How Not To Become A Liberal

One of the greatest fears a conservative has is that of becoming a liberal. The next greatest fear is that someone you know will become a liberal.  In these confusing times, I thought it would be helpful to give a bit of advice on how to stay solidly conservative.

  1. Avoid the Mainstream Media.  News outlets like CNN, NBC, The Washington Post, and PBS will constantly challenge conservative thinking and values by quoting liberal sources and facts.  Stick with news sources that you can trust to provide you with good, common-sense conservative information, like FoxNews, Breitbart, The Blaze, and folks like Rush and Sean Hannity. You need to have your conservatism constantly reinforced.
  2. Don’t listen to your children, especially if they attend public school or liberal arts colleges. If you can’t indoctrinate homeschool your children in a good, science and philosophy free environment, there is no telling what kind of liberal concepts they will adopt. It’s common for schools to teach things like equal rights, which in reality is just a way to erode white male privilege, and unproven scientific theories like evolution and climate change. They will try to challenge your conservative ideals, and they may even make sense. But ignore them anyway.
  3. Regular Evangelical Church Attendance.  There’s no better way to fortify your conservatism than to surround yourself with like-minded conservative Christians, and to hear good, Evangelical Bible teaching. But, beware of those churches who talk too much about grace and forgiveness; grace is just a slippery slope toward liberalism.  And, in that same vein:
  4. Don’t Read the Bible on your own, especially the Gospels, without a good conservative Study Guide or Devotional.  Reading the Gospels without external guidance is a sure way to start thinking like a liberal.  It’s very easy to misunderstand Jesus’ teachings on social justice, loving your enemies, and not judging sinners, which on their face can seem contrary to the conservative evangelical doctrines we hold dear. If you have to read the Bible on your own, read it in small bits, so you can avoid taking the verses in context.

I hope you have found this helpful.  It may sound like a daunting task, but take comfort as you look around at the millions of other people desperately hanging on to good old American conservatism.

Things the Apostle Paul did not say

I think my favorite kinds of sermons are those that I can riff off of. Not audibly, of course, but I tend to think tangentially anyway, so I like a sermon that raises points that I can explore while I’m sitting in church. Even better if I continue to think about them afterwards. They don’t have to be great sermons, as long as they provide food for thought. (I do not, however, enjoy a sermon that causes me to mentally analyze every bit of tortured logic and twisted scripture. It may be a great exercise in critical thinking, but it’s neither edifying nor fun.)

In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard one of each. I will talk about the good one. The topic was love, and referenced a few good quotes by Paul that got me thinking about what Paul did not say, which leads me to my topic today.

THINGS PAUL DID NOT SAY

Let holiness be your highest goal. (1 Cor. 14:3)

And above all these put on correct doctrine, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)

Without our church I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2)

Owe no one anything, except to judge each other, for the one who judges another has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8)

The greatest of these is truth. (1 Cor. 13:13)

And there’s more, but I’m sure you get the idea.  Paul was undoubtedly the master of proper doctrine and logic. He bragged about winning an argument with Peter and the rest of the church leadership. However, Paul was, at heart, a softie. He was concerned about widows and orphans, the poor and the weak of faith. In Paul’s mind, everyone had value, and had gifts to share. There were no favored classes, and no one had the right to judge anyone else (even themselves).

What has happened to Paul’s message that grace is a gift, and cannot be earned?  That God loves all of us unconditionally, and we should in turn love others unconditionally?

It seems that in today’s evangelical circles, putting love first makes you a liberal. Love is conditionalized, as it seems to be a scarce and finite resource, not to be thrown around indiscriminately. Or, perhaps the definition of love has been retooled in a type of Platonic dualism; we can love in a universal, ideal sense, but we must be careful who we love in a practical, earthy sense. We love sinners Platonically, but not incarnationally. We love refugees, just only where they can’t touch us. We love the GLBT community, but not as equals.  

And that’s what happens when you start to think about what Paul (and Jesus) really said.

 

A BEHAVIORAL CREED – or why I can sometimes be such an annoying pain in the ass on Facebook

I adhere to a confessional or creedal form of Christianity, which means that I hold that the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds set forth the basics of orthodox Christianity. Most of the traditional churches, such as the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and of course the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, are creedal. As for the others, theology is more up for grabs, it seems. And, a lot of contemporary evangelicalism seems more behavioral than creedal; that is, what you do is often emphasized more than what you believe.

Now, creedal churches also emphasize some aspect of “right living,” but what they believe about right living differs considerably, from having no relevance whatsoever to gaining holiness or salvation (my view) to believing that works is essential to righteousness or salvation.

