doing that it could invite me into something. But your ego of your subpar worship team. Another door was shut. I’m sitting here open to just listening, hearing, connecting, and I was having doors closed. I'm sorry. I get a little amplified thinking about it.

No! No!

It’s a strange memory.

Right! I'm sure that it was. I'm sure that it was. And what a shame. Really, I wonder, in going to that church, did they invite you to open the Bible or to read it for yourself or anything like that? I wondered what you were hearing, what you were seeing or reading.

It was forced. It was, “You’ve got to get baptized. You’ve got to accept the Holy Spirit. You’ve got to know Jesus.” I did get a Bible, and I started to read through it. And the one mistake I made: I jumped to the end. And so I said, “Okay, I want to skip to the end and see what's going on here.” It's a lot of what I used to do as a musician. You’ve got to figure out, “Where’s this thing ending up?” and we'll go back to the beginning and start. And then I'm in Revelation, and I'm like, “Okay, so there are dragons. There's some harlot. There’s Babylon.” I mean, it was not the place to start. Everyone says start in John now. I hear that. Starting in Revelation? Wrong answer.

Yeah. That’s a difficult place to start. It’s a difficult place for most Christians who’ve been in the faith for a long time. Yeah, I can imagine. I'm sure you were scratching your head with that.

I presume you did not become a worship drummer at that moment, so you left that, again, that experience of church behind as a potential open and shut door, it sounds like. And then what-

Very quickly.

And so guide us from there.

Well, and then I was involved in some projects that took me to Seattle, took me to Los Angeles. I started shifting into being a producer more. And there was one guy that had me produce an album, and I said, “I'm not a producer.” And he said, “I'm going to be very frank with you: Because you work with a whole bunch of the producers that I love, you work with them often, I think you know their style, and I know I can pay you a lot less.” “Okay.” So I started my hand in production, and one of the little early albums I produced was a gospel album. It was a gospel R&B album. And that was another experience of trying to… I almost wanted to hear a little bit more. It again turned me off, and I walked away from it. I had a really…. At the end of the production of that album, talking to the guy and saying, “Look, this is what you may want to consider when it comes to music,” and, “Here’s what's happening,” and the arrogance and belligerence of how he chose to share things. I said, “You’re supposed to, from what your faith claims, be all open to this stuff and hear this and listen to these things, and right now, you just think you're going to be a star. And it seems like it's ego and greed and all the stuff you're supposed to be against.” And so that was again a turnoff. Again, it was a strange time, and it was more of, okay, all these people I was coming across that had faith just seemed to be something I didn't want to have anything to do with. While I was still searching out faith for myself. And this was probably the time when I was drinking—again, I was never an alcoholic. I needed to stay in control. But it was a time I was drinking probably the most. And the angriest at those times, of being like, “What is this? If there is anything, why is it being represented by these people?”

And so poorly. Right? If there is a God, why do these supposedly God people look and act in these very unattractive ways? So you're being perpetually, it sounds like, pushed away, really, even though you were open, which… anyway, surprises, [40:33] well it doesn't surprise me, in a way, because we're all broken people, but it's disappointing, isn't it, when you expect something more of someone who represents Christ, and that's not what you're seeing, so you continued to get these really bad pictures of what a Christian is supposed to be. Who they're supposed to be. Who they’re representing. It wasn't anything you wanted anything to do with. But yet you were still, it sounds like, in a searching mode? So what were you finding next?

Well, it was strange at that point, and I look back on it now, and it seems to have a strategy to it. There was another Christian artist, a reverend, had me produce his album. And he was a little bit better. He still had a little bit of an edge to him, but he was a gentler individual. And then I started… I was asked by a bartender, who said, “You should write a book on music,” and so I wrote my first book, and it was a dumpster fire. It was awful. I wrote a second book on the music industry, which is the one I'm the most proud of. And that started taking me on a different journey, and I was starting to get hired by businesses outside of music. And I was kind of seeing this walk away from music. And I loved everything I did with the drums. I loved all the albums I was on, I loved the production. I was doing some stuff in television that didn't feel clean to me, so I did it while I did it, but then the book…. At the end of the book, I did this book tour. It was one of two book tours, and I gone back to Los Angeles, and I was finding myself around more and more people of faith, and none of them were pushing me. And so the agnostic elements seemed to lift up a little bit, and it seemed like, “Okay, there's something here.” And I found myself talking to a lot of people that were in faith. And eventually I left Los Angeles, moved with—it was a girlfriend at the time, who became my wife—to Florida, and it was in Florida that again I seemed to be surrounded by more people of faith. And I still was in a very agnostic mode, but when my daughter was born, this was around 2015, there was something that was lifting that agnostic thing to a different level. I would walk out on our back porch in, it was Vero Beach at the time, and I found myself praying, walking up and down the porch holding her and just thanking and praying that she's safe and healthy, and it didn't feel foolish, like it had the years before, and there was something just a touch different that felt very organic.

