LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Apology Accepted, But… April 24, 2019

“I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.  I shouldn’t have treated you that way.
I really thought I was doing the “Christian” thing.
Truth is, you acted more Christ-like than I did.
I was sure I was right. I thought that’s what the Bible taught.
Again, I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

I’ve said those, or similar, words in the past. More than once. I’ve also had them said to me. Apologies are a part of life.  If they’re not a part of your life, then you’re not being genuine. No one is so perfect as to never need to apologize. You were wrong, Erich. Love almost always means having to say you’re sorry.
Still, an apology is not always enough.

Apologies usually focus on an act.  A behavior. A specific event. But if we don’t look deeper, we will sooner than later be right back in the same situation, offering a similar apology.
“I’m sorry I owned you as a slave.  I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’ll still need to drink from your own fountain.”
Time passes.
“I’m sorry I made you drink from your own fountain. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’d still better not marry a white woman.”
Time passes.
“I’m sorry I said you couldn’t marry a white woman. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course…”

So, I finally realize a specific act was wrong.  I even acknowledge that the reason for my act was a false belief. It was a sincerely held belief. It was a belief I defended with holy writ. But like false beliefs defended by holy writ for centuries past, it was wrong.
Thankfully, I now know I was wrong, and I truly, humbly apologize.

And then it happens again.

It totally amazes me how many times someone can realize a sincerely held belief was wrong, and still be so very blind to the fact that there’s every likelihood they are right now doing the same thing with one or more of their current beliefs! How can a person repeatedly admittedly be wrong, and not acknowledge the possibility of still being wrong?!?!?

I’ll tell you how.  In a word: Certainty.

When I was a part of institutional religion, we were very fond of saying we had “a relationship, not a religion.” We would then allow almost every word of our mouths to prove us liars. What we really had was a very dogmatic system of beliefs. Our true faith was not so much in Christ, but in whether or not we believed the “right” things.  We had to be right, and we had to be Certain! More than once when I strayed outside the accepted parameters of belief, I was made to feel lesser.  And I’m 100% sure I did the same to many others.
“You can’t have that picture.  You can’t wear that shirt.  You can’t listen to that music. You can’t believe this. You can’t believe that.”
“Don’t. Don’t! DON’T!!”
“Here’s what you need to know. And then, you need to know that you know that you know. Yes, I believe in science.  But if science contradicts the Bible, then science is wrong.”
Translation: If science contradicts my very limited understanding and application of some ancient text, then science is wrong.
Deeper Translation: If facts interfere with my beliefs, I’ll ignore (and even fight against) the facts.

Now, back to the apology thing.
I’ve apologized for my act, based on a false belief.  Hell, I’ve even apologized for the belief itself.
And, GOOD NEWS, in this case, I’ve Even Changed My Belief!
The problem is:  I Haven’t Changed The WAY I Believe!
All those many, many times I’ve been sincerely wrong have never been allowed to teach me the root of the problem!
WHY?!?!?

In a word, Fear.

Fear that if I acknowledge some particular truth, my entire belief system may come crashing down. All my beliefs are part and parcel of the fabric of my religion. If so much as one thread unravels, I could lose it all!
Fear that if I let go of certainty, I’ll wander aimlessly with nothing of value to hold on to.  And for fundie Christians, the very unhealthy kind of “the fear of God.”

Look, if facts destroy your belief system, I’ve got news for you: It needed destroyed!  If having a wrong belief about God, about eternity, about Jesus; if any of that pisses off God that much, you need a better, bigger God!
Also the fear of your peers. I know people who are so afraid of what their peers will think, they avoid acknowledging truth if it comes from the “wrong” source. God forbid someone should think I agree with “that” person.  I don’t want anyone to think I’d lead them astray!

Certainty is the enemy of faith. And changing what you believe, without changing how you hold those beliefs, is of very limited benefit. And by the way, the basics of what I’m saying here doesn’t just apply to right-wingers, or just to Christians. It goes for Muslims, Atheists, Jews… EVERYONE.

I know, I know; I use this quote a lot.
But it’s just so damn good! And honestly, learning this important lesson can, I believe, even transform many strained relationships.  It’s from “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.”  And I’ll end this post with it now.

