I nearly made it. Nearly reached 47 years as a good, obedient, evangelical Christian. Alas, I have failed.
Well, to be brutally honest, the church has failed.
As one who has attended church from even before she was born, I must admit that it is quite sad that the evangelical church can’t even keep me. I should be thoroughly indoctrinated. I should be thoroughly submissive. I should be loath to question and afraid of the grey. I should unblinkingly support the republican party. I should parrot the words of Franklin Graham and those like him. I should happily condemn homosexuals and those who consider abortions without stopping to ask why. I should worship the flag, this country, and the military. I should rage against the moral failings of Bill Clinton while dismissing and outright excusing Donald Trump’s. I should do all of this un-ironically. I should do all of this without seeing the blatant disconnect from the faith I claim.
But I don’t. I can’t.
I blame my mother. Ok, I really don’t. But I do acknowledge her for being a strong woman with a critical mind who wasn’t afraid to think. I blame my childhood surrounded by boys and daring to think that I could talk to them in the same manner that I talked to girls. I saw no difference in their worth than my own then. I don’t now. I went toe to toe verbally with any boy and will still do it to this day. But, I must confess, many men of the church do not appreciate a woman getting all logical and smart and stuff. Cuz, you know, breasts and periods and all. And submissive women. And blah blah blah….men retaining power over all.
I like to think. I like to question. I like to seek. I refuse to submit strictly because a man tells me to. I refuse to follow tradition simply because the church decides to. I will not shut off my brain for fear of shaking my faith.
And therein lies the problem. When one ceases to fit into the tidy box created for us in the evangelical church one risks exile. One risks attack. One risks pious prayers for our lacking discernment and wisdom. Pity. Anger. Disdain.
Really. I tell you no lies. I have been the blessed recipient of all of the above.
I have been on a fascinating journey in my faith for many years. But it has come into picture perfect focus within the past year. Thank you Donald Trump. Thank you Franklin Graham. Thank you Westboro Baptist. Thank you stubborn homophobic cake bakers (it’s a cake people!! A stinking cake!). Thank you alt right, confederate flag waving, nazi saluting, gay condemning, conservatives.
Thank you for exposing the hypocrisy and self-told lies in my own mind.
For years I had complacently looked past the bigotry disguised as love in my own faith community. I accepted the notion that those scholars who researched and found flaws in translations of scripture were out to destroy the Bible (yes, I have heard this statement many times). For decades I bought that we alone had the correct interpretation of scripture. For nearly half a century I happily lived amongst the Pharisees.
Yes. The Pharisees.
The Pharisees were those in religious power in the days of Christ. They were the recipients of Jesus’s most direct displays of anger and rebuke. They were blinded by their own righteous thinking. Blind to their own snobbish hatred of those beneath them. Completely clueless that they had left their God long before and traded it for power and rules. Lacking the discernment of the Truth in front of them.
Today I step away from this toxic brew of political power and pious judgment the American evangelical church has become. Today I close the door to those who wish to guide me off of the path I am on. I am on this path because of my faith, because of my seeking, because of my prayers. Not in spite of. Not opposed to.
Does it not seem arrogant to even suggest that we have the definitive interpretation of the gospel? Does it not seem foolish to think we and only we understand God’s teachings, God’s reasons, God’s will? Does it not seem counterproductive to quash those who dare to be different? Dare to ask questions? Dare to follow with both their heart and brain? Why would it be wrong to leave some questions unanswered? Some facts unknowable? (Who is right when declaring God’s will for hurricanes? Is it judgment for homosexuality, abortion, lack of support for Israel? Or is it God teaching us to love and depend on each other? I’ve heard all those variations and more.) Why can’t we admit that not everything in life was outlined clearly in scripture? That life is full of grey. Isn’t that the definition of faith? To use our brains for as far as they can take us and then leap for the remaining unprovable parts?