This is not to say that I don’t believe that behavior matters; I believe it matters a lot. It matters to others, it matters to the church, and I believe it matters to the world. It just doesn’t provide us with any “grace points” because I believe we’ve already received everything we need; we just need to spread good works around to those who need them the most.

So, I thought I would start to set out why I will call my Behavioral Creed, until I come up with a better name. It’s in the same “I Believe” format, because it’s what I believe is important in determining how I should act toward others. It’s not a set of strict rules or standards, but perhaps more of a “Best Practices” for Christians. It’s an ideal that I don’t claim to meet, but hope to get better at, for the sake of the world.

A Behavioral Creed

First and foremost, I believe in Grace—in the powerful presence of God that saves me and empowers me to live for others. This means setting aside judgment and seeing the imprint of God in people.

I believe in Mercy and Forgiveness—that I have been forgiven and have no alternative but to forgive even those people who don’t deserve forgiveness. Mercy and Forgiveness eradicate the need for justice.

I believe in the Golden Rule—to treat others how I would hope to be treated.

I believe in Generosity and Hospitality—not “tithing,” but giving to others responsibly and extravagantly.

I believe in Humility—in taking the lowest seat, giving credit to others, being a servant, and empowering all those around me.

I believe in Peace—both external and internal, and strive to spread it wherever I am.

I believe in the other Fruit—joy, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.

I believe in Loving others as I love myself—impossible, it seems, as I am incredibly self-centered and sometimes misanthropic; but I believe it.

I believe in Truth—being truthful about who I am, and in what I believe (which includes the theological creeds). I believe in proclaiming truth, to bring freedom to the unfree, and bringing life to the unliving.

I believe that all humans were created in God’s image and have great potential, and that God truly desires all to be saved.

I believe that the Church is called to be the light set on a hill, a beacon of hope, and a source of healing for the nations.

Guns and Dodgeball

IMG_0180.PNGI, like many others, were saddened last week by the news of the shootings in Roseburg, Oregon.  It didn’t take long before I was also angered by the rush of extremist responses over guns.  It seems that for many people, the battle over gun control took precedence over grief and empathy.  And like many others, I have followed the news reports fairly closely as facts are revealed. While I have seen countless rants about gun control and the 2nd Amendment, I haven’t seen one person examine the issues at hand, to try to determine what, if any, types of gun control could have prevented a wacko from killing people.

What I saw was this: As soon as the news made the rounds, people all over the country rushed to their side of the gun control issue, like kids choosing sides at dodgeball, and began hurling meaningless slogans at each other. There has been no meaningful discussion, not that it would be of any help to the victims and families. I’ve not heard one thing that I haven’t heard since LBJ was in office. I remember, because when I was a kid I had a political ad hanging in my room that showed LBJ, LadyBird and Hubert dressed as gangsters, with the slogan, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

That’s as far as the discussion has gone in most circles.

Now, common sense tells you that taking away guns from the honest, sane people won’t stop the evil, crazy people.  It also will tell you that if crazy people don’t have guns, they can’t shoot anyone.  Common sense will also tell you that you can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things. I did some research, and it seems that the claim that there is a knife attack in England (who has gun control) every 4 minutes, and the rate appears to be climging.  And as we’ve seen here and abroad, it’s incredibly easy to build a workable bomb. You can find plans online.

Laws will dissuade reasonable people from doing evil things. They won’t stop the unreasonable. I don’t have a firm position on gun control.  I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I think background checks are an obvious necessity.  Do some gun control methods work?  Is it possible to enact some gun controls but still protect the 2nd Amendment?  I don’t know, because people are too busy yelling to really examine the issue. I’d like to find out, wouldn’t you, even if it doesn’t agree with your current belief?

Human beings need to pick sides, to join tribes. One of the aspects of tribalism is to adopt a position of “I’m right, and you’re wrong” (cue “For What It’s Worth.”).  Some call it “polarization,” but it’s simply resorting to a tribal mentality.

For a tribe, tribal identity is everything. This in itself prevents meaningful dialogue. For anyone to really get anything done, they have to be willing to risk their tribal identity and start thinking for themselves, entertaining new ideas, and going in new directions. This is the case with nearly every major issue in this country. Tribalism is preventing any meaningful work from getting done, and it’s costing the country in ways that can’t even be quantified.

And it makes me angry.  But then, I always hated dodgeball.

