[A friend posted a comment on my “Tribbles” article to which I started responding. I saw my writing becoming rather lengthy, and decided to just make it another post. You should read her comments and insights before reading the following post. Her comments are at:
There are a number of other comments on that post as well.]
I too, am hesitant to attribute events to the direct hand of God. McLaren spoke of how “in the ancient world, there is little consciousness of intermediate causality. If lightning strikes, God (or the gods) did it – because there’s little understanding of intermediate causes like atmospheric convection, heat transfer, cold fronts, static electricity, and the like.”
Sometimes, we still seem to have that mindset. Yet I believe there is some kind of strange mix of destiny and free will. I don’t know where or how they intersect, but I believe in both. Christians, especially evangelicals, are all about having, as you said, to know exactly what they believe on every subject. I, like you, hold to some personal “basics.” But outside of that, I’m all for a lot of leeway.
We may not actually say it this way, but evangelical Christianity really is a “knowing all the ‘right’ facts about God,” more than knowing God. It doesn’t take much to prove that. Just tell an evangelical that you may believe in evolution; or that you not sure the creation story is a literal one-week period. You may wish to stand back.
I’ve known it to be said that “If you don’t believe the creation story exactly as written, then you don’t believe in the Cross of Christ.”
Of course, as I’ve said before, that’s why there are hundreds, if not thousands of denominations who disagree and fight, but yet somehow feel justified in saying “Well, we just believe the Bible.” But that’s been covered in previous posts.
There’s a great follow-up to “The Shack,” called “The Beauty of Ambiguity.”
It talks, as you said, of finding peace in not having to know what you believe about every little thing. I’m convinced that if we could get God all figured out, He wouldn’t be God.
You talked of people who “feel they have to hide their brokenness, or their doubts, or the fact that they smoke or vote Democrat or whatever, out of fear of being misunderstood or rejected by the body of Christ. And that’s a terrible shame.”
A terrible shame it is. And it’s due in large part the self-righteous religion that now calls itself Christianity. Some seem to think that how you vote might determine your final destination. No wonder people feel the need to hide their true selves. But legalism always breeds hypocrisy.
I like your reference to us as “characters in this beautiful story of redemption.”
I can’t say exactly when or how my story took the dramatic turn that it did.. Naysayers would say I started going down that “slippery slope.” Really, I just started to think, as they say, “outside the box” of Westernized, fundamental, evangelical Christianity.
It’s like a thought, or seed, would be planted in my spirit. Then I would read something and find it spoke to that very thing. This happened again and again. It was truly a growth process. It’s still happening. Sometimes I get frustrated with the lack of understanding I get from many friends who still believe as I used to, but I have to remember that my reaction then to someone who was where I am now would have been much the same.
One of the early books on my journey was Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace.” A dangerous book indeed! He said that after interviewing the Clintons (Bill and Hillary), he found that they could not be understood apart from their Christian faith. The realization that someone could be pro-choice because of their Christianity was like, can I say this, being born again.
It was this sudden revelation that evangelicals represent only a portion of Christianity. That right-wing Republicans don’t own God. That if you are pro-war, pro-torture, pro-death penalty, calling yourself pro-life is a sick joke. That the left, may actually have the higher moral ground on some issues.
The thing is, as Boyd points out in “The Myth Of A Christian Nation,” we should not label (here we are, back to labels) either side as “Christian.” Our choices will, and should be influenced by our faith, but to call either side or stance “Christian” is a grave mistake.
Here’s another related McLaren quote:
“This sensitivity to vested interests in the Bible helps us, I think, when looking at political issues today. There are upsides and downsides to this or that immigration bill, tax bill, energy bill, whatever. People usually simply take sides – fer it or agin it. But the Biblical library teaches us that there’s a higher perspective, where we can learn to see both the upsides and downsides of all sides … That way, even if we are for something, we won’t be naive about its downsides, and vice versa.”
Soon after Yancey came Frank Viola with “Pagan Christianity.” Then Wayne Jacobsen with “So, You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore.” William P. Young’s “The Shack.” The a-m-a-z-i-n-g Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis.” The memoirs of Donald Miller and Anne Lamott. And yes, even Al Franken.
Books are a wonderful thing. Someone should have invented them years ago.
So brick by brick…I’m sorry, I mean “spring by spring,” I’ve become less and less sure of what I know. Which, contrary to the evangelical mindset has actually made me more and more sure of Who I know.
I’ve become much more willing to “agree to disagree,” which I’ve found actually angers and alienates those who feel they have to know everything. I’ve been called names and “un-friended” because of choosing to opt-out of discussions that were going nowhere. I love conversation. I’m not at all fond of debate.
As I think back now, I can actually see seeds of this journey taking place during my separation and subsequent divorce. It’s strange where and how God can get through to us.
You said you’re not sure where you’re at with the “gay thing,” but that you are OK with that. Being OK with uncertainty is, I think, one of the greatest forms of maturity in the life of a believer.
From what I can tell from your comments, you are in a wonderful, scary, beautiful place right now. I’m actually excited to see where the river takes you. Just be aware, many who are not where you are, even some friends and loved-ones, will see you and your beliefs as a threat to everything they hold dear. Sometimes, that can hurt. Sometimes, it hurts a lot. But as a wise man once said, “Love Hurts.” That is so true. The love of Jesus got Him nailed to a cross.
Well, maybe this post addresses some of your comments. Hopefully, it will create some new ones.
I truly looked forward to continued conversation. Sure, I look forward to the later part of eternity. But truly, there is joy in the journey.
May your journey be filled with wonder, awe, revelation, and all the blessings you can hold.
[Note: I’m reading a book right now I think you would love, since you’re such a fan of Lamott. It’s “Evolving In Monkeytown: How a Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned to ask the questions,” by Rachel Held Evans.]