I find myself at a point where I can no longer suck it up for the sake of community. In fact, I find that notion laughable given my community lately. Parts of my community have regularly blamed me for being unkind and harsh. I have been confused if they were referring to my constant pleading that we reach out to the marginalized OR to the fact that I disagree with them politically. And that…THAT is just pure heresy!!! Is my dysfunctional heart reflected in my devotion to charity or to my disdain of falsehoods? Is my poor discernment proven by my questioning the Christian defense of despicable personal beliefs OR by my belief that we are to strengthen each other’s faith through challenging that which is against Christ’s teachings? I must say that I am confused about these things.
I have had a rotten few days. I have not seen the loving side of my evangelical brethren lately. My children have witnessed their cruelty cloaked in piety. They have seen the venom dripping from lips claiming to love me. My family’s faith has been damaged. It is too soon to tell if the damage is permanent. It is too fresh to know when or if the wound will heal. But I grieve for my children. I grieve for their pain and concern over mom’s red, swollen eyes. I grieve for their worries about implications to their own lives. I grieve their innocence in thinking that Christians really do love each other.
And what caused such grief? Pettiness. Stubbornness. Wounded pride. A desire to quiet different thought. Assumptions about me based on nothing other than my gender, my defense of facts, and my refusal to back down on the core of Christ’s teachings. The core of love and grace to all.
Literally all people.
LGBT included. Poor included. Addicts. Those who don’t plan ahead. Those who vote democratic. Those who’ve had abortions. Those who fight fascism. Fascists (yeah, that one stings). Atheists. Single moms who’ve never been married. Dads who have walked away from their responsibilities. Divorced people. Parents who neglect their children. Children who are disrespectful. Christians who think differently than the unwritten evangelical handbook says they should.
I’ve thought back over other times when loving, caring christians have felt it necessary to scold me for causing others to stumble. Yes, this accusation has been used several times. Most, if not all, have been over a difference of political opinions. When I refused to apologize for thinking that our current president is much like Saul in the book of Isaiah, I was condemned. I guess God only agrees with blind support of political leaders. Because He placed them there. How dare I suggest that perhaps they weren’t placed there for the reasons they believe. Are either stances provable? Absolutely not. But, I suppose my version of unprovable is far more blasphemous in the handbook. And they have freely pummeled me with verses to confirm their superior view. Pay no attention to the verses that don’t.
Please pay no attention to past religious giants who have stood in opposition to government leaders due to their personal Christian beliefs. I’m sorry Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you should have followed Hitler. My apologizes to those Christians who hid Jews in their homes. Martin Luther–how dare you nail your treatise to the door! Daniel should not have prayed because the king said so. Tsk tsk Moses’ mom for hiding him from Pharaoh. I can’t for a moment think that the disciples who found themselves in jail defied any government authority! Could they have? What were these good people thinking?!?!? Clearly out of line.
There are far more examples of Christians disobeying authority because of not in spite of their faith. But, hopefully my point is clear.
I also will address the painfully large elephant in the room. Many do not take too kindly to a women suggesting that their views may be skewed. People bristle when a mirror is held up by a….girl. They’d rather break the glass than study the reflection. Many faithful men are shaken by a strong, thinking woman. But not Esther! (from the book of Esther) She was an excellent and godly example. She spoke truth to power and we revere her for it. Or Abigail. Let’s not forget her strength. (Google her story). Hmmmm… I guess book examples are fine since no one can witness you learning from a woman that way.
So, I apologize for the epic fail of my American evangelical christianity. I apologize for choosing to follow Christ’s example over all else. I apologize for taking Jesus at His word when he stated that loving God and one another were the greatest commandments. I am sorry that I passionately fight for the poor, the wounded, the marginalized. I am sorry that these choices are causing people to stumble in their faith. I am sorry that these choices are causing you pain. I am sorry that I cannot control my tongue when calling out destructive beliefs or behaviors found in Christians.
Or better yet, I will move on with my faith while it is still intact.