Something entirely unexpected happened when a teenager decided to attend a Bible study and pretend to be a Christian in an effort to "dismantle" biblical arguments: he came to embrace the very faith he so fervently sought to deride.
Caleb Kaltenbach, who decades later is now the pastor of Discovery Church in Simi Valley, California, recalled being turned off to the Christian faith as a child after seeing the flagrant mistreatment of the gay community.
After all, the issue was incredibly personal, considering that both his mother and father had begun living gay lifestyles after divorcing when he was just two years old.
Kaltenbach — author of the forthcoming book "Messy Grace" — told The Church Boys podcast that his mom "came out very loud and proud" and she and her partner wanted him to "experience the LGBT community," so they began bringing him to parades and events at a young age.
At one of those events, he saw people identifying as Christians holding up signs that read, "God Hates You" and "Turn or Burn," recalling how these protesters sprayed water and urine on the gays and lesbians who were marching for their cause.
"I looked at my mom. I was in elementary school and I still remember these words. I said, 'Mom, why are they acting like this?'" Kaltenbach remembered. "And she said, 'Well Caleb, they're Christians. Christians don't like people who are different from them.'"
Listen to Kaltenbach share his experience as well as his attempt to "attack Christianity" at the 45:30 mark below:
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It was a message — and a perception of Christians — that stuck with him. So, when Kaltenbach was in high school he decided to attend a Bible study in an effort to prove to Christians that they had their ideology and theology all wrong.
"I grew up in high school hating Christians, and so I decided that I wanted to attack Christianity," he said. "Here [was] my plan, and it didn't work out too well. I got invited to this Bible study by a friend ... so I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to go pretend to be a Christian, I'm going to learn about the Bible and I'm going to dismantle their arguments because no one should follow somebody like Jesus who hates people."
Kaltenbach started attending the Bible study, but quickly learned that Jesus was actually loving and was nothing like the people on the street who were holding hateful signs and throwing urine; it was a lesson that forever changed his life.
"Jesus definitely has standards that he calls us to for holy living, but as far as the way that I had seen people in my mom's community treated, there was truth but no grace, love, compassion," he said. "So, I just saw Jesus in a different light. I gave my life to the Lord."
When Kaltenbach went home and announced that he had become a Christian, his parents initially grounded him, and when he explained that his views on sexuality had changed and that he "didn't believe that same-sex relationships were part of God's plan," he was briefly disowned.
But Kaltenbach stood by his convictions, spending a great deal of time processing biblical passages that address the subject of homosexuality.
"I hunkered down and really started to study passages ... both the Old and New testaments have a pattern of saying that God defines sexual intimacy between one man and one woman in marriage," he said. "I really tried to look at the exegesis and historical setting of these passages."
Kaltenbach, who does not believe the Bible condones same-sex relations, eventually became a pastor, and his parents independently started attending his church. Before long, they, too, had accepted Jesus. Today, he said that neither of them are in same-sex relationships.
Now, through "Messy Grace," which releases in October, he's trying to help Christians learn how to "hold true to what the Bible says about sexuality and be gracious at the same time." Find our more here.
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