Far from Home


I was an atheist, and insufferably superior about it. I considered myself more rational, more evolved than my naïve religious friends. But there was one thing I couldn’t explain: The Wallaces. The Wallaces were the unofficial den parents of our high school theatre group, and their home, in contrast to those of my other friends, exuded peace. On the way to a post-show party, I told a friend, “I don’t get it. The Wallace’s lives are based on a delusion [they were committed Christ-followers], and yet they’re the most together people I know. How can a fake foundation support such a strong house?”

It can’t.

Eight years later, I began rebuilding my life on that same foundation. But before I got there I test drove another worldview, incorporating the ideas of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I was particularly enamored with his theory that natural humans (“noble savages”) live an idyllic existence until corrupted by modern “civilization.”

Unlike Rousseau, however, I took a class in Anthropology.

The first two field studies I read supported my worldview. The next three blew it to nanobits. The one that ultimately liquidated my romantic view was a study of the Yanomamo, a tribe of “unspoiled” Amazonians whose key values were lying, thievery, and physical abuse—the more stolen goods a man owned and the more battered his wives and children were, the more he was admired. Life among the Yanomamo was, for all but a few violent sociopaths, a living hell.

The values that people live by matter. If they’re true, they flourish, if they’re false, it’s Yanomamo time. Charles Nordhoff, an agnostic 19th century journalist, visited communal societies all over America. His conclusion? Cultures built around faith and selflessness were peaceful, happy, and flourishing. Those build around “progressive” ideas like atheism, pantheism, and open marriage were unequivocal disasters.

My generation has a lot to answer for. We were the ones who coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Our legacy? When asked in a poll during the early 90’s what worried them most, the next generation answered, “Values,” explaining that my generation had failed to show them what truths to base their lives on, or if there even were any truths.

My wife and I wrote a comedy sketch during the 90’s in which a group of young adults plan an office party. They decide to end the party with a contest to see who can commit the best suicide. It was dark humor. We never expected it to come true.

It has.

The Blue Whale Challenge, which began in Russia, was named for blue whales who lose their sense of direction and commit suicide by beaching themselves on stretches of sand far from home. Its founder, Philipp Budeikin, a failed psychology student, claims to have created the Challenge as a way to “cleanse” society of “biological waste.”

God feels differently: “When Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If only you had known this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42)

There has never been a time more like that of Jesus than ours.

Despair is epidemic. Suicide rates have doubled, and among children and young teens, tripled. Trust in traditional values, civil behavior, and faith are all spiraling downward (of the top ten suicide countries, nine also have the highest percentage of atheists). Sociologists blame the internet. But that’s shooting the messenger.

It’s the message that matters. And the heart of the one receiving it.

Truth isn’t window dressing. It’s a foundation. Without it, the building collapses. The Wallaces built their house on a Rock, and by their example taught me to do so as well.

Please, if you love those who are perishing…

Do the same.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Far from Home

  1. Great post, Mitch. The best apologetic for our faith is the quality of our lives. Thanks for sharing some of your story, and thank for the challenge for us to “go and do likewise”! Time for you to start working on a book teaching evangelism and apologetics.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Beautiful and well said, Mitch. I too had some happy Christians to catch a glimpse of, my life savers so to speak,who opened my eyes to what was possible, to the tangible existence of a Kingdom, perhaps. How we live matters, there are eyes watching us that we may not even be aware of,and for some we are real life savers.

    You’ve also managed to make me feel grateful for having grown up in dark places, because I learned us savages are not so noble. So I’m thankful I didn’t have to sit through anthropology and philosophy class to figure that one out. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Inspirations By Katheryn and commented:
    Atheism yesterday and today.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seems to me, never trust anyone over 30 was a set-up. So that once we reached that age, we would be in a perpetual state of doubting ourselves. After all, it became a memed belief till we crossed that threshold, nearly too lste to go back and question.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. The younger generation wants to figure out things on their own. The suicide rate among the young people makes me sad. My brother-in-law who is in Hong Kong, is a Pastor/Headquarter staff. He said, running a regular church can’t compete with the secular excitement. They run a lot of youth activity centers to bring young people in and go from there!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Mitch. I have a very dear atheist friend who gets on his “there is no God, Jesus is your imaginary friend” high horse occasionally. I simply remind him that were it not for God and Jesus, I would not have the patience to be his friend. The conversation moves on to politics and the price of bananas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I might make a suggestion, you might point your friend to the works of Dr. Hugh Ross, Ph.D. He is an astrophysicist and cosmologist who makes a scientific case for the existence of God, that the God of the Bible is the true God and that it was physics that brought him to faith in Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        I have an atheist friend who cites quantum theory as proof that there is no God, which is interesting because, due to the mindboggling cosmological implications of quantum mechanics, a very high percentage of astrophysicists believe in God. When you start wrestling with the idea that the universe’s essential particles are demonstrably more code than they are actual “things,” you begin to realize that there is not only a Mind behind everything, but that that Mind is the ultimate Reality.

        Liked by 4 people

      • One of the things that Dr. Ross mentioned is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Athesists in the field of astrophysics and cosmology to continue to deny the existence of God. Sadly, he also points out that most of them are choosing the deistic approach, rather than the the theistic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Deism is for some the first step toward an earnest personal theism. It was for C.S. Lewis. And it was for me.


      • A point. However, it seems to me like deism is more for those who want to believe in God, but don’t want the personal responsibility.

        No offense, but even when I had walked away from the church for 20 years, God and Jesus were still a reality to me.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. revruss1220 says:

    Powerful. Thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is very true, and well written. For my part, I neglected this when my oldest kids were little, regrettably.

