Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life: Liminal Space

Every once in a while we do this around here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion:  Pick a topic and keep on talking about it until there is nothing left to say.

If you have been tracking with me on this blog for any length of time, or any of the other blogs where I hang out regularly, you may have heard the term “post-evangelical wilderness”. Despite what you may think, this “post-evangelical wilderness” is not simply some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around all day in front of their computer screens and write whatever strikes their fancy. This post-evangelical wilderness is a real place inhabited by real people with real stories. These are people who have grown up in evangelicalism or invested a significant season of life in evangelicalism, but who now, for whatever reason, feel seriously out of place in evangelicalism in its current state–people who are, to borrow an oft-used (around here, at least) quote from Rachel Held Evans, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

It occurs to me that some of you may not have any idea what I am talking about when I speak of the “post-evangelical wilderness”, so I am going to offer some snapshots over the coming days/weeks of what this looks like on the ground in my world.

The 2000 movie Cast Away is all about liminal space.

In the closing scenes, the character portrayed by Tom Hanks, of whom some of you may have heard, finds himself at a crossroads with new possibilities for his future life–and perhaps love–before him.  In his prior life he had been a fast-rising executive with a major international corporation, summoned away from his family–on Christmas eve, no less–to assist with solving a problem overseas.  The plane carrying him and his team crashed in the middle of the Pacific and left him stranded on a desert island.  He was the lone survivor.  For four years he survived, utilizing items found in the wreckage of his plane and on the island.  Finally he was rescued and returned home, only to find that his entire world–career, family, relationships–had long since given him up for dead and moved on without him.  There was now no possibility of him going back to his prior life and picking up where he left off.  After taking care of one last item of business from his prior life–returning a now-undeliverable package that he had salvaged from the wreckage of his plane to its sender at a home out in the country–he meets a woman in a pickup who, it is hinted, may offer direction for his life going forward.

“Liminal” comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold.  Liminal space, then, is the space between who you once were and who you are becoming.  We are changing, others around us are changing, the world itself is changing.

Some of you may be going through, or emerging from, seasons of life marked by disorientation and disruption resulting from loss:  Loss of job.  Loss of health via illness or injury.  Loss of loved ones via death or divorce.  Loss of opportunity for romantic connection.

Some of you may have seen your prospects move the other way via good fortune:  You got accepted to your dream school.  You got the scholarship.  You got the job.  You got the promotion.  He asked you out.  He proposed.  She said yes.  You’re having a baby.

Some of you are just having to deal with the natural life changes that are part and parcel of growing up and/or growing older, facing new roles and dealing with new realities.  You’re at school and away from home for the first time in your life.  You’re out on your own and having to pay bills now.  The kids have grown up and moved out.  Your body is changing, your metabolism isn’t what it was back when you were in college, gray hair is starting to come in, and you’ve got these new aches and/or pains that won’t go away.

Some of you have seen changes in the world around you, changes in yourself, perhaps both, and are coming to the realization that you just don’t fit in anymore.  Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and now no longer Christian (by his own admission), is a prime example of this.  In the process of working through misgivings he had lately begun to have about his work, he came to a place where he could no longer consider himself a Christian by any of the measures he had used up to that point.  For my own part, I am struggling to hold on to faith despite the immense changes in myself and in the evangelical world around me which lead me to believe that I don’t quite fit in anymore.  I am unsure at this point what I am becoming or what a life of faith will look like for me moving forward.

The ending of Cast Away is a tidy, emotionally satisfying ending, just what one would expect in a Hollywood movie, yet with just enough ambiguity to be at least somewhat believable in real life.  But real life is not like a Hollywood movie.  You can’t count on receiving a sign to foreshadow the way forward.

Herein lies one of the greatest shortcomings of evangelical spirituality.  In the evangelical world, the path of spiritual formation is one-dimensional:  Read your Bible.  Pray.  Attend church regularly.  Get involved and serve.  Share your faith with those around you (the word commonly used in many parts of evangelicalism is “witnessing”).  Pursue personal holiness:  that is, avoid sins and cultivate good habits.  Not that these aren’t good things to be doing in and of themselves–they are–yet this program is typically presented as a one-size-fits-all garment that will stretch to fit anyone of any size and any shape, apply in any imaginable circumstance, and equip one to face any conceivable challenge.

