Brandon’s Update on Faith

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Just the other night we had our first public screening of “Who Am I To Stop It.” Working part-time, it took two years to film. Working part-time and waiting for funding to come in, it was another year or so before it was edited. Joining New Day Films took nine months. Jump to the screening January 31st, 2017 for a roomful of people who’ve never met Brandon, Dani, and Kris, and it’s exciting. But? They’re meeting Brandon, Dani, and Kris in their 2012-2014 lives. While the issues and topics in the film are just as real and relevant now, that doesn’t mean the people in the film have the same lives.

I hope to visit with Dani and Kris and capture some updates. I got an update from Brandon yesterday, not at all my intention. In fact, I stopped by his place to hear about his idea of starting an improv acting group. And then this happened. An update.Brandon Scarth smiles. A portrait of his family is on the wall behind him. He wears a colorful cap and a green t-shirt with "BADASS Brain Injury Survivor" in white lettering. Copyright 2016 Sika Stanton.

Brandon was gracious enough to let me fire up the old iPhone voice memo app so he could retell the update. Perhaps if you haven’t seen the film, this update may not seem earth-shattering. (You should see the film!) But if you have seen it, or you’ve known Brandon a long time, you’ll recognize that it’s gigantic.

Here’s the update. Brandon’s voice comes on the audio clip at the top of the post at 1:15.

BRANDON: This is my update. I am no longer a Christian. I have since dropped the Christian-ism because I don’t really believe that there is a “God.” I believe that there may be something after death, but there also may not be. I got to thinking about it, and I have not had a single dream about God or any kind of strange and unexplainable happening because God made it happen. I just I haven’t had anything like that occur to me, and I got to thinking about it. I basically thought there probably isn’t a God out there. I know it’s difficult for some people to hear, but that’s what I feel anyway. I’m still the same guy, you know. I still am the same lovable character you all have come to know and love. But I’m not a Christian anymore, which is a big step for me, I guess. I made this decision on my own. I seriously thought about it and thought about it and thought about it…and thought about it for a very long time and came to the conclusion that there isn’t anything that told me that there’s a God or any kind of strange celestial being. I just I don’t believe that there is any celestial thing out there, I guess.

CHERYL: In the documentary film, right toward the end of the movie, you say that God has a plan for you. You don’t know what it is, but it will be magnificent, and you will fulfill it when you find out what it is.

BRANDON: Yeah.

CHERYL: But that’s different now.

BRANDON: Yeah.

CHERYL: So do you feel like you have a plan or a purpose in life still?

BRANDON: Yeah. I think I still have a plan and a purpose. I think that that can be a big thing that happens to some people is they live their life a certain way going in one direction, and then [makes braking sound] all of a sudden it changes. And then they just spiral down a deep, cavernous cliff never to return. But I have since become involved with the improvisers of ComedySportz of Portland, and I am very excited to announce the show that I will be performing. It is at the ComedySportz arena in Portland, Oregon, March 7th, and it is at 7:30. [CORRECTION: The show is March 4th.] I am excited to see anyone who shows up. Yeah.

CHERYL: Did your brain injury or your life now after having a brain injury, did that play into you leaving the Christian faith?

BRANDON: Oh yeah. Big time. Because after I had my brain injury, it took me about a year, and I decided to dump my girlfriend. And I then went into Portland and started living here and started going to the church Imago Dei and was enjoying it for a good time. But after a while, it just seemed to me to not even really make any bit of difference whether I went or not went. It just didn’t make any difference to anyone or anything besides the people that saw me there. But that was basically it as far as I can tell.

CHERYL: How would you say you feel now? Are you lost, are you liberated, are you?

BRANDON: I am very liberated. I feel like a great weight has been lifted off me. I feel like I am not a Christian. So that opens up a wide array of things that were previously considered to be no-nos. So I just feel like that that’s a very cool thing.

CHERYL: Would you be interested in sharing kind of a general message to people who are in faith communities or religious communities about embracing– Oh, how am I trying to say this? What am I trying to? I’m not sure what I’m trying to ask.

BRANDON: Well, I think you’re saying would I be able to speak about this in front of faith communities and explain to them how I have lost my faith. And I would be more than willing to do that.

CHERYL: Wow. Cool.

BRANDON: Yeah.

CHERYL: OK, how do you make it stop?

BRANDON: [laughs]

[end of the recording]

Some people think that folks with brain injury disabilities can’t think for themselves and can’t be trusted to make decisions, especially if those decisions are different from what someone else wanted us to make. Or they think that if we do offer up our preferences that we’re probably wrong by default or not seeing the whole picture or on and on. As if non-disabled people always make the best decisions with total attention to the big picture and the details? There’s an unquestioned but below-the-surface belief that someone with any kind of impairment in their brain is just not able to decide for themselves. I say this because there might be some people who question Brandon’s huge decision. But in his own words from an email after the recording, “it seems like it is a very NATURAL thing to have occur to MANY individuals.”

Thank you for sharing, Brandon. Your journey has been and will continue to be adventurous, dynamic and ever-changing.