Friday, September 19, 2014

Things that keep me outside the camp

Some time ago, a friend of mine at church expressed surprise when I told him that I don't consider myself an evangelical.

I guess I can see why he might feel that way. I follow Jesus Christ. I think a commitment to faith is important. I read the Bible regularly. I was on the missions field for about two years, from 1992-94. Still, all that said, I often find myself outside the evangelical camp -- originally pushed there, but now here of my own volition -- for a number of reasons.*

1. I don't see the Bible as inerrant. If you want, I can even supply some pretty glaring inconsistencies.

2. I usually vote Democratic. Often I am stumped how a person of faith can support many of the social and economic policies of the GOP.

3. I regularly find myself appalled by the bloodthirstiness and bizarre sense of justice practiced in the Bible. And don't get me started on the subject of genocide.

4. I've never read anything by Rick Warren, and am wary of megachurches, particularly once they have radio stations.

5. I think the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Evolution fits into my faith just fine, and makes more sense to me than six-day creationism, both scientifically and theologically.

6. When somebody escapes injury or misfortune and says, “Wow, God was looking out for me today," I want to ask about the other people not so fortunate, and whether God had it in for them or just wasn't paying attention. Athletes giving credit to God for their wins just make me roll my eyes.

7. I ask a lot of annoying questions. Once when I was told to stop asking questions and just have faith, I ended my membership in that church.

8. I have issues with authority. I have a hard time heeding it in people who don't have or who have lost my respect. This includes a lot of evangelical leaders, past and present.

9. I mislike altar calls, which I find emotionally manipulative, especially for children.

10. As I read the Bible, I can't help but feel that sometimes the people who wrote it, just got it wrong.

11. I support gay rights; I'd even officiate at a gay friend's wedding if she asked.

12. I don't have a problem with Islam the way I do with Christians who vilify Muslims and mock their beliefs.

13. With notably few exceptions, I don't listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies, or read books from a Christian bookstore, because (aside from those few exceptions) they all stink, horribly.

14. I think there's room to criticize Israel, and I do.

15. I don't think Jesus is the answer to all my problems. Good planning, good health care, and good friends go a long way too.

I suppose the thing that drives me nuts the most is the evangelical approach to sharing the faith. Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had arrived, and set about healing the wounds of this world. Rather than follow his example, the evangelical approach is to spend so much time trying to convince people that they're sinners that in the end all they're convinced of is that we're jerks.

Still, to be fair, I should say what I find nice about evangelicalism.

1. By and large, evangelicals take the Bible seriously.

2. Evangelicals often provide the backbone financially and personally for world missions, including medical care, infrastructure and economic development in the developing world -- and this quite often is done without an eye toward gaining converts.

3. Stereotypes to the contrary, evangelical Christians aren't ignoramuses. A creationist is probably going to know more about the details of evolutionary theory than your average college graduate.

4. Evangelicals often have a sense of the immediacy of God that I wish I had more of.

5. There are signs that younger evangelicals are pushing the movement to the Left and taking a broader, more socially responsible view of things.

* N.B.: I want to stress that this post reflects my thoughts on evangelicalism itself, and not a critique of evangelicals qua believers. As a movement, evangelicalism historically has been a much broader, more encompassing movement than it is now, one that allowed for a wide range of doctrine and views. My prayer is that it would return to those roots. and shake off the narrowness that has defined it for the past thirty-some years.

Tip of the hat to Rachel Evans

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