When life’s changes are acknowledged, too often spiritual leaders create the expectation that the Christian life is a journey with recognizable landmarks and that perceptible, measurable progress is to be expected.  This expectation is all over the place in evangelicalism.  Mission statements of many evangelical churches are quite clear in that they expect certain marks and measurements of growth to be evident in the lives of their members.

Real life is not that simple.  I’m sure we all, on some level at least, know better than that.  I wonder how many of us would be honest enough to stand up in our congregations and say something to the effect of “I see myself at a crossroads out in the middle of nowhere, with all roads stretching equally to the horizon, and no signs or landmarks anywhere indicating which is the way forward”?

Allow me to close with a quote from Richard Rohr:

…Where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.  There alone is our world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.  That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.  Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…

…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.  If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.

The Human Element of Faith

Josh Harris is now an atheist.

The author of the 1997 blockbuster I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which exploded off the shelves and launched the purity culture movement in American evangelicalism into high gear (where else but American evangelicalism does a 20-year-old homeschooled kid who had never kissed a girl get instantly recognized as a world-renowned expert on love, sex, and dating?), began to have serious misgivings about the fruit of his work a couple of years back.  This set him on a journey which led to the recent announcement via Instagram that he is no longer a Christian.

The author of a Neo-Calvinist blog entitled “The Chorus in the Chaos” wasted no time whatsoever in channeling his inner John Piper and issuing a “Farewell Joshua Harris“.

This is precisely why the entire Neo-Reformed/Neo-Calvinist stream of Christianity is on my shit list.

Completely and conspicuously absent from this author’s attempt to post-mortem Harris’s departure from the Christian faith is any mention whatsoever of the human element of faith.  People grow and change as they grow up and grow older, have new experiences and learn new things.  No one believes exactly the same things in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago.  If you do, then I strongly recommend you check your pulse.  Harris is not the same person now that he was back in 1997, he does not believe the same things now that he did then, and his faith simply couldn’t handle the disconnect between who he is now and who he was then, thus his present state of unbelief.

I struggle with the same thing myself–trying desperately to hold on to faith when faced with the profound disconnect between who I am now and who I was back in happier times, so long ago when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical.  The “Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life” series was intended to illustrate my struggles in this regard.

As I have said before in this space, the “post-evangelical wilderness” is not some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around in front of a computer screen all day and write whatever strikes their fancy. It is a real place, inhabited by real people with real stories. It is a space where we are, to borrow a quote from Rachel Held Evans which I have used before, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

In all probability, Harris did not come lightly to his decision to leave the Christian faith.  This decision, and the journey leading up to it, were in all probability fraught with much grief from the loss of certainties he had held for much of his prior life, finding himself a complete stranger to himself because of all the changes happening inside, and living in that strange space between who he once was and who he is becoming.  When this author responds by issuing cheap soundbites about “how casually [Harris] has thrown away the preciousness of the Gospel”, it does a grave disservice.

Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life: Enough

Every once in a while we do this around here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion:  Pick a topic and keep on talking about it until there is nothing left to say.

If you have been tracking with me on this blog for any length of time, or any of the other blogs where I hang out regularly, you may have heard the term “post-evangelical wilderness”. Despite what you may think, this “post-evangelical wilderness” is not simply some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around all day in front of their computer screens and write whatever strikes their fancy. This post-evangelical wilderness is a real place inhabited by real people with real stories. These are people who have grown up in evangelicalism or invested a significant season of life in evangelicalism, but who now, for whatever reason, feel seriously out of place in evangelicalism in its current state–people who are, to borrow an oft-used (around here, at least) quote from Rachel Held Evans, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

It occurs to me that some of you may not have any idea what I am talking about when I speak of the “post-evangelical wilderness”, so I am going to offer some snapshots over the coming days/weeks of what this looks like on the ground in my world.

To lead off today’s post, we are going to jump into the way-back machine and take it for a joyride.

Those of you who were in and/or around the Passion movement back in the early 00’s probably remember this song.  There are a shit ton of other worship songs which express basically the same idea:  Christ is enough for me, Jesus you are more than enough, …stuff to that effect.

Back in happier times, when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical, I ate those songs up eagerly.  But these days I’ve turned it around:  Lord, am I enough for you?

Herein lies one of my frustrations with evangelicalism and its emphasis on “getting saved” as the defining moment of one’s spiritual life:  Once you’ve prayed the prayer, signed the card, thrown the stick into the fire at youth camp, or whatever you did, supposedly you’re all good with God and that question becomes a non-starter.  Real life dictates otherwise.

