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Barack Mandela
Human Rights Attorney

Jagged Little Pill: Confessions of a Faith Addict

Pastor Barack Mandela, a former religious addict, at the grave site of Rabbi Elazar Shach in B’nai Brak, Israel. (Photo from Mr. Mandela’s personal collection)

I am addicted to God. I am addicted to faith. I am addicted to religion and spirituality. I cannot stop myself from worshiping, praying, meditating, and seeking the power of God.

I have practiced more than a dozen religions. My numerous faith practices make me seem like a pathological liar on emotional steroids.

As a child, I started out as a born-again Christian in a Pentecostal, holiness church in Long Beach, California. I watched fellow church members ‘speak in tongues’, scream and faint as they were ‘slain in the spirit’, leap and pound their chests as the Gospel choir sang spiritual hymns. I watched pastors and ministers engage in ‘faith healing’ by ‘laying their hands’ on the sick and unwell.

When I started at the University of California-Riverside at age 18, I became active in an organization called ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’. We held weekly prayer meetings and attended local churches. Suddenly, without warning, I decided to join the Roman Catholic Church.

I began taking Catechism classes in a program called RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation as Adult) at Saint Andrew Newman Center in Riverside, California. The courses were taught by Father Nathan Castle.

For months, I learned about the Pope, the history of the Catholic Church, the roles of nuns and priests, the communion of saints, the Virgin Mary, and the ministry of Jesus. Then, on Easter Vigil, I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church by Father Castle.

Within months, I suddenly decided to convert to the Jewish religion while in my first year of law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. I took classes from scholar, Patti Moskowitz, organized by Rabbi Herbert Morris of Congregation Beth Israel-Judea. Interestingly, I have no idea ‘why’ I wanted to convert to Judaism. I was just obsessed and fixated with the idea.

After converting to Reform Judaism, I ‘suddenly’ decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism through the Rabbinical Court of Los Angeles led by Rabbi Abner Weiss, originally from Durban, South Africa. I studied for several months before converting to Orthodox Judaism. After graduating from law school, I moved to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood Pico-Robertson in Los Angeles.

Following numerous international experiences within the Jewish community, I met three Latter Day Saint (‘Mormon’) missionaries: Sister Pendelton, Sister Henderson, Sister Redger. These sister missionaries taught me about the Book of Mormon and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After two months of courses, I was baptized and confirmed into the church. I was then elevated to the Priesthood of Aaron (Aaronic Priesthood) in the church.

However, my religious addiction continued.

I suddenly decided to become a Scientologist. I began taking Dianetics and Scientology courses at the Beverly Hills Scientology Mission. I took courses titled “Personal Efficiency” and “Basic Communication”. I later took courses at Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood. I underwent auditing, which is like psychotherapy, and took a course on basic Dianetics. After my courses, I proudly declared myself a Scientologist.

Following a period of Scientology study, I decided to join the Jedi Religion based on the film series “Star Wars”. I began reading about Jedi beliefs such as “The Force”. I joined a Jedi Facebook group. I studied “Star Wars” characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Inspired by boredom, I decided to practice both Hinduism and Buddhism. I befriended practitioners from India and Nepal. I began meditating upon Hindu gods such as Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, and Goddess Santoshi Mata. I began listening to Hindu praise songs known as ‘Aartis’.

I also began studying Buddhism intensely. I joined several Buddhist Facebook groups. I watched dozens of Buddhist videos on YouTube. I studied the life of Siddartha Guatema, who is the original Buddha and founder of the religion. I visited my local Buddhist Temple several times while meditating and lighting incense at the shrine.

Finally, after practicing various religions, I needed to ‘organize my confusion and chaos’. So, I studied the book ‘Transactional Analysis’ by Dr. Eric Berne. From this book, I learned to divide my personality into three parts: Parent, Adult, and Child. Using this technique, I finally brought an end to my religious confusion and spiritual addiction.

My journey into more than a dozen faiths has been like a ‘Jagged Little Pill’ of religious addiction, super curiosity, overactive imagination, hypersensitive prayers and meditations, and constant worshiping.

I am now Senior Pastor of The Goldman Sachs Church which has a strong online presence on LinkedIn. I use my former religious addiction as a catalyst to bring people together in mercy, empathy, grace, mercy, gratitude, and love.

In the end, I’ve learned that God is the solution to all problems, and God is the finder of lost souls.

This is the personal confession of a former faith addict. In addition, ‘Jagged Little Pill’ is an album by singer Alanis Morissette.

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. I earned a Doctor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1997). I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside (1994). I was an international student at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law (1991-1992) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law (Summer 1996). I am a military veteran of the United States Air Force, United States Army, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I am a laureate of the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon (2006). I am a financial donor to following: Harvard Law, Yale Law, Stanford Law, Berkeley Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, UC Davis Law, Columbine High School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, Sidwell Friends School, Viewpoint School, Beverly Hills High School, Eton College in the United Kingdom, Special Olympics, Children's Defense Fund, Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Barbra Streisand Foundation, Princeton University, Florida A&M, Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the British Red Cross. I am former special assistant and staff attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. I was public affairs assistant to US Senator Barbara Boxer and Mayor Ehud Olmert of Jerusalem and Jerusalem spokesperson Haggai Elias.
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