“Finding God in the Waves” – Mike McHargue

By John I. Carney

mike-mchargue-photoMike McHargue grew up as a devout Christian, then became a secret atheist, then regained his faith – although the faith he gained is not exactly the one he lost.

McHargue, who now attends Good Samaritan UMC in Tallahassee, Florida, is a successful speaker and podcast host (sometimes billed as “Science Mike”) who has just published “Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science” (Convergent), a memoir of his faith journey.

McHargue was a faithful member of his Southern Baptist church — which was like a family to him. Even after losing his faith in God, he kept his doubts a secret and continued to play an active role in his church. By the time they found out, he had already started the process of moving back to faith.

It was kind of an isolating experience to lose my faith the way that I did,” said McHargue. “I realized that if I felt that way, that other people did too.”

finding-god-in-the-wavesMcHargue has shared his story in speaking engagements and on his podcasts, but worried that the story was incomplete and was led to write “Finding God In The Waves” as a way of expanding the story and bringing it up to date.

McHargue’s loss of faith was triggered by several factors. A family trauma caused him to read the Bible cover-to-cover, and he was disturbed by some Old Testament passages inconsistent with the loving God he thought he believed in. He also had a love of science, and was reached by arguments about the conflicts between faith in God and scientific belief in the observable and measurable.

His journey back began with a spiritual experience while walking on the beach, just after having attended a spiritual conference led by pastor turned author Rob Bell.

That did not mean, however, a return to all of the orthodox views he’d held when younger.

The Christianity I returned to is not the same as the one I grew up in,” said McHargue. He’s used the phrase “Christian turned atheist turned follower of Jesus” to describe his journey.

When I first came back to faith, I was uncomfortable calling myself a Christian. I couldn’t do it,” he said.

I do identify as a Christian today …. I also acknowledge the way that word ‘Christian’ has been used, or politicized, or sometimes become a tool of oppression or even abuse to people.”

McHargue began to use the tools of science to explore his newfound faith, and to find what, if any, justification he could find for it. In the book, he has a series of axioms in which he describes various religious concepts — God, prayer, sin, Jesus, the church — in language which incorporates the phrase “at least,” specifying the ways in which those concepts fit into the natural universe while leaving room for belief that they are more than that.

They also denote an incompletion,” he said. “I don’t understand and can’t articulate everything there is to know about God.”

The axioms are sprinkled through the second half of the book and also collected in a section at the end of the book.

These axioms have become like this very popular thing on the Internet,” said McHargue. “They were a way to combat my own skepticism about my belief in God.”

He noted that Jesus, rather than delivering complex theological teachings, gave his followers practical instructions and statements, like “Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He says his axioms were, for him, a practical way to start the conversation about his newly-regained faith.

He writes about ways in which prayer and belief in God can be beneficial from a neurological and psychological perspective, something Dawkins would be loath to admit. Some might find it dangerous to describe religious faith in utilitarian terms rather than in terms of truth or falsehood.

Some people would say that it minimizes the role of God in our lives,” said McHargue. “I would say that misses what I’m up to.”

McHargue says in the book, and in interviews, that his new UMC church home is a safe space that welcomes people at various stages in their spiritual journey.

It is not a hive of theological agreement,” said McHargue. “I love that you have an NRA supporter who sits right next to someone who wants to collect all the firearms in the country.”

McHargue said that as many in society define themselves in polarizing political or theological terms, it’s an atmosphere of openness and respect for others that McHargue said is critical for the survival of the church.

It’s … a Christ-like love for the crowd, like we see in the Book of Matthew, that can help reach people with the Gospel today,” said McHargue.

Finding God In The Waves” was released Sept. 13 by Convergent. McHargue can also be heard in the podcasts “Ask Science Mike” and “The Liturgists,” the latter of which he co-hosts with musician Michael Gungor. Learn more about Mike McHargue in his feature from the Florida Annual Conference.


john-carneyJohn I. Carney is a city editor of the Shelbyville, TN Times-Gazette and is a certified United Methodist lay speaker.

Special Contributor to UMR

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This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
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2 Comments on "“Finding God in the Waves” – Mike McHargue"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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james
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It is good that Mr. McHargue has found his way back and has found God in the waves. Just wondering if the Jesus he found is the One who was born, bled and died, buried, resurrected from the dead? Hmmmm……………………..

Richard F Hicks
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I’m a big time Creed Christian. But, we humans make too much of “what we believe.” I’m sure God is flattered but Big Love doesn’t need my appreciation. I’m not against thinking but a human can never know enough to make a rational buy decision on the God question. We fully expose ourselves by our chronic actions – how we live 24/7/365. God loves me because God is good not because I’m good. – and not because of what I think. Jesus said “Follow Me” not “Think about me and then compose your Credo.” No one ever finds their way… Read more »
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