For as often as we say Christ is enough for me, Jesus you are more than enough, etc.,  …when do I get to hear God speak that over me?  When do I get to hear the Lord say to me “You are worthy.  You are enough”?

Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life: The Fame Monster

Every once in a while we do this around here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion:  Pick a topic and keep on talking about it until there is nothing left to say.

If you have been tracking with me on this blog for any length of time, or any of the other blogs where I hang out regularly, you may have heard the term “post-evangelical wilderness”. Despite what you may think, this “post-evangelical wilderness” is not simply some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around all day in front of their computer screens and write whatever strikes their fancy. This post-evangelical wilderness is a real place inhabited by real people with real stories. These are people who have grown up in evangelicalism or invested a significant season of life in evangelicalism, but who now, for whatever reason, feel seriously out of place in evangelicalism in its current state–people who are, to borrow an oft-used (around here, at least) quote from Rachel Held Evans, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

It occurs to me that some of you may not have any idea what I am talking about when I speak of the “post-evangelical wilderness”, so I am going to offer some snapshots over the coming days/weeks of what this looks like on the ground in my world.

Today we are going to talk about one of contemporary evangelicalism’s worst tendencies: namely, its addiction to chasing extraordinary, or as I would call it, chasing the fame monster.

Over the past several years I have volunteered at the Passion gatherings that typically happen in January.  It has frequently been emphasized to us as volunteers that somewhere in the room was the next John Piper or Louie Giglio Beth Moore or Chris Tomlin, and we get the opportunity to be on the front lines of serving them during these days and facilitating their encounter with God.  There is the story of Matt Chandler, who attended one of the very first Passion gatherings ever, had his world wrecked by God during those days, and went on to found a large megachurch in the Dallas area.  He is now widely considered to be the next John Piper.

Of course that is true.  Given the laws of mathematics and the size of a typical Passion gathering these days, it is entirely likely that the next John Piper or Beth Moore or Chris Tomlin is somewhere in the room.  But what they don’t say is that the vast majority of students passing through these gatherings will go on to what we would consider an ordinary existence.  The vast majority of these students will go on to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, nurses, paralegals, teachers, IT professionals, plumbers, carpenters, electricians–you name it. The vast majority of these students will live in the city as young professionals, or get married and move out to the suburbs and start families. There they will live as husbands, mothers, fathers, wives, and strive to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

But in much of evangelicalism these days, that is not good enough.

In so many parts of evangelicalism, Paul is held up as the standard to emulate and strive for. Look at his zealous, singlehearted, radical devotion to Christ! Look at what all he went through in order to spread the Gospel throughout the known world of that time! Look at the passion he felt, that drove him forward in all he did to advance the Gospel! Shouldn’t you be ashamed if your life is anything less than this?  That stuff will preach at conferences for zealous young evangelical college students these days.

But who received Paul’s letters? Not other apostles. Not even other pastors. Paul’s letters were written to ordinary, rank-and-file believers. Bet you didn’t notice this, did you?

These people, the recipients of Paul’s letters, were carpenters, farmers, traders, sailors, fishermen, shepherds, mothers, fathers, and children. Compared to the apostles, these people were nothing. Their lives were quite mundane. They were ordinary people who gathered together in someone’s home to drink their wine and eat their bread and hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them through the words of an apostle.

And then they went home.

And then they got up the next day and lived a perfectly normal life.

And they came back the next week and went through the exact same drill.

And on and on it went, all the way to the very end of their days.

Then they died, and now they are all forgotten.

For most of these people, the most extraordinary thing that happened in their lives was the day they trusted Christ and joined the Christian community. After that, their lives went completely back to normal. They listened to the words of Paul, learned from him, then in faith stayed exactly where they were, doing exactly what they were doing before, after he left.

Never in any of Paul’s writings do we get the sense that he was asking his readers to stop being who or what they were. He never challenged them to pack it all up and go overseas to preach the Gospel. We never get hints that he is making them feel guilty for living in relative comfort and ease, compared to his lack of it.

For some of you, this idea of identifying with the ordinary rank-and-file believers who received Paul’s letters may seem like a sort of death. Death to the dream of being extraordinary, of being someone special.

I get that. I once dreamed that I could one day be the next Chris Tomlin. I once dreamed that I could stand on a stage and preach or sing in front of thousands.