“You can believe something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief,
and yet in the same moment
you can also say, ‘I could be wrong…’
This is because conviction and humility, like faith and doubt, are not opposites; they’re dance partners. It’s possible to hold your faith with open hands, living with great conviction and yet at the same time humbly admitting that your knowledge and perspective will always be limited.” – Rob Bell

 

Evolving In Monkey Town September 5, 2010

When I first heard of
“Evolving In Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned To Ask The Questions,”
I wasn’t sure I was going to read it. I’d read four Donald Miller books and two by Anne Lamott.
“Do I really need another memoir about postmodernism, questioning traditional faith, and rethinking our relationship with God and man?” I wondered.

Apparently, I did.
And I’m glad I did.


Certainly, this book covers some familiar ground, but it also covers enough different ground that it is well worth adding to your queue. More than new material, Rachel looks at things with her own particular perspective. She add insights and conversation that only she can add.  Many can relate to her experience, but everyone’s journey is just unique enough that we can all learn from each other.  I think this would be a good companion piece to one of my all-time favorites, “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell.

Ms. Evans is a not-quite-thirty year old, who was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical environment. She took great delight in winning her school’s “Best Christian Attitude” award 4 years running.  Like all the best writing, Rachel leaves the truth of her less-than-perfect-being plainly exposed.  Concerning those giving her the award, she says,
“It means they have no idea that beneath it all, I’m a complete fraud.”

I totally loved her take on “why” she was a Christian.  She talks of how the answer to that question kept changing through various periods of her life.  The answer she settles on as being the “most truthful” is not a very good answer for an evangelical.  It is however, possibly the most perfect answer I have ever read.  You’ll find it in the section: “When Believers Ask.”

Like many of us, she was taught to “always have an answer,” and that “knowing facts” is of the utmost importance. Especially when you must gain the upper-hand in a debate or argument. We do, after all, need to prove to the skeptics and unbelievers that we are smarter than they are. She grew up in a time when apologetic prowess was nearly worshiped. Questions, doubt, or just saying “I don’t know,” were simply not acceptable.

I’m not sure why “I don’t know” is so hard for evangelicals. It’s still hard for many of my fundamentalist friends.  It seems, if they don’t have the perfect answer to those suffering or questioning, they fear their faith is lacking.  I think, for many, their faith is in their belief system, rather than truly in the Person of Christ.

The author finally began to see (or maybe began to admit to seeing), all the mental gymnastics, sidesteps, games and just plain foolishness it takes to reconcile all the contradictions and pseudo-logic used to defend much of evangelical fundamentalism.
“The problem with fundamentalism,” she says, “is that it can’t adapt to change.  When you count each one of your beliefs as absolutely essential, change is never an option.”

There’s a chapter called “God Things.”  After reading just the first section of that chapter, I had to sit there for awhile before I could move on.  It’s a touching, sad story of eight-year old Kanakaraja that helps us see just how narrow and self-centered our vision can be.

I always highlight when I read, so I can go back and just read those portions. I’ve highlighted a lot in this book. There are some absolutely wonderful portions that deserve much, repeated meditation.  There are also those parts that bring to me recollections of a past life of religion that make me shake my head in shame. There’s so much I was once a part of; so much I thought dear to my faith, that I now clearly see as anything but Christ-like.
Rachel has reminded me, again, there are many on this journey; even if I have very few nearby who are on a similar path.
I just wish I had realized all this at her age, instead of at such a late stage in my life.
This really is a wonderful book.

Buy the book HERE.

————————–

From the Back Cover
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.

About the Author
Rachel Held Evans is an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in local and national publications. She lives in Dayton, Tennessee, with her husband, Dan. Find out more at rachelheldevans.com

Other Reviews
“Rachel’s humorous yet humble memoir of growing up in the evangelical world serves as an encouraging guide for anyone looking to navigate through that particular subculture. The story told here is both faith and doubt affirming, a beautiful reflection of a heart earnestly seeking to follow God fully.”
— Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices

“This book is an argument–Rachel argues with herself, God, the Bible, and Southern fundamentalism. Somehow, though, we are the winners in this argument because we learn and watch as a young woman emerges into a maturing faith that lets the kingdom vision of Jesus reshape her life. I found myself cheering her on.”
— Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

[My favorite] “That Evans wrote a remarkable debut at such a young age makes me want to slap her, bless her heart.” – Karen Spears Zacharias

Buy the book HERE.

—————————

Some Quotes

“I consider myself an evolutionist — not necessarily of the scientific variety but of the faith variety.”  “I believe the best way to reclaim the gospel in times of change is not to cling more tightly to our convictions but to hold them with an open hand.”

“I’m pretty sure that by the time I asked Jesus into my heart, he’d already been living there for a while.”