So the birth of a child can make a difference for a lot of people, in terms of when you're holding that beautiful baby. And seems so miraculous in so many ways, and you expressed gratitude, but the question is, for an atheist or agnostic, grateful to whom? And so, when you're praying, there's a presumption, right? That there is someone to whom you are expressing gratitude. So at that moment, I guess you were willing to acknowledge the possibility of a God? Is that right?

I was. And I laugh about when I read, I think it's in Acts, now, where Paul makes a mention about, “and you have this idol to the unknown god. Let me tell you about Him.” As I was sitting there, holding Olivia, I'm just saying, “Whoever you are, however this is, thank you. And can she be healthy? And what am I supposed to do? And can you tell me what I'm supposed to do? Because I don't feel like anyone else that's been down here that's told me has really been on point. Or if they're really listening all that well.”

Okay. So all of those Christians who you were surrounded by, you said they weren’t pushy, so they were living out their Christianity kind of around you but not really directly. They didn't confront you in any way or ask you particular questions or invite you to church or anything. I presume, after your past experiences, you weren't really making a lot of steps towards them, even though you could see perhaps they were better than what you had experienced in the past. But obviously the door had been opened once more through the birth of your daughter to an unknown god, some god out there. So did you pursue that god? Or try to figure out who that was?

Not really. I started doing a little bit more in the aspects of doing strategy and consulting outside of music, and I was having fun with it. I was having fun having a baby. I was having fun being a father. I was brought into a group of business individuals, and they were saying, “You’re saying things in a whole different light, and it's great!” And I ended up meeting a pastor and his wife that invited me to their church, not to the church, but to promote and work on the messaging of their programs.

Okay.

There was almost a little part of me that wanted to, in working on their messaging, learn more about faith. And we worked together for… it was a couple months. But then I got a phone call, saying, “We want you to meet this guy, Peter Lowe,” who used to apparently be a Christian and motivational speaker, and he’d talked to the presidents and Muhammad Ali and all of these people, and we had connected just gently. And he had a cruise, called…. It was Rollan Roberts and Peter Lowe. It was this Christian business cruise. And everything about it just seemed so off to me. It was just so much hype. But I kept talking with Peter, and then Peter invited me to be a part of it and come on the cruise. And I was the only non-Christian speaking on it.

You’ll like this: I’ll keep it brief. The night before I was supposed to go, Olivia had, whatever, macaroni and cheese. There was something off. She was getting sick. She got violently ill in her crib the night before I was supposed to leave. I mean just throwing up all over the crib. It was awful! And the whole plan, at that point, “I can't go, I can't leave my daughter. I can't possibly leave my daughter.” I still did the next morning, and that was the next time. It was like from the session drumming and then today are like, “I'm supposed to go,” and nothing in me wanted to. Absolutely nothing. I wanted to be there for my daughter, but I knew I had to go on the cruise. That was my second moment of…. It wasn't audible, but it was very clear I was supposed to be there. And I made the cruise.

So what was your experience like on a boat full of a lot of Christians as an outsider, in a sense?

Well, I wasn’t wrong, and I said this thing is over hyped. There aren't going to be that many people. I wasn't wrong. There was too much hype in what was presented, not as much by Peter, but the other person. And I still found it intriguing. I wanted to meet some of these people. And I went to the dinners, and I talked to some people. And I listened to what they had to say. And then there was one individual who said, “Look, a little later, I’d like to meet in your cabin and talk a little bit more about faith,” and as I'm opening my mouth to say, “Thanks, I’m good,” I said, “Okay.”

Okay. It’s like, “Where did that come from?” kind of looking around.

Exactly. “What?”

Like, “Who said that?”

And I mean, he wanted to…. I didn't get it at the time. He wanted to have me be saved, and for the first time, in letting my guard down, I allowed it, and I was open to it, and I don't know if it had been the number of days. I don't know all the different pieces, but there was something where I felt a little bit more open. And looking back at my entire career and my life and in that moment all the things, it just seemed to connect. It seemed to make sense. So I prayed the prayer with him, and my favorite part was he said, “First, I want to apologize for Christians that you’ve met.” I’m like. “Okay. Good opener.”

