A Non-denominational Third F Advocate

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I found myself with F3 men I’ve come to know, respect and love. One, whom I know to be a good man, professed how too many Christians forget love and acceptance as a religious basis. Five minutes later, he said he might take a bat to the next car he saw with an Obama sticker.

Used to be this sort of self-contradiction, kidding or not, pushed me further away from continued dialog… yet this was different.

In this safe place in F3, no one admonished him — the small PAX group simply laughed, stated this seemed a bit extreme, and all learned from the exchange. Men of differing thought acted rationally and with respect. (And no one was really going to take a bat to anything, anyway.)

The moment reinforced a feeling I’ve internalized yet have not fully stated, specifically that F3 men openly discuss matters of opinion or faith without fear of judgment. Perhaps it’s the first two Fs that built and build to this place, but humbly I’ve been asking myself how this realization could happen for me?

How did I, a man of undefined religion, become deeply engaged with a group that speaks openly of spirituality and the concerns we have in our lives?

So, What Are You Exactly?

Let’s get the easy part out of the way. I am asked from time to time what my religion is, and I mostly defer. But the answer is simple — I don’t have one, at least so much in the sense of “a particular system of faith and worship.” Because of this, technically I’m non-denominational or “open or acceptable to people of any denomination.”

Now, I want to be clear that being without religion doesn’t mean you’re without belief in God or faith. Hardly.

Faith is an extremely personal journey. I can not know what you need or what happens inside your head, and you can not know mine. I have my own set of demons and desires to be better, and it’s most likely they are different than yours. I disagree one set of “rules” (religion, e.g.) to follow could fit all people, yet I want to be clear — I don’t believe I’m “right,” I just don’t know. I only feed my ego if I tell you how to live, and for my journey, this point matters.

This almost always leads to the next questions — have you ever had religion? Your name is Jewish, right? [Footnote]

To the first, yes. To the second, well, sort of.

In the Jewish faith, you’re the religion of your mother. I grew up the son of a maternal Methodist and paternal Jew, and a divorce made this more complicated.

My mother was raised in a small town where everyone went to church on Wednesdays, sometimes Saturdays, and always Sundays. At my Dad’s, it was off to temple Saturdays and sometimes Friday nights. So between parents and very religious grandparents trying to “stake their claim,” I could spend much of my week in some place of worship depending on which adult had custody when. (I also went to Catholic school one year and went straight from there to a Jewish summer camp. Chew on that for a minute!)

Yet no matter where I was, I felt contradictions and lack of accepting my other parent’s world(s). I was uncomfortable.

It’s because of this mixed background, I purposely and openly accept all people of any religion. I believe the religious have started their journey of faith in a way that makes them comfortable, and open my mind that this generation can be the one that drops its disdain for opposite thought. In this way, I believe the idea of trying to live a perfect life is both self-defeating and unnecessary — all that is necessary is trying to improve.

Back to F3

In 2011 when Tango Delta gave me the EH, I was certain I would ignore workouts with a religious undertone given my experiences. In all honesty, I’d lost some of my self-study spirituality since arriving in Charlotte. In hindsight, I probably didn’t want to be reminded.

Yet many of the Lizard King’s ideas resonated; leadership, fitness, camaraderie, a men’s group, and — yes, ok — there was some some sort of faith involved, too. I agreed to one workout… the next day’s Six Shooter. I would run, see if it felt “safe,” and maybe out-run the guys and say “thanks for the invite.”

Turns out the early PAX saw right through my pauses, including guys like BlackBird, Señor Chips, Dredd, OBT, and CRocket, who to this day remind me about those early wonderings. In any case, something subtle yet very obvious to me happened that day now that I can look back.

No one asked me to come to their church or even asked where I went (a first for me in Charlotte). No one said I should believe this or that. The undertone was only of higher purpose as husbands and fathers and community members, not of preaching a specific doctrine. So I came back the next week, and the next. And I realized soon thereafter I needed this kind of third F more.

And that’s this post’s message.

I have found a group — not a church or a temple — that supports me more so in my personal journey than either of those two buildings ever did. And it’s not overtly pushy nor is it unavailable if you want it. It is not religious, but it has many who base faith thoughts on religion.

My belief is that this group understands faith and religion are not the same… F3 not only has room for both, but we must foster difference and non-judgmental awareness if we truly are to be leaders.

So if the third F is your personal third rail and has prevented you from fully engaging, touch it. It’s bigger than you and me, yet the shock is less than you might expect.

