Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Narrow Road by Christo Hoffmann

Matthew 7:13-14:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.“

I found atheism in sobriety, a place where for the first time in more than eighteen years I was able to look at life and what it involved for me, together with my expectations, desires and dreams with a clear mind.

Growing up in a very staunch Dutch reformed household with a father that is a Church elder to the day and Mother whom has also always been a very deep believer. I stood at a point in my life where I realized that nothing that I was taught as a child to be infallible truths necessarily had to be just that.

Being confronted in a program that promised a life of sobriety that told me in its first step that I had to accept that I was powerless over alcohol, also said to me that I have accepted a lot of things for a long time that was not necessarily true. The fact that I never wanted to accept that I was powerless and now was at a point where this acceptance was glaring was a clear and rational indication that not all acceptances are always necessarily true to the point of blind belief.

Standing at a point where I had to start investigating for myself for the first time ever what I would take as my personal truths and what I would discard became a necessity. My road to sobriety include a place where I had the opportunity to identify with people in tha same situation as me, a place where I could sit listen and learn from others whom have walked this difficult road. You see for an alcoholic, consumption is a two way not a one way. The drink consumes you as well, it takes over your life, your thoughts not necessarily that you think about the actual drink all the time, but in a sense where you plan your life around drinking. You find your comfort zone for drinking, certain places, certain times and certain situations. So when sobering up, you have to find ways and means to stay sober. For me it was these meetings on a weekly basis. Where I literally lived a day at a time for a week at a time until the next meeting. Here I could talk about emotions, and here I could mostly listen to how others have stayed sober. Here I could see first hand that I was not alone in this. A Fellowship formed so quickly that I still stand amazed to the day at how these things worked for me.

The down side when stopping in terms of the double carriage two way road that you walked with alcohol suddenly becomes a one way. And not in a good sense either. As much as alcohol consumed you while you consumed it now becomes a situation where you are consumed by the need for it. You always sub consciously planned your life around having it, now you have to consciously plan your life around not having it.

I entered a twelve step program after being sober for a few days only. I did not need to be convinced that I was powerless over alcohol. That was pretty much a given for me. But the confrontation with a second step that asked me to believe that a Power greater than me could restore me to sanity was a glaring problem for me. At that stage although I was pretty sure that I had issues with religion, I would still have called myself Christian. Although I had started asking questions and looked at certain issues regarding the faith I was raised in a bit more critically I had until then not really, truly investigated how I felt about it myself. The problem was that I could not knowingly commit to a step that would have to lead me on a lifetime of sobriety through abstinence if I knew that I would be doing so in direct conflict with feelings I was uncertain about.

So the lonesome walk along the path of questioning Christianity as a South African Dutch reformed man started, I discovered things over the next few months about a religion I was raised in. About a book I was told since I could remember, was holy. Things that shook my world apart, the utter inner confusion about a situation where you are confronted with the atrocities of what you supported in mere association brings to you a sense of reality regarding a religion that killed, that is killing, that leads people along a path of  suppressing who and what they are while giving them guilt to live with a religion where people “know” that they will live forever if they do not succumb to what is natural to their bodies and minds.

I learnt that I could be a moral person living responsibly in society and that I could make a difference in the lives of others without having to say Amen, Bless you or I will pray for you. I suddenly realized how utterly laughable it was to stand in front of a perfectly healthy plate of food while it is getting cold because I have to wait for someone to join in the prayers that would ask for food to be blessed. I found out that the food tasted the same and that “un blessed” food would really not cause you to do strange things.

Then came my narrow road.

I live a society that is mostly Christian. The last study I can find dates back to 2007 which shows the following.

Christianity 73.52%
Non Religious 8.08%
Other (Budhism/Chinese) 0.03%
Islam 1.45%
Hinduism 1.25%
African Traditional 15%
Judaism 0.17%

This is purely for interest sake and to show that the broad road in terms of belief and religion in South Africa is not the one of the perceived Christian point view. Most South Africans are indeed religious. And most South Africans are indeed Christian. I did not go further to include the denominational Christian breakdown although I am pretty sure that a bit of research into this will reveal the Dutch reformed to be the biggest. In other words: For me growing up and now leaving behind me. Was the broader accepted religion in society in South Africa.
I got to a cross road where I knew that I was an atheist. The irony of realizing that in order to be true to myself I could not live in a closet about it was striking when seen in context with the Dutch reformed Church being the broad more traveled road as quoted in my situation. Atheism is definitely not the easy road in South African society, often viewed with hostility and even a sense of serious pity as well as the unspoken condemnation that invariably accompany all of this.

I entered from this cross road the narrow path, the one of atheism in my own situation. My own set of circumstance that dictated that I had to follow an even narrower road to achieve sobriety.

In short: I entered through the narrow gate. For wide was my gate to drunken oblivion inside Christianity that led to destruction through which many of my fellows enter daily. But small was my gate to sobriety and narrow my road that led to life. And still only a few find it. 


  1. Brilliantly written, Christo. I completely agree with the choosing the narrow road bit. I find it very ironic that Christians, although the majority, still regard themselves as living according to a Bible verse that became irrelevant and even directly opposed to the reality years ago.

  2. Thanks Louf, was a mutual inspiration, and totally agree. ;-)