Yes. That kind of brings down a barrier or a wall there.

I wasn't looking for the answer. I wanted direction, and he gave me direction. And so I was saved on a Christian businessman's cruise.

Wow!

And it went very slowly for a bit. I mean I was starting to watch a couple of documentaries. I watched that NBC series. I was digging a little bit into a Bible. It was a slow lull time. It wasn't like… I had kind of envisioned, “I'm saved, and ahhh!” I didn't share it with my wife, and I began to just very slowly get my foot in, but it was briefly after, just a couple weeks after, where I was asked by the guy that was part of me being saved to come see him in Orlando. And Fish Stewarding Group, Doug Fish, he was there. And we were sitting there at the table, and he turned, and he goes, “I came here to meet you.” I was like, “What? You barely talked to me on the cruise.” We exchanged very little. We sat in a Starbucks and talked for four hours.

And I have been with Doug since. At first, he called me, and he said, “Help me with my messaging,” and then he brought me on board this, and he's helped me. “Here’s where to go in the Bible.” “Here's where to look outside the Bible.” “Here's where to take your strategy here.” “Here's what I want from you.” And that friendship, as well as business partnership, has been the biggest thing for doing what I do and what I love, and at the same time, sleeping better at night, as well as exploring deeper into faith.

You had been around some Christians who had changed your perception, perhaps, of Christians or Christianity. Maybe they're not as bad as you thought. You had a child. In a sense, there was an openness to you, obviously. Just your willingness to go on a Christian businessman’s cruise and position yourself there in that space. This gentleman was able to provide some substance for you. So not only that there is a God who loves you and wants a relationship with you, I would imagine, and that it's true. But he was able to help you start to put some intellectual pieces together, that it made sense to you in your mind, as well as your heart, it sounds like. Because you are very bright individual who likes things, like you say, to have a linear, logical, rational, reasonable support to them. Not just grabbing something out of the air because it feels good. That there actually has to be something that's true and real after your conversion or belief, that you were able to ground, in a sense, what was true about the Bible, that it's not just story.  That there really is some good reason to believe that you had found what was once the unknown God. You found the one true real God. So can you help us understand what it is that helped you ground that perspective, more than just your spiritual experience there in conversion?

Doug helped me find the proof to, for me, amplify the faith, where, in many cases, so many people were just saying, “You have to believe. You have to believe.” Doug helped me identify—and I don't say this in a derogatory way—the hypocrite in what I was hearing or what I wasn't able to hear or how I would take a presupposition with this experience, or these couple experiences now have given me a false conclusion. So it was Doug who… and he spoon-fed very slowly, and he respected where I came from in music and television. He respected my messaging and my optics, but at the same time he treated me like I think I needed to be treated. He brought small verses together. He showcased patterns of Old Testament to New Testament connections. My deepest, now analytical study has been about the last two and a half years.

Of the five, it was two years or so kind of this wavering and then slowly digging in deeper. And then it was looking at Lee Strobel. I liked his journalist, his anger, his atheism, his approach. I love J. Warner Wallace. I love detective stories. I find cold case homicides to be very cool, and how do you break that out? The validity for me—and I get it's different for other people—but to see proof laid out, When Doug sends me something, I'm going to listen to it. And then when I listen, I listen from the standpoint I'm not an atheist anymore. But what Doug has taught me the most that has made me more, I believe, more of faith is I listen with the atheist viewpoint, I listen with the filled with faith, and I listen to the on the edge.

And then I'm sitting there in what he has me doing inside the Bible, and I think Missler is known for saying, “Making the Bible my hobby,” I found it analytically, strategically, objectively, and at the same time, to grow my faith to know that, “Right now I'm connecting. Right now I'm not connecting. I can pray this way. I can pray from knees. I can continue to look at these things. It’s okay to doubt.” For me and who I am, to walk in this path with someone like Doug is so much more real and vetting and proven than these people just saying, “Oh, you’ve just got to believe.”

Right.

Sorry, that was kind of a rant.

No, no! That’s an important rant, to be honest. I mean, especially for people like you who are analytical thinkers, who need to know that what they believe is worth believing, that there is good reason for belief. And that's really fantastic and especially that you have someone in your life who is challenging you in a very substantive way towards growth. Of your mind, as well as your faith. So, since you’ve become a believer, it sounds like your passion and pursuits have been changed a little bit and perhaps your life and your perspective. You are a messaging guy. You talk about having presumptions of knowing what the atheist thinks, someone on the edge, and your current perspective as a Christian. You’re able to see things, I think, in a holistic way, really looking from different perspectives. And I just wonder how your perspectives have changed from moving from atheism to calling yourself a follower of Christ. How have your perspectives and your life changed since then? I presume that seeing those hypocritical Christians earlier in your experience probably makes you want to live a more authentic…. Authenticity and truth are big values to you. So I would imagine that you would move into a life or a lifestyle, perspective of living, that is authentic and true and that you want to represent Christ in a way that is unlike maybe some of the bad examples you had before. But anyway, talk to us about your life since you've found Christ.

