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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Slippery Slope January 31, 2012



THIS IS JUST TOO GOOD TO NOT SHARE WITH AS
MANY PEOPLE AS I CAN.
It’s from the blog of Rachel Held Evans, and I can truly identify.
—————–

They said that if I questioned a 6,000-year-old earth, I would question whether other parts of Scripture should be read scientifically and historically.

They were right. I did.

They said that if I entertained the hope that those without access to the gospel might still be loved and saved by God, I would fall prey to the dangerous idea that God loves everyone, that there is nothing God won’t do to reconcile all things to Himself.

They were right. I have.

They said that if I looked for Jesus beyond the party line, I could end up voting for liberals.

They were right. I do (sometimes).

They said that if I listened to my gay and lesbian neighbors, if I made room for them in my church and in my life, I could let grace get out of hand.

They were right. It has.

They told me that this slippery slope would lead me away from God, that it would bring a swift end to my faith journey, that I’d be lost forever.

But with that one, they were wrong.

————

[Read this rest of this, and other writings by Rachel Held Evans. Click HERE.]

[AND buy and read her wonderful book
“Evolving In Monkey Town.” Click HERE.]

 

Click September 13, 2011

I recently read this post on facebook:

“Sharing enlightenment is practically impossible; it just does not transfer very well.”
– John Fincher

I have to say I agree. Well, kind of.
I’ve learned that we can put our life experiences, things we’ve discovered, our insights and even our questions “out there”, but like seeds, they fall where they will. We simply sow.
Maybe we’re not sharing our enlightenment as much as we’re expressing its results.

I’ve had many people thank me for my various writings and posts.  Some have said the stories, insights, and sometimes rather personal information have helped them find new freedom, or at least to ask new questions.

There are also those who find my views heretical.  They think I’ve lost my way.  That I’ve been seduced by the dark side (insert heavy mechanized breathing). They seem to think if I’m still “saved,” and that’s a big if, it’s by the skin of my teeth.
The same information that helps some can irritate and even anger others.

Author Rachel Held Evans stated “it’s still really hard for me when people question whether I’m actually a Christian.”
Sometimes it seems like the more “Christ-like” ones views become the more they’re challenged by traditional religion. That makes sense in light of how Christ himself was treated.

I think that our responses to ideas that are different from our own says a lot more about where we are in our journey than they do about the ideas themselves.

I had a friend years ago who tried to tell me that I didn’t understand grace.  He tried to sell me on “eternal security.”  I let him know that I understood grace just fine.  Maybe he wasn’t using grace as an excuse to sin, but certainly he was leading people down the path of that possibility. Maybe his salvation was intact, but what about all the people he was misleading?
My fundamentalism was is full force.

The thing is, he could never have argued me out of my beliefs.  No one could.
No one could have argued me out of my right-wing fundamentalism.
No one could have reasoned me out of my limited view of grace.
No one could have convinced me that issues of social justice weren’t just predominantly forms of anti-God secular humanism.
I knew right-wing politics and “true” Christianity went hand in hand.
And all that “green” tree-hugger nonsense? Well, we won’t even go there.

I’ve never known anyone to be argued out of their long-held, deeply ingrained beliefs. For that kind of change, something has to “click” inside them.  I don’t know how or why this happens.  It’s probably different for everyone.  I’m only vaguely familiar with how or when it happened to me.  The “click” isn’t the actual change in beliefs.  Change is a process.   And as I’ve said, there is no growth without change.

But the “click” is, I think, a necessary precursor.  THEN the seeds of the knowledge and experience of others (their enlightenment) past, present and future, start to take root. Once that initial switch is thrown, lights everywhere start coming on.  The false glow of the light we thought we had may finally go out. The journey takes on a “life” of its own, and all you can do is hold on. (We must also remember though, that all of our life up to any given “click” has also been an integral part of the journey. Realizing that can help prevent some tendencies of beating oneself up over what “should have been known”.)
I’m still convinced that one of the greatest “new” pieces of knowledge is the realization and acknowledgement of how little we do know.  Then we can be less afraid, and more importantly, less combative of the ideas outside of our theological clique.

This is one of the great flaws of most religion, certainly of fundamentalism.  “I don’t know” is not a comfortable option.  Instead, everything has to have a concrete answer.  I mean, just look at all the apologetics books.  Everything must have a clear, locked-down explanation. AND we must be able to defend it tooth and nail.

I had an extended “run-in” with one young fellow who loved the phrase “spot-on.”
“Do you think that’s spot on?”  “Is your belief spot-on with the Bible?”  For him, there was one right answer, and he knew it!
I’m  not saying that there are no absolutes.  But we don’t have to dig too deep in our own lives to realize our understanding is certainly not absolute.

Naturally, when we discover a new facet of ultimate reality, or a new-found freedom, we want to share it.  The rude awakening comes when we find that not everyone shares our enthusiasm.  Not everyone believes you should think, explore, investigate, or be allowed to experience life the way it comes to you. Mostly, this is fear.

So yes, “sharing enlightenment is practically impossible.” Enlightenment arrives on it’s own terms.
Still, we sow.  And we reap from the sowing of others.  And the sowing can play a large roll.
Especially when at last the switch is thrown and something clicks.

It may start with letting go of the need to be “spot-on.” We start to see that life and perceived truth might be a little more fluid, rather than carved in stone.  It seems to me, that without a strong ability to be comfortable with “I just don’t know,”  we can never really grow, because when we think we know all the answers, we stop searching, and we make the fatal flaw of no longer asking the questions.

———
To read more quotes by John Fincher, you can “friend” him on facebook.
You can also check out his bussiness at: USMaterialHandling.com

Rachel Held Evans is a blogger, speaker, and author of “Evolving In Monkey Town.”
Check out here site here: rachelheldevans.com
Read my review of “Evolving In Monkey Town” here: EIMT

Disclaimer:
Neither Mr. Fincher nor Ms. Evans are associated with this blog. The view expressed are those of the author (Me.)
– dave

See also:
Comments On A Comment
and
Tribbles…

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 
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