A long time ago, I wrote a post called “A Cult of “Before” Stories” in which I described what it was like as a young Christian to realize that my then-husband had constructed a testimony full of lies–and how I realized that pretty much all of the really dramatic testimonies I heard from other Christians were largely untrue as well. On the heels of realizing that these stories were untrue, I also began to perceive the unbelievably rich rewards Christians get for concocting and sharing these dramatic testimonies. I began to see my tribe as one that was simply obsessed with these “before” stories–thus, my name for the mindset.
That happened back in the late-1980s and early-1990s, but nothing’s changed at all since then. Today we’ll be initiating a new member of the Cult, and talking about what he did to end up in such a venerable group.
Let’s start with a little bit of background about testimonies.
A “testimony” is a Christianese word that describes a Christian’s personal conversion story. It’s a narrative about (1) the Christian’s life pre-conversion, (2) the dramatic event that sparked the conversion, and (3) how happy and fulfilled the Christian is now. These anecdotes are crafted to be persuasive to outsiders and to bolster the faith of those already in the pews, and you can well imagine that the sorts of Christians who get hung up on creating a good testimony tend to get really indignant when someone questions or refuses to believe it. A testimony can be very short to book-length.