It's been a long process, and I judged it when I saw other people saying, “Oh, I'm saved.” Like, “Well, why aren't you better?” And I didn't admit or openly wear a cross or leave my Bibles out or have multiple Bibles to be able to look at things. I would never… I mean, it was a couple years before I shared on social media. I think one of my first shares—and it dropped a whole bunch of people when I made a share—I think it was earlier in the spring, where I said, to celebrate certain Jewish holidays, “I consider myself a Christian or a Messianic Jew or both,” but I said, “I'm learning more from Christianity, and I'm challenging myself to look at all those sides.” I was the hypocrite before, that I saw what I saw in one person or in a small group of people, so that inside of that group study that I concluded all of this evidence from all of these other areas null and void.

I think that that's the problem with Christianity right now, and I think that part of that problem lies within us Christians. We have a heart to save, to share the gospel, yet much of our hearts, or many of us, are sharing from a standpoint that doesn’t consider the perceptions, the negative connotations, the assumptions, and presuppositions of others. And when we do, when we take a step back to breathe, and perhaps consider the one over the ninety-nine, we might bring in ninety-nine of those ones. I’ve found that what has kept me away from faith is the exact thing that I want to try to disarm with people that say, “Wait. You’re a Christian now?” I want to walk away and say, “Okay, maybe….” I forget who the guy was. I think it was Greg Koukl who mentioned something about, “I want to put a stone in your shoe.”

Yes.

“I don't want to save you, but if I could put a stone in your shoe, to say, ‘Okay, you've experienced all sorts of bad people. Great!’” But isn't it amazing that a story, beyond everything before, but of a man, just shy of, what are we? Nineteen hundred ninety years ago. That a story like that could still maintain, that so many of the countering arguments, the opposite side, the objections can be disproven, and brought out that, of all the stories, of all the fiction, have this limited amount of shelf life. Or to take Warner Wallace, the chain of evidence going backwards. And yet all of this is here. So if it's an analytical person like me, let's do analysis and I continue to have questions.

I believe, when we approach people where they are and don't try to fix them, don't try to necessarily invite them to church—and these churches, which include some of the ones I've been to here in Florida—“Oh, you came the first time. You’re family. Get baptized next weekend.” Cut! Stop! Pause! Take it down a notch. As opposed to the next-step programs that every one of these template churches have been putting out, why can't we have a next-step coffee. Why can't we take it just a little bit slower to take that great Koukl approach? Why can't we leave someone alone? Just like with my friend that’s up in Massachusetts. I brought out some stuff. I said, “Hey, you might want to have a look at this. I'm not going to invite you to church. I'm not going to have you read a Bible. I just want you to look at that and notice it's a little bit different, that some of this stuff might not be conspiracy. And some of this stuff might not be fiction.” And if we guide with the love that we're supposed to, and if we tell the story with the understanding of the context of now.

And in that learning, it brought me to faith, and I think that, in that learning of other people, not trying to save them, but potentially support them with a small seed. That's where it grows.

I think you're right in that sometimes we try to move too quickly. And again, to quote Greg Koukl, sometimes we’re meant to be gardeners, planting seeds. Not everyone is a harvester. And not everyone needs to be harvested in their first… when they just need a seed planted. Thank you for that wonderful wisdom. What about those who might be listening to you, Loren, who… they may have those moments of thinking, “Maybe there's something more. Maybe there is someone. Maybe there is a God, an unknown God.” And they do have those points of openness. How would you recommend that they take a step forward in their journey of faith? I would imagine some of that would be saying, “Ignore all the hypocrisy that you see around you.” I'm just guessing. But what would you say to someone you actually earnestly has the questions? They wonder.