— AP

[Footnote] — this is not to say I can’t take some good-natured ribbing on my beliefs, which I get are different. Heck, even my F3 nickname is based on a fictional Jewish character in a terrible movie. So there.

29 Replies to “A Non-denominational Third F Advocate”

  1. Aye, thoughtful and articulate post. To me, I hear you describing the 3rd “F” as “Christ like” aka Christian. While He was able to quickly discern the difference between faith and religion and abruptly remind us all, it is a perpetual struggle for all of us mere men. You have internalized and now shared this discovery and I appreciate your words.

    1. There is truth there. Even faith descriptions have bias. I only hope to open the conversation that not all of us are alike yet the group can serve all. Really appreciate the comment, Ballistic.

  2. Great post AP! Thanks for opening up and sharing that too.
    I have a few friends I’ve tried EHing that are cautious about F# because of the third F. This put into words what I have failed to.

  3. A+, AP. This one is particularly great for the DC crowd, and I’ll be passing this along to BR and others. . . I’ve definitely gotten some raised eyebrows just because “faith” is in the name. It’s not that these guys don’t believe — they do — but they have hangups about how they talk about it because no one up there talks about it.

    I really appreciate you getting your thoughts out there. It’s easy to post a bunch of backblasts with amusing quips but it takes real courage to get out there and talk about life. I’m bookmarking this one.

    1. That exact hang up was the reason I felt like I should say something Belk. Your kind words are appreciated… it does feel like I am a little out there 🙂

  4. Sleuth/American Pie – great post – many of us struggle with organized religion

    Whenever I describe the 3rd F to someone, I say Faith is really a belief that our world is bigger than just ourselves – that can be translated into being a good husband, father, citizen, coach, etc.

    Positioned that way, even the most hardened DC-beltway or NorthEastern guy can see that life is more than just getting what you can for yourself. And even if they dont at first, they may come around to seeing that you really do “get more” when you give of yourself to a bigger cause.

    Hit’s 2 cents

  5. Great post AP! Whenever I lead the prayer at the end, I purposfully leave out Jesus and try to pray to a universal God so as not to offend anyone. I’m not sure if this makes me a weenie for not stepping out there in my faith and have often wrestled with this decision. I think what I’m trying to convey is what you have much more deliberately and eloquently spelled out here. That “higer purpose of husbands, fathers, and community leaders.” That our faith is bigger than you and me. I can only hope your post helps me express this idea more clearly to others as I grow through F3 in my own faith. Thanks.

  6. AP great post. Thanks for sharing it with us. It takes courage to put yourself out there and I for one appreciate that you have done so.

  7. AP, Love the post! A discussion that I have wondered how to begin but not knowing how to put it into words have not tried. I have often EH’ed men at work and being a physician have to be careful of not bringing religious belief’s into the discussion. I often point out Dredd’s comments sometime back that F3 in a middle eastern country may end the COT a little differently.

    I think one of the problems is that we blurr the line between faith and religion. Often faith is tied to religion but is not dependent on it. We can all help to encourage everyone to have stronger faith regarless of one’s personal background or belief’s. F3 has strenghtened my faith in general and in my religion, yet it is hard to separate when trying to talk to someone about it. I shy away from those discussions because of this. I looked up the definition below and with your words I hope I can better discuss faith, encourage faith, and embrace the faith of others with different beliefs without anyone feeling uncomfortable.

    Definition of FAITH
    1a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
    2a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
    3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

  8. I have EH’d several guys without even mentioning the third F. To me the beauty of F3 is guys can come for any or all of the F’s. To me it is just so awesome to spend time with a group of guys that that encourage and celebrate growth. It can be spiritual, physical or both. AP i hope you share with us again.

  9. Great post and great comments down the line from the pax. I’ll take me some of that there fidelis. If it’s good enough for the United States Marine Corps it’s good enough for me.

    1. ZB, you almost made this post with the phone call example of anti-Semitism at 2 am at the Pika house. Wonder if you remember that. I dropped it from final draft.

  10. Don’t remember it at all. PLEASE tell me I didn’t have anything to do with it? I’ve done some strange things at 2am at the Pika house, but that would take the cake.

    1. No, you had nothing to do with it but you were there. We were room dogs, second floor. Call came in to our phone from a Gimghoul party and I was called some pretty anti-Semitic names. In my immaturity, I told them to meet me outside. You watched from window in case I needed backup, but they never came. I never forgot it. So you had everything to do with it but in the right way.

