This interview was conducted on 11.11.12 at 1:30pm by Frederick Widdowson hereafter reported as FW for brevity sake. The office in which the interview took place was small, containing a desk and a leather couch. There was a window directly behind Mr. Warner. He was wearing a white dress shirt and a tie.
FW: (:02) Okay. Alright. Umm.…(knock on office door..had to restart)
Dan Warner: (:09) Hey! (to person at door. Recording shut down)
FW: (:10) Let’s see if I can start it back up. Okay. Alright. Okay. Umm. Let me just read the introduction to you so that it’s clear that…what we’re doing. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted an extensive study including a significant statistical sample of 35,000 people regarding several facets of the religious life of America. The study was a broad based survey that asked many questions regarding the religious practices of Americans. It was called the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. It stated that 44% of Americans leave the religious tradition of their youth; the denomination or even the faith of their childhood. My intention is to ask you for your personal experience and observations regarding changes you made in your life regarding religion. So, if you would just help me here with these questions I’m going to ask you specifically and just feel free to answer any you see fit. Uh, would you please state your name and the county and state in which you live?
Dan Warner: (1:10) Okay, my name is Daniel Warner. I live in York County, Pennsylvania.
FW: (1:15) Would you be willing to share your professional status and your educational background?
Dan Warner: (1:20) Sure. I am president and owner of a construction company…um… in York County and…uh… I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
FW: (1:34) Okay. Wha..what was your religious affiliation when you were growing up?
Dan Warner: (1:39) Lutheran. (Throughout the interview Mr. Warner kept his arms folded with one hand free that made chopping motions on the desk to underscore statements he made. He made clear and consistent eye contact with little blinking and his face stayed either expressionless or with a slight smile.)
FW: (1:41) Uh, was this affiliation something that had been consistent over several generations in your family?
Dan Warner: (1:46) Yes. My..uh, my family dating way back many, many, many years..um..has been Lutheran, always been Lutheran. Uh…my ancestors are from…(FW checked the recorder to make sure it was working)..is it recording?
FW: (2:02) Yes.
Dan Warner: (2:04) Um, my ancestors are from..uh.. Germany. They’re all from Germany so…uh… the Lutheran religion is very deep rooted in our, in our family.
FW: (2:20) Um..how, how would you describe your experiences in that religious tradition?
Dan Warner: (2:28) Well, I was required by my parents to go, primarily my mother, and…uh…to go to church and participate in all the Confirmation, and all those things. Um…I never wanted to go. It was against my will but… um… I was you know required to go. So, I went. Um…but…uh…it was, it was not real life to me. It was removed from…it was just something I had to do sort of on the side. It wasn’t really part of my life. I just…it was just something I had to do. So, it was not a…uh…an experience that really molded my life in any way. It was just something I had to do.
FW: (3:20) Um…when did you leave the religious tradition of your family and your childhood?
Dan Warner: (3:26) It was about, uh, 1995 when I left that religion. Um..so…
FW: (3:36) How, how would you describe the reason that you left the tradition?
Dan Warner: (3:41) Well…uh…the best way I can describe it (brief laugh) is a personal encounter with the living savior, Jesus Christ. Um…it was no longer a…about religion to me. It was really about reality and a relationship with…uh….the God that created me. So, it was a whole different thing that, that I experienced. Um…religion, the Lutheran religion and all that, was not real to me. It was not, you know, it just, it wasn’t really life changing in any…What I experienced when I encountered the truth in Jesus Christ himself is really a life changing experience. And so, and that was real, that was definitely real to me.
FW: (4:37) Did your parents and siblings also leave? Did they share your new beliefs?
Dan Warner: (4:42) My parents did not leave. My brother and sister did leave. Yes. Um… (Cleared throat) …my brother, you know, as of today…um…basically he and I believe the same thing, doctrinally. Um…he came to the same change about two years after I did, so probably, you know, ’97 or so. Um…he’s eight years older than me, though, so, he was much older. Um…my sister left the Lutheran faith but she did not go into the same kind of faith that my brother and I did, so, she’s in the Moravian Church. Uh, which I don’t, I don’t fully understand, you know, all their doctrine and beliefs. But, she’s no longer in the Lutheran Church.
FW: (5:34) What was… I have to ask this this way, what was the religion or tradition or affiliation you eventually stayed with?
Dan Warner: (5:42) (Brief laugh) Um…well, yeah, I don’t..but..you know..I know..I don’t consider it a religion anymore but I understand the question. Um…so, I’m sorry…what?
FW: (5:56) Wha..what is the religious tradition? Or, I say a tradition because I know that’s how you don’t look at things as a denomination? Or affiliation that you eventually stayed with?
Dan Warner: (6:09) Okay…uh…I would describe it as Independent Baptist faith…uh…as opposed to, you know, some of the Southern Baptist or some of those other…uh… groups. So, this is an Independent Baptist faith.