A Look at the Progressive Nature of Western Christianity

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of Progressive Christianity; not necessarily about any current person or group using the designation, but just about the concept. There are some Christians who proudly refer to themselves as Progressives, to distinguish themselves from the staid, Evangelical Status Quo. There are others, such as the aforementioned evangelical Status Quo, who use the word perjoratively in reference to the liberals who would destroy the SQ (Status Quo) and Christianity As We Know It.  

The truth of the matter is, western Christianity is progressive. Evangelicals, today’s SQ,  were once the progressives. Today’s progressives may be tomorrow’s SQ.  The fundamentalists, believe it or not, were once the progressives. Calvinists were progressives, Lutherans were progressives, and Roman Catholics were once progressives.

What this means is that Christianity As We Know It in the West includes many beliefs that are later inventions. I think it safe to say that the New Testament Christians would not recognize today’s church or it’s teachings. And, ironically, many contemporary progressives are merely rejecting many of these relatively late-breaking beliefs which were at one time rejected by the existing church. 

Here are a few examples of commonly-held beliefs which are later inventions & additions, which much of the contemporary evangelical church accepts as “orthodox”:

  1. Dispensationalism and the Rapture
  2. Biblical Innerancy
  3. Literal readings of Genesis, Revelation, and other passages
  4. Rejection of infant baptism
  5. Predestination
  6. Original sin & total depravity
  7. Penal Substitution theory of atonement
  8. Accepting Jesus as your personal savior

There are more, but as you can see, these represent many of the key tenets of contemporary Evangelicalism.  And yes, they can all be traced to a specific point in church history, although attempts are made to support some of these from snippets of writngs from the church fathers.  

Original sin, for example, was a concept developed by Augustine, who also laid the foundation for total depravity and predestination.  Augustine’s teachings were not accepted by the majority of the church at that time, and he is only considered to be a “saint” by the Roman Catholic church (which split from the Eastern church in 1054).  The Eastern church doesn’t consider him a heretic, but many of his new ideas were rejected.

Penal Substitution was developed by Anselm (11th Century).  John Calvin further developed Augustine’s ideas of total depravity and predestination, and also affirmed Anselm’s penal substitution theory.  Doctrines such as Dispensationalism and the Rapture originated sometime in the mid-1800’s and were popularized by Scofield who included the teaching in notes in his study Bible. (The concept that Revelation was about the future was first taught by a Jesuit priest in the 16th Century.) Biblical inerrancy and literalism are also later developments, being positions adopted by fundamentalists and evangelicals in the 19th and 20th centuries.

With Christianity (especially Protestant Christianity) being progressive in nature, it’s interesting to note the various time periods where certain groups have stopped progressing and become vaious “status quos.” My wife uses the phrase “leaving the conversation.”  The Amish, for example, left the conversation at some point in the 1800’s, both culturally and theologically.  There are some Lutheran groups who left the conversation theologically at the creation of the Book of Concord, the collection of early Lutheran works that establish Lutheran doctrine. 

Some fundamentalist groups and Pentecostal groups left the conversation theologically in the early 1900’s, and culturally about 1946.  And, contemporary Evangelical churches that I’ve been visiting seem to have left the conversation in the 1980’s, and culturally and musically in the 90’s.

Many contemporary “progressives” may only be progressive in that they are casting off dead conversations, rediscovering things like the christus victor concept of atonement, creedal statements, and reading the Bible like the 1st Century Jews read the Old Testament. The voices of the past – the “great cloud of witnesses” – are still a part of the conversation.  

When you look at how Christianity has evolved over the years (to me, a more accurate word than “progressed,” which implies getting better), you have to ask yourself who the real progressives are.  Perhaps the progressives are really the ones who simply refuse to leave the conversation.

The Fear of Doubt

It seems that one of the greatest fears of many religious people is the fear of doubt. There are many types of fear, and there are many kinds of doubt; most of us, I think, are familiar with both. However, I don’t think many people stop to recognize the fear of doubt, which is not uncommon among those identifying with strong ideological groups. They fear their own tendencies to doubt, but also fear doubt in others, because of the potential for awakening their own doubt. As I write this I am reminded of a song off Toad The Wet Sprocket’s Coil album, “Don’t Fade,” which deals head-on with this: 

How could you forsake the love of God that way?
Don’t fade, you’re staying here with me
Don’t fade, I need to know that someone still believes.