Matt Chandler, as noted above, attended the first ever Passion gathering in Austin as a college student back in 1997. During those days God turned his world upside down and sent him out as a flaming arrow across the sky for His glory. Stories like that are routinely celebrated in the world of Passion. You too can be just like Matt Chandler. You too can be just like Chris Tomlin, who is now living the dream, married to a former Miss Auburn who is now the woman whom every young Christian woman on the face of the earth would give her very life to be. Just pray harder. Surrender more. Dedicate more fervently. Live with even greater zeal than before.

I wanted it. God, how I wanted it. I have been going to Passion gatherings for over a decade now, just hoping and praying that God would rock my world as he did Matt Chandler’s, and send me out as a flaming arrow across the sky for His glory.

Hasn’t happened yet.

So if this seems like a death to you, death to the dream of being extraordinary, death to the dream of being someone special, I get it. Really I do.

But for countless others of you, this idea of identifying with the rank-and-file believer instead of the Apostle Paul is the greatest news you have ever heard in your life, next to the Gospel itself.

As noted earlier, we in evangelicalism are addicted to chasing extraordinary. Meaning that we have GOT to make a good name for ourselves. We have GOT to do big things for Christ that will be remembered by God and by others for all of eternity. It is not enough to run your business ethically or raise small children to the glory of God unless you are doing it on another continent, with bullets flying overhead and malaria crouching at your door. Why? Because we approach life needing desperately to succeed. To fail is to die. Success equals life.

But because of God’s grace, we are free to be ordinary. We don’t have to go out and turn the world upside down. Jesus Christ already did that when he won the victory over sin and death at the cross. We don’t need other people to love, respect, or approve of us in order for us to matter.  Because Jesus was extraordinary, it is perfectly OK for us to be ordinary.

Don’t you just love how I was able to wrap that up and put a nice little bow on it at the end there?

At this point some of you who have been tracking with me for a while have probably noticed that this sounds a lot like something I wrote a few years back at Life in Mordor (I am nothing if not all about shameless self-promotion.  But you knew that already), where I was a guest contributor at the time.  (That blog has long since gone dormant, but I still like to throw them a bone every once in a while just to let them know I’m still out there.)

I wish that were the end of the story.  It isn’t.  That is the way of things out here in the post-evangelical wilderness.

One of the things I alluded to in the prior post is the awareness of hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, and aspirations that I had back when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical, which remain unfulfilled to this day.  One of these is the aspiration that I would serve God via full-time ministry and/or missions.  Since that time my perspective has broadened on what it means to serve God faithfully via ministry/missions.  And I have this blog, which is making a difference here in this little neck of the Christian blogosphere at least.  Yet that differs significantly from what I was hoping for, and from my perspective it feels as if I have offered myself to the Lord to be used in His service, and He has said “Sorry, but no thanks.  You are not what I am looking for.”  That is something I have had to carry with me out here into the post-evangelical wilderness.  It has defined me going forward (“Well, if the Lord doesn’t want me then I’ll just go on about my business, living a normal life and having normal relationships with normal people, and moving forward in the best way I know how, according to such light as I can find for myself.”)  I have made a fairly nice life for myself here in the city, yet I cannot help feeling that this is significantly different from what my life would look like if the Lord had turned my world upside down and sent me out as a flaming arrow across the sky for His glory a la Matt Chandler, as I had earnestly desired so long ago.  The better wisdom and counsel that I have received along the way tells me I shouldn’t feel this way, yet still I cannot help it.

Here is the other piece of this:  I said above that we don’t need other people to love, respect, or approve of us in order for us to matter, that because Jesus was extraordinary it is perfectly OK for us to be ordinary.  I wish I could believe that for myself.  Yet we as humans were made to live in community and in relationship with others.  I yearn to feel as if I belong and I matter, and I certainly don’t expect to get that all by myself in an experience of what some would call the presence of God but in all likelihood is just a good feeling.  Evangelicals talk a lot about the “fear of man” which prevents us from speaking truth when it needs to be spoken, yet I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that ultimate significance can be found apart from human community, that I can matter if I do not matter to others.  Call it “fear of man” if you will.  Say that I am addicted to pleasing others and this makes me unfit for ministry so no wonder the Lord has never called me.  That may be true, yet it is part of who I am, a part of me that I cannot let go of and don’t want to let go of even if I could.

This Is Not Prayer

ICYMI:  Franklin Graham called upon Christians to set aside last Sunday, June 2, as a special day of prayer for our president Donald Trump.  Some of you may have heard about this.

