For years, I was a proud, card-carrying Evangelical. I was die hard, dogmatic and totally immersed in the “us verses the world” sub-culture. It was how I was raised . . . it was all I knew.
If stickers were given out as prizes for conservative-evangelicalism, I would have been a walking billboard. I knew that Hollywood was abhorrently evil; I knew that homosexuals were tragically confused and I knew that curse words made God cry. Sticker me!
But something happened to this evangelical poster boy in recent years. I began to stray from my Sunday is our fun-day roots.
My mentors and former Sunday School teachers might blame the devil for my fall from grace, but I cite a different source. I blame the Bible. You see . . .
- Evangelicalism taught me to avoid “sinners,” but I was sure Jesus told us to love them.
- The churches of my youth taught me homosexuals were trying to destroy America, but when I actually made LBGT friends, I realized that was a lie, and honesty is a central theme of the Bible.
- Church leaders I respected surrendered their pulpits to politicians, claiming every 4 years that their candidate was “God’s choice.” But when I read the Bible, I never saw God taking political sides.
- Christian friends mocked, feared and disrespected pop artists and political activists, but Jesus never mocked, feared or disrespected anyone.
The more fear-based, accusatory and exclusive conservative evangelicals became, the more uneasy I felt with the “faith” of my childhood.
Evangelicalism taught me there was a culture war and then spent years demonstrating that to win at all costs was all that mattered.
How could this be true? We might have been winning the war but we were losing ourselves in the process. Love, hope, acceptance, mercy, kindness and grace — where had they gone?
As my devoted, mega-church attending and increasingly right wing friends bogged down in the morass of hyperbole and hypocrisy, I naively tried to extend a staff of reason.
Militancy doesn’t become us. Gay people aren’t our enemy. Those who disagree with us politically can’t all be evil. I’m pretty sure my kids aren’t Satanists . . . they just trick-or-treat for the candy.
The more I questioned, the further I was pushed away. Apparently, discussion and deliberation don’t mix well with absolutism. And neo-conservative evangelicals are the Jedi Knights of all things absolute.
So I made a decision, a big one.
I didn’t slip away from western, evangelical culture. I didn’t find myself accidentally adrift and off structure. And I didn’t backslide (though that’s open to debate).
Gleefully and wholeheartedly, I sprinted from this politicized, angry, exclusive counterfeit. It was just too different from the real faith so beautifully displayed in the Bible.
I’m no apostate. I still have faith in Christ. I still believe the Bible is God’s infallible Word. I still pray, believe, love and try to help my neighbor. But I don’t do it with an agenda anymore . . . I just do it because it seems right.
If you’ve wondered the same things I have, let me encourage you to put on your running shoes. Dash from any dogma that insists people are the enemy and anger is the answer. Race from any religious teaching coopted by commercialism and a political agenda.
And when you do, don’t be afraid. A post-evangelical life isn’t heresy. It’s Christianity. The kind Jesus taught. The real kind.