Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Note: is a liberal religious community site that spun off of Daily Kos. I like it quite a bit. I posted the following comment there; it explains a little why I consider myself a Protestant but not an evangelical. I added a few explanatory notes in square brackets.

I have bobbed up and down in my Christian faith over long periods of time. I am a Christian today because I think Jesus died and then lived again, but the beliefs surrounding that belief have been morphing slowly, ever since I became a Christian at age 18.

Once, I considered myself an evangelical because I believed it was truly important to believe certain things about X, Y, and Z; if you didn't, you were in a precarious, possibly deadly position. The evangelicals believed that too, so I fit right in. I tried to define truly important beliefs sharply, to find real traditional orthodoxy. It was a big project for me to learn what all Christians have believed, to come to my own mere Christianity.

I understood the futility of this endeavor a few years ago. I was leading a Bible study and met one of the guys in it by chance one day. I explained to him that I'd spent a lot of time taking apart the engine of Christianity, analyzing it to pieces, and very little time putting the engine back together, slapping it in the car and driving. I realized it was true as I was saying it, so I had a new project: to live out my Christian life with less emphasis on true belief than on integrity, true action.

Down the road, I realized that it was foolishness to set myself up as a judge of the orthodoxy of other beliefs, and thus a judge of other people who believed those things. I could trust God to manage his details, to see truly what I glimpse darkly. I also didn't understand the meaning of the line in Romans, "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." [Meaning at least that God's salvation works in mysterious ways, and questions of heaven and hell are too deep for us to know.]

Another realization came when Fred Clark of Slacktivist said, in a post on Left Behind, that evangelicals lack metaphor [not evangelical people necessarily (Hi Dad!), but evangelical ideology]. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was true. That was probably my decisive break with evangelicalism.

I still consider myself a Protestant Christian, but I don't feel guilty about voting for Democrats. Or thinking subversive thoughts about God, Jesus, and church. Or asking hard questions of my faith. Life has been much better ever since.

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