Well, I don't know if this is the right thing to say or not. It’s what I feel. But if you're having a question or a thought, it might not be time yet to go to church. It might not time yet to open up a Bible. If you're planting a seed to learn about these things, what about a Lee Strobel Case for Christ book, and at the same time when you buy that, buy one of the books that is something a little bit more comfortable, something atheist. See the yin and the yang, for lack of a better word. I've shared to friends that are open to hearing, but a little bit more on the edge, Frank Turek and Norman Geisler’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

It can be… and again, I prefer to recommend go to the audios. Maybe it's in that time that you're in the car. Maybe it's in that time you're in the gym or you're out for a walk, and you just have a listen, and yeah, okay, those audio books are long. Listen to thirty minutes. See if it makes you want to listen to thirty minutes more. For anything that we look at, to look at the counter element of it, you never know where it could go. And it's not just necessarily walking into a church, or if a church is for you or a Bible is for you, you don't have to start at the very beginning. I had a lot of friends say—and I would have done this myself—starting in John or even searching things online and realize where they show up.

“The writing's on the wall.” I remember laughing when I went through Daniel. I’m like, “Oh! They grabbed that from there.” I was joking with a friend. I’m like, “Okay, pawn shops came from Leviticus. If you can't afford this, you bring this here. They offer 20%, or you can buy it back, or you can sell it to somebody else.” The funny elements of whether you believe in God, as what I believe, as what many others believe, as what Jana believes, to just beginning to see these little elements. They can spark something, or they can grow a little green, or spark a little bit more of a firing, and surprise you at all the nuances.

If you approach it from a researching, learning, and understanding, I believe, belief will follow. If you are just picking up or going to a church and expecting the end result to be belief, it may be a much harder journey.

Yes. I mean, I think that it would be for most of us, who, if we’re being asked to believe something we don’t feel has credibility or substance behind it, why would we do that, right? So all you’re asking is to actually research and see, come and see. Come and see. And I also like that you are encouraging people to really look at all these. I mean, because if it is true, if the Christian worldview is true, if God exists, then it doesn't hurt to look at other worldviews, because truth will be found where it is, and sometimes it actually helps to compare. Because I think a lot of people will put down belief in God or Christianity and really not even research their own side. They know what they’re against, but they're not really sure what they're for. And then when you actually start looking at both sides from a strategic or intellectual perspective, and you go, “Okay. Well, maybe Christianity does have substance behind it, but I didn't realize that it's there, and it makes sense of reality and makes sense of what I see in the world or whatnot.”

So I appreciate that, just taking a step where you feel comfortable. That's pretty wonderful. Loren, is there anything else that we might have missed, whether it’s your story or advice that you would want to capture here.

I believe… in the end, I think I was the last person to ever open up enough to see faith and see it as viable, and yet that's been my life, look at this, analyze this, support this, figure this out, and dropping that presupposition for a moment, considering something you might never have thought, looking a little bit deeper beyond the hearsay or the claim.

There are many things that have been presented as objective facts that are purely subjective opinions. And it's fine for us to feel, to think. But if we're going to state a fact, shouldn't we know all sides before we do that? And if someone else is stating a fact in the day where we are, doesn't that deserve—especially if our God, this God, is true—for us to look at all sides and explore it for ourselves, to find out for ourselves, as opposed to accepting and subscribing to the headlines other people want us to read?

Yeah. That’s definitely a challenge, I think, that a lot of us have, in terms of a lot of people presume a lot of things based on headlines and bullet points and desires, things that their friends believe, whatever, without doing actually due diligence to look for themselves. So I appreciate that, because if you seek after truth, true truth, you will find it, right? Truth in the person of Christ.

Wow! You’ve given us such a beautiful story, Loren. So much there. So much we could talk about, but your story arc is really, really beautiful. Again, I love not only the transformation, and the passion is very evident in your voice, but your desire for other people to know the Christ Whom you’ve found, the Christ Who is truth. And obviously He’s made a big difference in your life and the way that you see reality. But I also love the fact that you just haven’t decided, “That’s it,” and shut down. You continue to study. You continue to grow. You continue to test. You know, we’re called to test and see what is good and true and to hold on to that. And that's what you're continuing to do, as an analytical thinker, as a man who wants to know what is real, and to live like that, in truth and authenticity, and your message coming across is very authentic. And we need more Christians like you, Loren. So thank you so much for coming on to tell your story today.

Thank you for having me. I enjoyed talking about it.

Thanks for tuning in to Side B Stories to hear Loren Weisman's story. You can find out more about his work and his books and his recommended resources in the episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email at [email protected]. Also, if you're a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former guest with your questions, please contact us, again through our email.

This podcast is produced through the C.S. Lewis Institute through the wonderful help of our producer Ashley Decker and audio engineer Mark Rosera. You can also see these podcasts in video form on our YouTube channel through the excellent work of our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow, rate, review, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we’ll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

 


COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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