As Christians, we are called and even admonished to pray for our leaders.  I get that.  But this is not prayer.  It is something else altogether.  It is using the institution of prayer to advance a partisan political agenda, and not just any partisan political agenda, but one that is inextricably linked to a president whose life and message are the exact opposite of anything even remotely connected to Jesus Christ.  It’s…no.  Just no.  That’s all there is to it.

Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life: An Old Favorite CCM Album

Every once in a while we do this around here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion:  Pick a topic and keep on talking about it until there is nothing left to say.

If you have been tracking with me on this blog for any length of time, or any of the other blogs where I hang out regularly, you may have heard the term “post-evangelical wilderness”. Despite what you may think, this “post-evangelical wilderness” is not simply some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around all day in front of their computer screens and write whatever strikes their fancy. This post-evangelical wilderness is a real place inhabited by real people with real stories. These are people who have grown up in evangelicalism or invested a significant season of life in evangelicalism, but who now, for whatever reason, feel seriously out of place in evangelicalism in its current state–people who are, to borrow an oft-used (around here, at least) quote from Rachel Held Evans, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

It occurs to me that some of you may not have any idea what I am talking about when I speak of the “post-evangelical wilderness”, so I am going to offer some snapshots over the coming days/weeks of what this looks like on the ground in my world.

As you may have guessed, today’s snapshot is an old favorite CCM album.

There are some of you out there, I am sure, who don’t have even a clue what CCM is.  CCM stands for “Contemporary Christian Music”, which is pretty much almost exactly what it sounds like.  This is a GINORMOUS industry within the evangelical universe.  It is a self-contained world encompassing everything from the worship music that is played on Sunday mornings in evangelical churches to music that is played on the radio, on stations devoted exclusively to this musical genre.  Every once in a while a song breaks out of this world and crosses over to the world of mainstream pop, such as Amy Grant’s “Find A Way” (1985), Michael W. Smith’s “Place In This World” (1990), or MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” (2003).  When this happens, there is no shortage of joy and glee within the evangelical world.  There are artists who make their entire careers writing and/or performing this music, and when one of them steps outside this genre, or gets divorced, or expresses doubts about some key evangelical distinctive, or (God forbid) comes out as gay, it throws the entire evangelical universe into fits and convulsions.  In short, it is an alternate universe of pop music that exists alongside the universe of mainstream pop music but is almost completely contained to the evangelical world.

I used to love this music–so long ago, back when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical.  There were numerous artists whom I counted among my favorites.  Now, much of it is something I would not listen to unless I wanted to punish myself for some terrible sin, to punish myself disgustingly.

Part of the self-punishment aspect of things is knowing how much this music meant to me back then, knowing who I was back then when it meant so much to me, and feeling the full force of the disconnect between who I was back then and who I am today.  Also, the awareness of many hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, etc. that I had for myself back then, which to this day remain unfulfilled.

The album I choose for this exercise is by Steven Curtis Chapman, and it is called Declaration.

The year was 2001 back when this album dropped.  It was a heady time to be an evangelical.  George W. Bush, a president whom many evangelicals would count as a close friend and ally, had just outlasted Al Gore in a very close and contentious election marred by voting irregularities that took weeks to sort out (remember the phrase “hanging chad”, anyone?).  With all that over with and Bush safely in office, we could all exhale and begin to chase the bad taste of the Clinton years out of our collective mouth.  We were winning in the broader culture on abortion, gay marriage, and other such issues of concern to us (or so it seemed at the time), and damn it felt good.  The purity culture movement spawned by Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye, about which I have written in prior posts, was in full flower.  We threw purity balls for the evangelical youth, and rejoiced mightily to see mainstream pop stars and other A-list celebrities rocking their purity rings.  (Don’t know what any of that stuff is?  Be glad you don’t.)  John Piper’s Desiring God was flying off the shelves and setting the world on fire, enlivening a whole generation of young Neo-Calvinists to go out and live all for the glory of God.

As for me personally, I was in full flower as a lovesick young evangelical punk.  There was a beautiful young woman on the horizon of my world, and any day could have been the day she said to me “YES!!!!!!!!!  I’M YOURS, TAKE ME AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (This has been a recurring theme in my life.  And we all know how this story ends, without fail.  But we won’t talk about that today.)  As I listened to this album (usually on road trips) I had fantasies of riding the open highway in a red convertible with the top down, and her in the passenger seat, and this music blaring from the speakers.  I now have the red convertible (I am on red convertible #2 at this point), yet still the passenger seat remains vacant.  But I digress.