Following up on my prior post on Why I Am Not a Joiner, the fear of doubt challenges our perceived commitment to an ideological group such as a church, as well as to the ideology (such as belief in God) itself. I would hazard to guess it is more common among more conservative groups, which are conservative simply because they have laid down extraneous qualifications for belonging, such as a belief in inerrancy, literalist interpretations, and doctrines such as Calvinism or dispensationalism. The more fundamentalist a group gets, the number of extra qualifications for membership increases, as does the opportunities for the fear of doubt, which becomes the worst sin imaginable for the group.  Immorality, for example, can be tolerable and even forgiven. Doubt, however, is like a plague that must be eradicated. What’s worse is that these extraneous doctrines become so associated with faith itself, that when people do lose faith in, say, Creationism, or Biblical inerrancy, they will throw the baby out with the bath and walk away from Christianity altogether.  

This fear of doubt often becomes cyclical: The fear of doubt, and the need to maintain control, causes leaders to insitute more rules about belief, beleiving that setting up these rules will keep doubters and non-believers out of the group. This in turn results in a strong group-think, which then causes a fear of doubt among the members, because doubt is the greatest enemy of belonging. And belonging is important. It’s so important, in fact, that the fear of doubt even plagues those who self-identify with a particular group, even if they have no direct ties (an example would be someone who is a “follower” of a TV faith preacher).   

The fear of doubt can also keep people insulated from the outside world. Truth becomes secondary to the prescribed beliefs of the group, so any challange, no matter how well-reasoned or supported (like the earth rotating around the sun) is matter-of-factly rejected by the group. Truth, it would seem, should be everyone’s goal, and encourage everyone to work together to acheive that goal. However, tribal mentality puts the tribe before lofty goals like truth or the well-being of others, to the detriment of everyone. 

I’m a fan of truth. I’d rather not believe in something that isn’t true, especially if it matters. On the other hand, if I choose to believe that the Vikings could actually win the next Superbowl, there’s no real harm done, except to my eventual disappointment. Facing the truth when it conflicts with your current beliefs is often uncomfortable, especially if you’ve found some type of security in that belief. However, I believe that reality and truth are good things, especially where you will have to eventually face the truth anyway.

I have, at times, suffered from a secondary fear of doubt; that is, a fear of doubt in others. I would expect this is common for people who are parents or who have served in various pastoral roles. However, I’m getting over it.  After years in communities where doubt was a bad word, I find discussions of doubt now to be a breath of fresh air. Doubt is at least honest; proclamations of belief are not always.

The following is, I think, an amazingly honest treatment of faith and doubt, by Kasey Chambers. The video features her son, Talon, who inspired the song by telling her that he believes in God when he’s with her, but doesn’t when he’s at his dad’s house.  In some ways this whole post serves as an intro to the song:

Apparently there’s a problem in my embedding so here’s the link:  http://youtu.be/8Rh62aWp5Ow

Why I Am Not A Joiner: A Confession of Sorts

I say “of sorts” because my purpose here is not to discuss me; rather, I’m using myself as a jumping off point to discuss the larger issue of what it means to join a group, even informally.

I’ve never been what you could call a “joiner.”  (Cue quote from “PeeWee’s Big Adventure: “You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”)  I’m not one to rush after the latest fad, follow the crowd, or jump on bandwagons. If I do happen to find a parade going my way, it’s more of a synchronistic happening.

I usually haven’t taken “the road less traveled” with much forethought or design. Often, it’s just because I don’t like crowds. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, where I could see the horizon in all 4 directions. I still like to have a 360-degree view of things, even on the interweb. 

Another reason why I am not a joiner is that I usually find that I simply don’t fit in with many groups. Part of it is my natural tendancy toward introversion, but over the years I’ve discovered that I tend to think differently than other people. If there’s a different viewpoint in the room, it’s more than likely to be mine. I almost never agree completely with the general consensus on many issues, often to the bewilderment and frustration of more single-minded thinkers.  Unless it’s important, I often keep my opinions to myself, which is not that hard, being a man of few words anyway. 

One of the things I have begun to understand over the past few years as I have pulled away from some things that I had “joined,” is that joinging involves, to some extent, a loss of self.  If you are going to fit in and be a true part of a group, even only internally identifying with a group or ideology, there are things about yourself that you have to give up.  This can often be a very good thing; for example, learning to put others first involves putting some of your own interests aside. When I got married, and then we had children, this was essential.  Refusing to step out of the spotlight results in destruction of the family, etc. 

However, occasionally joining a group, especially when it’s centered around a certain ideology, requires a sacrifice of a part of yourself (unless you’re already bent in that direction).  You can’t maintain a “solo-think” and at the same time adopt the “group-think.”  And let’s face it – it’s so much easier to just adopt the group-think, especially if you already lean that way and respect other people in the group.  

