Dearest evangelicals, I love you so damn much.
You taught me how to love Jesus like a Person, how to pray to God as if God is as close as my breath, how to remember Scripture better than I remember what happened yesterday, how to see the Gospel in books and poems and music. You taught me to have the heart of Jesus for the poor. You show me how to live as if Jesus is the most important thing in the world and that Jesus encompasses and absorbs *everything*. You tell me to take Scripture really, really seriously, and Jesus even more seriously. You invite me into worship with emotion and color and light and that warms and excites and calms and fires up my soul.
But y’all what are you DOING? Blessed, beautiful people, the culture that you told me so firmly to stand firm against – you’re absorbing it and mimicking it. The Scripture you told me to take so seriously – you’re not just drinking milk instead of solid meat, but you’re cutting the milk with water.
I am watching the evangelical response to this election with confusion and brokenheartedness. I read articles like this written about the hipster conservative evangelical response to the election (warning – friends, this is super harsh), and I feel like I’m staring at my childhood home and it’s been bulldozed and there’s a strip mall there. I got told that our job as Christians was to boldly and bravely stand up to evil in our culture and call it what it was, and that I could expect to be persecuted for that. I never thought I’d see my evangelical family suddenly cease to speak, because we might lose church members or our power in political places or because we might be persecuted for it.
What’s my real heartbreak? Dearest evangelicals, you won, with me at least. I bought it all. Everything that you told me mattered more than life and death – I believed you. You told me that truth was never, ever relative, that it existed and was a firm foundation that I should base my whole life on. I believed you! And 81% of you voted for a man who makes up information because it can’t be proven untrue, and it’s defended as “refreshing.“
You told me that sexuality was a gift from God, and sacred, and that what we do with our bodies matter, and I believed you! You said that the morality of our public officials mattered, and I believed you! And you voted for someone who bragged about assaulting women while his wife was pregnant with their baby, and women came forward and said he did assault them, and you checked his name in the voting booth while citing King David’s sins.
You told me political involvement was essential to living out the Kingdom of God on earth, because we could fight for what was good and right and God wanted for us in the voting booth and with our activism, and oh boy did I buy that! And then conservative hipster pastors deal with a divided congregation by preaching that “politics are debasing and temporary, that we should elevate ourselves by focusing on the long game of our eventual death.”
Y’all taught me that we should take Scripture literally, but when I turn to Scriptures that call us to not oppress the alien in our land, commands for a nation (not just individuals) to care for widows and orphans, Scriptures that call out the rich and prosperous for impeding justice – you say “not those Scriptures.” Those aren’t the Scriptures that we should take literally.
I am staring at my childhood home, and I wonder if it was always a strip mall after all.
Watching the white evangelical church this year, from hipster to traditional to moderate, feels like hitting the screen at the end of The Truman Show. I’ve known things weren’t adding up for awhile, but it wasn’t until right this moment that my ship has hit the wall and I look back and wonder – what here has been real?
I bought everything, because if what the evangelical church claims to be selling is actually what’s on the shelves oh my goodness I want that. I still ache for long, rambly Scripture-based sermons; prayer meetings that may or may not involve the laying-on-of-hands; serving the poor in communities; fighting for justice, not just for charity, in the political sphere; intimacy with Jesus that isn’t just a worthy goal but an achievable goal. I want the Bible to matter and be taken seriously. I want faith to seep in every crack of our lives. I want to be told every day from my community that Jesus Loves Me, This I Know – and that Jesus Knows Me, this I love.
I still want what evangelicalism tells me it has.
I just don’t know if it actually has it.
I want the ocean. I want to travel out to the edge of the furthest horizon and rise on the wings of the dawn – but it seems more and more likely that the far side of the sea is only a painted wall.
I want to go on a little mini-rant here and cry out that the structure of evangelicalism is based on exclusion, on sameness, on conformity, on obedience to authority, on works righteousness, on punishing the nonconformists, on maintaining power, on not rocking the boat, on stifling curiosity, on fear. I have a lot of things to say about the horizon that promised me unlimited grace – and then my boat hit the painted wall that claimed that grace stops here.
But there are still the people. You. My dearest evangelicals. My people who still pray with me, bring me wine and cheese in the park when I’m hurting, tutor refugee kids from every continent with me, who fight trafficking across the globe and in our own back yard, who show up at Black Lives Matter protests and show up at Pride. The people who argue good-naturedly about Scriptural interpretation with me, who clap in the back of church with me when “making a joyful noise” means using our whole bodies and not just our lungs.
How do I walk away from the people who first told me that I should be a pastor? From the kind, fierce evangelical women at the little camp in rural New England who led me into richer intimacy with God? From the charismatic evangelical youth group that showed me how to wrestle the Word and taught me that it is ok to say “I don’t know”? From L’Abri’s lunch discussions and Intervarsity’s manuscripts studies?
I don’t know. I want to know. I also don’t want to know.
The wall isn’t moving, I think. It feels solid. It breaks my heart that the horizon that I saw doesn’t exist except in the individual beautiful people that I met on the way.
God help the homeless progressive evangelical.