FW: (6:25) How would you characterize the differences between the religious tradition of your youth and your current religious affiliation?
Dan Warner: (6:33) (Sigh) Just in a couple of words…um…my previous religion, I guess, is a good word for it…uh… was dead to me. The faith I have today is alive. The faith back then was…um…not real. What I have today is real. Ah, back then it was not life changing. What I have today is definitely part of my everyday life. So, it’s, it’s a huge difference. (Clears throat)
FW: (7:08) Has your change and your current affiliation affected your relationship with friends or family who might still be in the religious tradition of your youth?
Dan Warner: (7:17) Definitely has. Um…my…it’s, it definitely changed my relationship with my mom and Dad. Now, they have since passed away…but…(clears throat)…when they were still alive…um…it caused tension…uh… in our relationship. Um…now, my…uh…those that are still in it, I really don’t have friends or anyone who was in that Lutheran faith that still is that I still am close with or I still know. Um…so really it was just my family and when I changed and no one else had changed it definitely caused stress and tension in our relationship. Of course, like with my brother, for example, now that has gone away because…(laugh)…because we have similar faith. So…um…other than my family there’s really no one that…um…you know, I’m still friends with that’s in that faith, so.
FW: (8:28) Well, what difficulties would you say you’ve had, if any, or challenges in acclimating yourself to your current religious affiliation?
Dan Warner: (8:37) Well..uh…the biggest struggles I’ve had..well, first of all, I had to learn a lot. I..there’s a tremendous amount of things in the Bible that I knew nothing about. So, I had to learn that. And as you’re learning that along the way you’ll run into teachers. And some teachers are good, some are not. Some are…uh… off in their doctrine and some are not. So, my biggest struggle is…uh… having followed some teachers who I trusted…um… to tell me the right things and looking back now at that I realized I was taught some inaccurate things. Um…(cleared throat)… not, not completely, you know, a hundred percent false but there were a lot of …um…maybe you call them minor things that I was taught; the ways I should live and things I should do that were more their opinion and their convictions than they were Biblical. So, sorting through all that teaching and coming to a Biblical understanding was my biggest struggle through, you know, in my new faith, if you want to call it that.
FW: (10:04) (Followup question) And that’s what you mean by off in doctrine? That it was their own opinion rather than Biblical?
Dan Warner: (10:08) Correct. Yes. Yep.
FW: (10:11) Um…did you find being accepted in the current tradition to be easy, I mean from other people in the same faith?
Dan Warner: (10:19) Yes…um…initially it was very easy. Um…but as time went on and as I got a more solid understanding of the Bible…um…you know, there have, there have been those who…like I said they have their convictions about things and my disagreement with them on their convictions has, you know, caused..uh..caused me not to be accepted in some, in some people’s eyes. So, but…uh…
FW: (10:57) (Follow-up) But, that was after you were in…
Dan Warner: (11:00) Yes.
FW: (11:00) …and you began to…okay.
Dan Warner: (11:01)Yes, as I began to grow and start to sort things out…um…then when I started to see some things that weren’t quite right. Then, that’s when I had some issues with acceptance. (Laughs).
FW: (11:15) Did you have any difficulties with your own immediate family, wife and children, in moving to your current tradition from the tradition of your youth?
Dan Warner: (11:23) Actually, no…um…and the reason, the main reason for that is because…um…my wife and I pretty much came to the same…um…well, we got saved, we received Christ right around the same time. Because we were in a church we were hearing the same things. And I think that’s why, I think that’s why that we didn’t have too many problems in…within our family because…um…and my oldest son had actually accepted Christ years ago and I didn’t, I didn’t understand all that. So, he was already pretty much on the same track with us and then we were all as a family hearing the same doctrine, same preaching, same…, and so I think that…um…that helped to bring us all along the same, you know, the same path. So…um…so we really internally within our own immediate family didn’t have much trouble at all.
FW: (12:25) Um…one last of the, of the general questions and I’m going to ask two specific kind of political or, or…uh… cultural questions. But, the last question I wanted to ask on the general thing of is can you describe for me what is the most satisfying about your current religious tradition and at this point do you believe you’ll stay in it your entire life?
Dan Warner: (12:47) (Sigh) Um…the most satisfying is simply the fact that this, this is not a religion, it’s, it’s a reality, it’s a, it’s a life. It’s not, it’s not something you do. It’s something you are. And…uh…so, the Lord has changed my life literally from the inside out. And so, that is the most satisfying thing about it. It, you know, he guides me, he, he teaches me, he takes care of me. You know, it’s not, again, it’s not something off to the side. It’s, it’s my whole life now. Um…and what was the other part of the question?
FW: (13:31) Just..uh…do you believe you’ll stay in it your entire life?