We won’t go track-by-track through this deal, as this post is already long enough as it is.  But we will go through a representative sampling.

We start with the lead track, a song called “Live Out Loud”.  The song asks us to imagine the folly of winning the big prize on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, a reality-based game show that was all the rage back then and the precursor to much of today’s reality TV–and then just keeping quiet about it.  (Actually that kinda makes sense to me.  If you come out and publicly announce that you just won the big prize, you set yourself up as a target because there are lots of people running around out there who would resort to any means to get that money from you.)  We as Christians have been given a much bigger prize–eternal life in Jesus Christ–and it is time to bust out and let the whole world know.

Back then, I would have totally been on board with this.  Now, not so much.  This sort of tell-the-world-with-reckless-abandon goes against every fiber of my being, and I am much more convinced of the value of living quiet lives of humble service to those around us.  If you’re the sort of person who can tell the world with reckless abandon, great.  You do you.  But don’t make that the standard for the rest of us.

About midway through the album we come to “God Is God”, a song which dances with the themes of God’s sovereignty that are all over the place in John Piper’s writing and the Neo-Calvinist movement that his work spawned:  that the proper response to suffering and mystery in life is to bow down and worship and confess that only God is God.  (A song called “Much Of You” that would appear on a subsequent album is pure John Piper through and through.  Incidentally, John Piper was one of my favorite authors back then, and Desiring God was very formative to me in that season of life.  But he completely and totally lost me with “Farewell Rob Bell” a few years back, and has been on my shit list ever since.)  That may be so, but it completely misses the point of the book of Job–namely that for some things, all explanations are inadequate.  Even the explanation that God is God.  I have seen much out here in the post-evangelical wilderness for which the answers that God is God and our place is to bow in humble submission and worship are hopelessly inadequate.

Shortly after this we get to “Bring It On”.  An easy thing to say in the face of trouble when you are young, as I still was back when this album came out.  Be very careful what you wish for, because you just might get to the other side of it and find yourself in the same place as me.  I am sure Steven Curtis Chapman knows that at this point.  He later devoted an entire album to processing the tragic loss of a young daughter through the standard evangelical framework, a framework which I find hopelessly inadequate.

The emotional climax of the album–and by far the greatest point of disconnect between who I was back in happier times when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical and who I am today–is a song called “Magnificent Obsession”, a soaring and glorious anthem of single-hearted, all-consuming devotion to God alone.  How easy it seemed back then, to believe myself capable of such a thing.  I know better now.  And even if I were capable of living up to that level of devotion, I am not sure I would want to.  The song is representative of the sort of evangelical devotion that refuses to allow any space for our humanness–that our human struggles, wishes, dreams, desires, aspirations, etc. are all things we must abandon in order to rise to the level of devotion that God requires.

In this stage of life I find it very hard to trust that level of devotion to God alone, knowing that God is committed to people–the Scriptures bear this out–and any sort of devotion to God alone that does not translate to the people God loves and is for–especially those on the margins of society–is worthless.  After seeing 81 percent of American evangelicals enthusiastically and unabashedly support a president whose message is the exact opposite of God’s heart for people and especially marginalized people, I’m calling bullshit on this.

But more to the point, I am so over attempting to abandon my humanity in order to rise to the level of devotion that God requires, in the evangelical milieu, at least.  If I come to God I am bringing all of me.  Including all of my very this-world-centered joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, troubles, wishes, desires, and aspirations.  If He will not accept those parts of me then He is not a God that I wish to follow.

Goodbye RHE

Rachel Held Evans is dead.

To put it in language more comfortable to those of you who are of the evangelical persuasion, she “went home to be with the Lord”.

But I am not here to make people comfortable.  She fucking snuffed it.

About two weeks ago she began to experience severe brain seizures.  Emergency medical treatments failed, and now here we are.  You can read the full story here.

Some of you may recognize the name.  She was a Christian author who wrote a number of provocative books, including “A Year of Biblical Womanhood“, in which she set out to literally follow all of the biblical commands toward women for a full year.  Many leading evangelicals dismissed this as a publicity stunt.  She also wrote “Searching for Sunday“, which unpacks her complicated relationship with the Church, and “Inspired“, which reimagines our engagement with the Bible.

Rachel Held Evans was a faithful companion to those of us who are on the post-evangelical journey.  She will be dearly missed.