March 27, 2011

The Future of Evangelicalism

I have been puzzling with this post for sometime. There have been so many times during this last decade where I have felt close to calling it quits with my faith. If Christians want to defend attacks on gays and the poor, and defend torture, I want nothing to do with that version of Christianity.

But I can't walk away.

Ran across this very interesting blog post from Rachel Held Evans on the future of Evangelicalism. I saw a little of my own struggle in her post, especially when she wrote:
But the problem is that after ten years, I’m getting tired of trying to convince fellow Christians that I am, in fact, a Christian, even though I may vote a little differently than they vote, interpret the Bible differently than they interpret it, engage with science a little differently than they engage with it, and understand sovereignty and choice a little differently than they understand those things.
For me the difference is more than "slightly" or "little." I differ a great deal from my conservative counterparts on these issues. She reminds me, in her generous and compassionate tone, of our blog friend Natalie, who wrote a nice post on her own struggles to find a church home. Both seem more open to engage with the conservatives and able to clearly distinguish between their faith and their disagreements.

I struggle with both. I don't know quite how to disconnect from the evangelical faith that can suggest that in a "personal relationship with Christ," one can endorse or tolerate the worst of the worst. Perhaps it is because the language I grew up with is encoded in my discussion of faith. I remember Joseph Campbell once compared our religious upbringing to computer language. It is part of our coding, and as such, he was relatively skeptical of the ability to completely change religious faith traditions (I may be combining Campbell with discussions about Campbell...).

Either way, I find it hard to talk about faith in the language of the conservative church--because it no longer reflects my beliefs or experience--but also struggle to find a way to talk about faith in a way that reflects my beliefs and experience.


Smitty said...

I may be combining Campbell with discussions about Campbell...

No, that was a whole 5- or 10-minute piece in his 6-hour interview with Bill Moyers; The Power Of Myth. I have that on audiobook. I listen to it like once every 3 months or so. Love it to pieces. In that segment, he talked about finally getting a PC (this is the 80s, remember!!), and of course immediately started philosophizing about it.

I was never a part of an evangelical church. I converted to catholicism about 12 years ago, when I met who became my wife. I converted because she is catholic and wanted to get married in the catholic church. It mattered little to me. I was actually raised Presbyterian in a wildly-liberal church in Lansing, MI. I had no real reason to essentially end my faith.

But I did.

Natalie said...

Thanks for the comparison, especially because I find Rachel to be much more compassionate than I am. If you're ever willing to drive out to Tuttle, America there is a group of people who are doing great things, and it's a church I would attend if I still lived there. But the tricky thing is that not 100% of the members are on the same wavelength...

leighton said...

I think she's right that evangelicalism (as a term, and as the group of institutions that think it's important to identify as evangelical) is probably going the way of fundamentalism. The only function of labels like that is for political or organizational purposes; I get the sense that people my younger brother's age (early/mid 20s) have a more fluid and diverse set of priorities than old white evangelicals do, and are thus harder to classify.

I grew up Church of Christ, and I have nothing in common with current believers. At least one CofC in Denver is still banging the drum of "People who use instruments in worship are going to hell," judging by their billboard at least, so imagine Bryan Fisher without an audience, and that's essentially what I've left behind. There's really nothing drawing me back.