Dan Warner: (13:34) Oh, absolutely, I…it…since it is my life, I can’t, I can’t get out of it. (Laughs)
FW: (13:39) Alright. Okay, now, two last questions. Um…I, I want to start with…uh…did current events, world or political, have anything to do with your change in religious affiliation? In other words, when you made, when you changed, when things became different was there anything external that affected that?
Dan Warner: (13:57) No, not at all. It was just the word of God.
FW: (14:01) The final question I have…uh… which is probably the most sensitive, but, does your religious affiliation or your beliefs, what you believe now affect how you view current world or political events like the Middle East conflict regarding Israel, abortion, gay marriage, government entitlement programs, war, or any other, quote, hot button topic that comes to mind?
Dan Warner: (14:23) Yes, it has changed everything. (Laugh) It, and so…
FW: (14:28) So, your views are different than they were?
Dan Warner: (14:30) Absolutely. And…um…maybe not all of them but back, back before I received Christ…um… and I had this change I might have believed things but I didn’t know why or I sort of could be convinced one way or another. Um…but now I am absolutely convinced and firm on what I believe about all those things you mentioned. So, yeah, it has definitely…it has either solidified my belief, given me the reason, or it has changed my belief and I know the reason why it’s changed, (laugh) as well. So, it’s definitely, it’s definitely changed everything. So…
FW: (15:13) (Followup) Is there anything specific on any of the political issues you’d want to…?
Dan Warner: (15:19) Well…um…we could be here all day…but…um…the bottom line is that…um…God has stated certain things in the word of God. And he is not..um…God is clear about things. He’s clear about right and wrong. Um…and so, you know, I, I don’t care which one of those you want to pick; abortion, gay marriage…um…right on down the line. Uh…we can argue about it all day long, what we think, but God says certain things are a certain way. And, so, you know, briefly, on, on gay marriage, you know…uh… the word of God says that’s sin, that , that lifestyle is sin. And that’s not the only sin in the world but it is a sin. So, clearly I can’t agree with, with that. God defines marriage and God defines many things. He defines the family and so I have to agree with God and disagree with the opinions of the world. And so…uh…I’m clearly against gay marriage for that reason. I’m against abortion for that reason. Um…you know, because of God’s, what God says about life. Um…so, yes, I definitely…um…you know, I have to side with what God says and against the world in some cases. Now, sometimes the world is right and sometimes they’re wrong. But…um…that’s the way I, I see things now, so…
FW: (17:05)Well, is there, I mean, we’re coming to a close here, is there anything else you’d like to say to add to anything we’ve talked about?
Dan Warner: (17:12) Uh…I guess, you know, when, the, you know, you’ve kind of asked about politics there, it saddens me that there is so many people out there that think that when you say things like I said about gay marriage…they think you hate people, or you know,you’re some fanatic or nut. Um… I don’t understand that..ah..ah..other than they’re just trying to call names so they can win an argument or something but…um…you know, Jesus Christ loved everyone and we’re supposed to love everyone and we try to…um… but we’re human and we fail. But, but the bottom line is that things that are political hot buttons…um… like gay marriage. What you do in your home is between you and God. And, you know, I don’t even want to hear about that type of thing, you know…(laughs)…so, so for, for someone to look at my opinion based on the Bible that I think gay marriage is wrong and think I somehow hate people or, you know, are some kind of nut or radical that just amazes me. Because that’s, that’s, nothing’s further from the truth. I love people. I want everyone to come to the same faith in Jesus Christ and saving knowledge that, that I have. I want everyone to get to heaven and the Bible’s clear that it’s only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone that you get to heaven. Now, again, you know, you say things like that people think you’re a hater or you’re a nut, you’re all these things. But, I don’t hate anyone. I’m, I just, I want everyone to hear the truth and I hope they believe it but I’m not going to force it on them. Um..and, and if you believe something else, you know, that’s okay. It’s a free country and I pray for you but…(laughs). But, I just wanted to say that whole attitude against people that believe the Bible is just so wrong. It’s, and, and it’s amazing how we can be accused of being bigoted and, and all those things when people accusing us are the ones that are bigoted, you know. So…uh…anyway but…uh…I, I just…my only hope is that…uh…everyone, I don’t care, young, old, I don’t care what background, my hope is that every single person comes to the knowledge of Jesus Christ like I did because it has absolutely made my life incredibly better. I have peace. I, I don’t worry about death. I mean, there’s so many things that it has done and changed in my life. And…uh…I want that for everybody and…uh…so, I guess, I guess that’s about it.
FW: (20:18) Well, that’s great. Um…I thank you for your willingness to be a part of my oral history project.
Dan Warner: (20:23)You’re welcome.
FW: Now, we can close it down, now.
Dan Warner: Okay.