    In an effort to make it up to them, as well as to avoid making the same mistake with my younger children, I’m in the process of writing a book on this subject. I’m presently three chapters in, with a bit to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. atimetoshare.me says:

    Thank you for this powerful message. Values in our country have waned, church attendance falters, people are searching for something better. That something has always been right in front of our noses. We do t seem to. E able to see beyond the

    Liked by 1 person

  10. atimetoshare.me says:

    Ends of our noses. Sorry my fat thumbs got in the way❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Max Tari says:

    I’ve throughly enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ekurie says:

    My 37-year-old son has totally lost his way. Probably my fault. I won’t tell him about the blue whales.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jamesrneal says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I firmly believe the best evangelism is to live the love and joy of Christ – to live the Gospel by example. It’s a work in progress for me. Unfortunately, the image of the church in Christ’s name today all too often bears a stigma of shame and fear, which drives people from truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Spectacularly stated and a thoroughly needed message right now…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. How amazing is it that those cultures exist! My thinking has always been, if I believe in God and I am right, the payoff will be amazing. If I believe in God and I am wrong, I will have lived a good life and felt at peace. If I don’t believe in God, and I am wrong, I am risking eternal suffering! I would much rather go with the first option, eternity is a very long time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That’s quite a jump from the noble savage to full Chagnon. I’d worry less about false values than false alternatives.


  17. Wendy says:

    I’m not ‘religious’ in that I don’t go to church. However, I do believe strongly that there is a spirituality that we can’t always explain. I try to live life closely to the values of the 10 commandments and completely agree with you that we really need to try and focus on love, kindness etc. Hopefully, we are in a transition period.. and we’ll come through the other side if we continue to spread love in our small piece of the World in which we reside. Thanks for this really thought provoking post! x

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Another insightful post, sir. Truly great. One little niggling correction. The 19th century Charles Nordhoff was grandfather to the 20th century Charles Nordhoff who co-authored Mutiny on the Bounty in 1932.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Somnath says:

    Amazing photos!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. When I go to atheist websites, so many of them are angry and arrogant. I know there are quiet ones, but the quiet ones don’t usually brag on their atheism. Are the loud ones truly angry? At what? Rules? What?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. notabilia says:

    More atheist societies, as atheist sociologist Phil Zukerman explained to you thoroughly confused types, do score higher on suicide rates, but also much higher on basic human values, such as care for others, general happiness, community bonds, and, yes, that “intelligence” that you left behind in your retreat to generational angst.


    • mitchteemley says:

      The idea that I somehow learned to value and care for other humans less, became less happy, and lost my sense of community by following the teachings of Jesus is quite antithetical to what I have experienced, Notabilia. But then, having abandoned my “intelligence” (quotes yours), I suppose I simply don’t understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • notabilia says:

        You certainly have a right to your anecdotal experience, but one curious, fairly unusual case of rejecting rationality for the bizarre tenets of Christianity does not undo the overall top rankings of Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, England, Germany, and other atheist bastions.
        If you “value” other humans as you so piously claim to, why not leave atheists completely alone?


      • mitchteemley says:

        Dear friend, since you use accusative labels rather than persuasive argumentation (“you thoroughly confused types,” “intelligence…left behind,” “rejecting rationality,” “as you so piously claim”), I must assume I have offended you. I’m sorry for that; I know and respect many atheists. Regarding my post: ALL lives are “anecdotal” in the sense that all lives are experienced by just one person. That does not, in any system of logic, disqualify individual experiences as irrelevant, especially when those experiences are coupled with reasoning and data. You may disagree with my use of such elements (observations of high school families, analysis of anthropological studies, conclusions of a well-respected journalist regarding communal societies, statistics regarding increases in suicide and religious beliefs of countries where suicide is highest–former soviet bloc nations, not Sweden, Norway, England, Germany, etc.), but please don’t imply that these elements are not used. I promise to address you with respect, and would very much appreciate the same consideration. I also promise not to attack atheists (I never do), but cannot promise to “leave athe(ism) completely alone,” just as I suspect you do not intend to leave the “bizarre” teachings of Jesus alone. Peace.


  22. gerrymackrell says:

    The ultimate suicide is death without God to give the ultimate reason for living.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: Don’t Love Yourself! | Mitch Teemley

  24. E says:

    Wow. And yes. I’ve responded to too many this past year…when we run out of answers it seems we all run to God, whoever we believe it, that or him to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. “Truth isn’t window dressing. It’s a foundation. Without it, the building collapses.” We have had many young people come through our home and we planted seeds. For a few it was life changing…but for a long time I grieved over those who stayed awhile and only looked at the ‘Truth’ as a window dressing…and then watched their lives crumble. I am happy to say, some of them are turning once again to God…God bless

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Darlene Mase says:

    Mitch, this is wonderfully written! “The Blue Whale Challenge?!” I’d never heard of it, but that is horrific!! Thanks for sharing. Keep spreading the Good News of Jesus

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I absolutely agree..the children must be taught to never lose their faith..both on God and themselves..
    Btw, I heard the Russian administrator of the gane has been arrested

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Beautiful post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a ‘millennial’ myself, I struggle with the majority that have have these same views and struggles. I would also say I am a lucky few that has bee blessed with great parents that taught me that the best classroom is at the foot of an elder. Thanks for sharing your post and encouraging others to get up and go out and do the work that Christ has called us to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Happy I discovered your blog, and really enjoyed this one. As a Baby Boomer myself, I agree that we have a lot to answer for (as does every generation, I suppose). I see so much more hope and Christ-likeness in Millennials than my own generation these days.


  30. Pingback: My Top Blog Posts of 2017 | Mitch Teemley

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