“I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how verses were lifted from the Bible to support political positions like gun rights, strong national defense, capital punishment, and limited intervention in the free market.  These seemed more like Republican values than biblical values to me.”

Buy the book HERE.

“To fight the good fight, the most important weapon was the sword of absolute truth, and the goal of the Christian life was to learn how to use it.”

“Jesus responded more with questions than answers.  He preferred story to exposition.”  “You can’t get too far into the Gospels without noticing that Jesus made a pretty lousy apologist.”

‘I always wanted a gay friend.  But, as embarrassing as the is to admit, I wanted the sort of gay friend who would give me fashion advice [and] make me look edgy and open-minded, not the kind who would actually challenge my thinking or stereotypes.”

“This time, I wasn’t asking these questions rhetorically or in preparation for an imaginary debate with a skeptic.  I was asking them because I didn’t know.  This time, I was the skeptic.”

[I really like this one]  “The longer our lists of rules and regulations, the more likely it is that God himself will break one.  The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn’t conform to our presuppositions.”

Buy the book HERE.

 

Morality: Why I Am Better Than You June 28, 2009

(from “Searching For God Knows What” by Donald Miller)

        A great concern for those who defend a propositional gospel over a relational gospel is morality.  Some feel that if we do not emphasize morality, people will have too much fun and refuse to play by the rules the rest of us who know God have to play by.  [But] the Bible is not structured as a moral code.  It does not have all the answers on right and wrong.  A book containing a complete moral code would require all pages in all books.

         Lately, however I have been thinking of morality in less conceptual terms, less as a system of rules and regulations and more a concept very beautiful and alive.  Basically I am a simple sheep, having very little idea of what is right and wrong, and Jesus is going to pull me out of the ditches when I screw up, and protect me from spiritual enemies.

          I wonder if the idea of morality is just another ramification of the Fall.  Paul even says that the law was given to the Jews to show them they couldn’t follow the law.  Morality exists only because we are fallen, not unlike medicine exists because people get sick.  The hijacking of the concept of morality began when we reduced Scripture to formula, and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules.  It is a very different thing to break a rule than it is to cheat on a lover.

          The moral message I have heard is often a message of bitterness and anger because our morality, our culture, is being taken over by people who disregard our ethical standards.  None of that is connected, relationally, to God at all.  Morality as a battle cry against a depraved culture is simply not a New Testament idea.  Morality as a ramification of our spiritual union and relationship with Christ, however, is.

          I was the guest on a radio show recently that was broadcast on a secular station, one of those conservative shows that paints Democrats as terrorists.  The interviewer asked what I thought about the homosexuals who were trying to take over the country.  “Which homosexuals are trying to take over the country?” I asked.  “You know,” the interviewer began, “the ones who want to take over Congress and the Senate.”  “Well,” I said, “I’ve never met those guys and I don’t know who they are.  The only homosexuals I’ve met are very kind people, some of whom have been beat up and spit on and harassed and, in fact, feel threatened by the religious right.”

Think about it.  If you watch CNN all day and see extreme Muslims in the Middle East declaring war on America because they see us as immoral, and then you read the paper the next day to find the exact same words spoken by evangelical leaders against the culture here in America, you’d be pretty scared.  I’ve never heard of a homosexual group trying to take over the world, or for that matter the House or the Senate, but I can point you to about fifty evangelical organizations who are trying to do exactly that.

          I continued, “As a Christian, I believe Jesus wants to reach out to people who are lost and, yes, immoral – immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do.  This isn’t rocket science.  If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff them or kill them.  But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, you have to love them.  So go ahead and declare war in the name of a conservative agenda, but don’t do it in the name of God.  That’s what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don’t want that here.”

          A moral message, a message of us versus them, overflowing in war rhetoric, is not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus.  Some Christians, when considering immorality in culture, consider two issues:  abortion and gay marriage.  Moral ideas presented in the New Testament, and even from the mouth of Christ, however, involve loving our neighbors, being one in the bond of peace, loving our enemies, taking care of our own business before we judge somebody else, forgiving debts even as we have been forgiven, speaking in truth and love else we sound like clanging cymbals (turn on Fox News to hear what clanging cymbals sound like).

          Morality, in the context of a relationship with Jesus, becomes the voice of reason and calm in a loud argument, the voice of life in a world of walking dead, the voice of Christ in a sea of self-hatred.

Buy “Searching For God Knows What” at:
http://astore.amazon.com/lifewalk_store-20?node=2&page=5

 

 
%d bloggers like this: