I was raised as a Roman Catholic. At the age of 20, I became an Evangelical Protestant. Thirty-two years later, I’m now coming out as a Post-Evangelical.
My friend Rob, wrote a piece this week on the importance of standing for something. I encourage you to give it a read. Rob’s a fantastic writer and designer and I just love that guy so much.
His words kind of inspired me to think about what it is I stand for these days. Then I realized that, at least in regard to faith issues, I’m not standing so much as I am walking. To stand would mean that I’ve arrived somewhere, but I haven’t really. For the last three decades I thought I’d arrived at something, but I now realize I had never really reached the end of trail. It’s time to pack up my gear and continue on.
It’s a funny thing to leave a faith system. People respond in a way that’s almost like you’re getting a divorce. Maybe that’s an appropriate analogy. They assume all kinds of things will happen or that you’ve fallen into heresy, when their definition of heresy just means you no longer subscribe to their interpretation of sacred writings or you no longer adhere to the same faith construct.
I’m also taken aback by those who assume that because I no longer accept Evangelicalism as a belief system, that I have somehow abandoned my faith entirely. Nothing could be further from the truth, but those who do believe that illustrate one of the reasons I reject that particular expression of Christianity.
I still believe in God.
I love Jesus.
I even believe in the Bible.
What’s different is that I no longer view any of those things through the Evangelical lens.
Some of my reasons for wandering off the Evangelical reservation are experiential. Other reasons are political. But mostly, I’ve left the party for theological and doctrinal reasons. I simply can no longer embrace Evangelicalism as the sole arbiter of Christianity. No longer do I accept that framework as what Jesus had in mind when he walked the earth or what Paul intended when he wrote his letters to the early followers of Jesus. So where does that leave me?
In a recent episode of the Liturgists podcast, Michael Gungor and “Science Mike” McHargue interviewed Hillary McBride, Teresa Pasquale Mateus, and Carol Howard Merritt on the matter of spiritual trauma. It was a beautiful exchange of thoughts and experiences. It helped me put words to some of the pain I’ve experienced through the years.
During the conversation, Science Mike summarized a process for recovering from spiritual trauma out of a book by one of the guests:
1) Recognize the hurt, inconsistencies, or wrongdoing in your faith system or with the persons within your faith system.
2) Begin to question.
3) Seek outside input.
4) Leave your spiritual home and/or faith of origin.
5) Begin your own pilgrimage into the spiritual desert.
6) Enter the anger stage of grief and loss.
7) Explore other ideas, beliefs, and opportunities.
8) Begin to reintegrate meaning, values, and beliefs in some way for yourself.
9) Begin to trust in individual and communal relationships again.
10) Move toward a non-dual consciousness — or the middle way — and away from absolutes.
11) Enlightenment…game over…YOU WIN!
From the book “Sacred Wounds” by Teresa B. Pasquale
I figure I’m on about step 8 of this process. I’m beginning to rediscover what it means to follow Jesus apart from the hard, line in the sand systems that characterize so much of contemporary Christian belief, especially Evangelicalism. As I’m doing so, something amazing is taking shape.
During my days as a youth pastor I used to tell my students that the Bible may tell us everything we need to know about God, but it doesn’t tell us everything there is to know about God. What I’ve realized is the Evangelical God was boxed in by a theological framework. He was a God that could be understood through “clever” apologetics. If God is something I can comprehend through my own logic, then what good is he? He ceases to be the God of the Bible. He is diminished to something I can understand as easily as I understand 2+2 = 4.
I’m finding that God is far bigger, far more complex, and far more wondrous than I’ve ever allowed him to be. He’s certainly more so than Evangelicalism allows.
My friend Edwin said recently that during his days away from community life, he learned who he was in the context of faith and that process shaped who he would be in the context of community. I like that.
I’m learning who I am and how I will function in whatever faith community to which this journey leads me.
Don’t have a timeline for it.
Don’t have a final destination.
Don’t need either.
Since my earliest awareness that there is a God out there, I’ve committed myself to pursuing him in whatever direction he leads.
He hasn’t let me down yet.