  11. Sleuth, my friend, you continue to inspire and impress me with your thoughtfulness, your maturity, your open-mindedness and your intensely quirky (in a good way) view on big picture stuff. Just as you did when I was a lowly pledge at the Pika house all those years ago, you still serve as a model of good character in thought, word, and deed. Most of the time anyway. I think we were all probably guilty of the occasional poor decision at the Pika house…

    In all seriousness, thanks for putting into words something profound that I have personally experienced. I too continue to struggle with aspects of Religion while continuing to develop my Spirituality and my Faith in very personally rewarding and increasingly shared ways, in large part thanks to F3 and the fellowship I have discovered here.

    1. Thank you, Billy. Man, that means a lot from an old friend (and from all my newer ones, too)… very humbled by the comments here.

  12. AP,
    I appreciate your candor and openness regarding your faith journey. I hope you will understand my purpose and candor around this topic. Penn Jillete, of Penn & Teller, who is an atheist stated, “If you believe people could be going to hell…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” The crippling aspect of Christianity today is “Christians.” Jesus, the one perfect example of the faith was all embracing and never exclusive. He preached that we should be a united group with one exception, that each individual profess that He is our Lord and Savior. My personal thoughts are that we should be open to all people, but my faith tells me to never deny Christ. In Acts, Paul and John stand in the presence of the Sanhedrin defending that they were teaching the people proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. Peter states, “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed.” “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” These were unschooled, ordinary and imperfect men chosen to spread the gospel. Despite opposition these men stood for their beliefs. They were not ashamed and confidently professed their love for Jesus. I feel faith begins with the sincerity of intentions. As a brother, if I care for you, then I should go out of my way to make sure you are provided for. I see that in the first two F’s. Why not the third? We must stand for “truth!” If you truly believe what is stated in the Bible or any of your personal conviction shouldn’t we profess it in a respectable manner? If we are searching for clear answers of faith, then we need to look towards Jesus and not towards Christians of today. I make these points not in condemnation but in love and hope for your walk. I pray for you and your journey to finding these answers.

  13. Thanks for the post AP. I look forward to meeting you at a workout sometime. I once asked a longtime but now retired senior pastor at a Presbyterian Church in Charlotte how he reconciles the biblical teaching that there is only one way (through Christ) with other world religions. His answer resonated with me. He said that he believes that Jesus Christ is THE revelation of God in human form, sent by God to save Mankind. And because of that, this pastor made it his life’s work to tell others about this great news, with no apologies for his beliefs and his faith.

    However, he acknowledged that, as a mere human, he was in NO position to make a proclamation that God has NEVER revealed Himself to others in small or large ways, i.e. it would be presumptuous to state unequivocally that all other faiths and world religions are a sham. He was making the point that it is OK to believe strongly that Christ is God releaved in human form and to live your life proclaiming that unabashedly. But it is also OK to acknowledge that God works in ways beyond our human understanding and we are in no position to condemn those who see (and seek) God in ways different from us.

  14. AP-

    I still remember that first Sunday at the Six Shooter! It has been a real pleasure to become your friend. Men like you are what make F3 a special group.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I feel at 45 years of age I have so far to grow in my faith but I am eager.

  15. AP, Great post and as we all wander these faith roads I’m reminded of Tolkein’s great commentary on the journey, “Not all who wander are lost”.

    Here’s to wandering and not being lost. Thanks to F3nation for keeping this dialogue open.

    The joy is in the discovery not a doctrine boys….!

    Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.

    Chap…out

  16. I wanted to provide a thought and keep it very short to provide clarity.

    I’m an open minded Christian.I would really encourage the leadership of F3 to keep the definition of the third f very short and concise to avoid confusion to men that are not sure of their faith or belief in a higher being. My only concern would be that as F grows there will be growing pains. One of those growing pains will be men that turn there back on F3 because they feel exclude based on their affiliation of any religio

  17. I wanted to provide a thought and keep it very short to provide clarity.

    I’m an open minded Christian.I would really encourage the leadership of F3 to keep the definition of the third f very short and concise to avoid confusion to men that are not sure of their faith or belief in a higher being. My only concern would be that as F grows there will be growing pains. One of those growing pains will be men that turn there back on F3 because they feel excluded based on their affiliation of any religion. At this point of F3’s existence, that in my opnion is my only feedback as a potential issue. Other than that, F3 is running like a well oiled machine.

  18. While 3 years later, thank you for this post and the subsequent comments. Your thoughts and struggles are very much in line with mine and I am now in the same situation as you once were. Your words and others’ feedback has alleviated my worries. I realize I must put my ‘faith’ in others and they in turn will put their faith in me. Thank you. Bolt

Leave a Reply