All over the web, there are sites which preach to the choir, reaffirming the extremist group-think. Pretty soon, those who take up residence in these tribal territories begin to see the world in such a way that the extreme appears to be centrist and “balanced.” They may even believe they are the free-thinkers, but in reality they are only free from the gravitational pull of the other point of view. Politically, theologically, and socially, I have some basic conservative views that I’ve held since I was young. I also have some basic liberal views that I’ve held as well. This tension has caused even more tension, at times, but it has served me well by protecting me from becomeing sucked into one vortex or another. 

I am not free from the need to belong, even if I am something of a recluse. There are times I have wanted to belong, and found for one reason or another that I just can’t, at least for an extended period of time. And at times I’ve occasionally immersed myself in a group that I later realized was just wacko, and to be honest, I’m fairly embarrassed that I let myself be sucked in. Not wanting to be embarrassed in the future is a good motivator to look before I leap. So who knows – my reluctance to be a joiner may be a little wisdom layered on top of a personality defect.  However, I am blessed to belong to a wonderful family, and that’s a tribe that I can give myself whole-heartedly to, and which in turn I find satisfying. 

The point of all of this, again, is to say that becoming a true part of a tribe involves a real loss of a part of yourself. Joining a tribe is not something to be taken lightly (unless it’s something just for amusement, like playing music or joining a sport). It’s good to be sure that what you are gaining is both valid and is more valuable than what you are sacrificing.

Why the Supreme Court is Right about Same-Sex Marriage

Over the past couple of days I’ve read a lot of stuff about Friday’s Supreme Court decision on the Obergefell case. Some of what I’ve read has been thoughtful, but to be honest, much of it hasn’t.  I understand that there are people who have strong feelings on the issue, and will react one way or another without any actual understanding or opinions on the legal issues involved, and that’s okay.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  The Obergefell decision actual makes this point:

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

However, I’ve also read some things that are positively wacko, claiming things like the Supreme Court didn’t have the right to make this decision, or that it will result in the end of the world as we know it.

The Supreme Court’s job – when they do it properly – is to rule on the constitutionality of an issue. They are not to make moral or emotional decisions based on their own whims or feelings, but to look at the specific issues that are sent to them, and apply the Constitution to those issues.

In this case, I believe the Supreme Court not only made the correct decision, but that they made the only reasonable decision.  They were looking at 2 issues: Whether a state could deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, and if same-sex marriages would be recognized in states where same-sex marriage was not legal.  The court looked at the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens.

It should be noted that the Supreme Court is not a religious institution, and looks at marriage from a legal persepctive, not a spiritual or religious one. And the Constitution doesn’t care how your religion defines marriage (or we would have to ask, “which religion?”). It is a legal definition, not a spiritual one.  And marriage, from a legal standpoint, means having certain rights relating to things like insurance coverage, taxation, citizenship, and estate issues.  Equal rights to marry essentially means that these various legal benefits are now available to everyone involved in a committed relationship.

The ruling is not going to result in more same-sex couples cohabitatng. It simply meand that they can’t be denied the same legal rights as other couples. And, under the 14th Amendment, that is correct. Basically, there is no Constitutional basis for denying same-sex couples these rights. The decision also means that the confusion created by marriages in one state not being recognized in another state will not be an issue.  Under the Constitution, and by simple common sense, it would seem that this is the only reasonable decision the Supreme Court could have made.  If we still believe in equality under the law. Some may not like it, but equal rights are equal rights.

Endnote: I am making no comments here about whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong or how the Bible is to be interpreted. I am only saying that according to the Constitution and the laws of the land, I believe the SC decision was the correct one, and it is a civil rights victory for the LGBT community.

Searching For Sunday

I just finished reading Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.  I know, this goes against my typical bias against reading anything too trendy. However, I really didn’t know much Ms. Evans, only that I’ve really appreciated a few snippets I’ve read over the past few months, so she stood out as someone – like Nadia Bolz-Weber – who might have something unique to contribute.

I liked it.

Evans is first and foremost a writer. She is not a theologian, or a professor, or a pastor. She writes about life, often her own life, from her perspective, and she doesn’t attempt to do anything else. She is also intelligent, insightful, and honest, which again, makes her a pretty decent writer.

Searching for Sunday is a collection of essays about life in and outside of the church, organized around seven oft-recognized sacraments. Some bits are historical, some are 3rd person narrative, and some share her own life story as it relates to church. While seeming a bit disjointed at times, as a collection of essays often does, I realized that what she is doing is painting a mural of the church from her perspective. You don’t see the point if you look at the individual brush strokes, although you can find a lot to appreciate in those strokes and the colors used. But once you stand back and take it in as a whole, you see what she has created.

In her individual strokes she deals with many hot-button topics, like women in the church, GLBT issues, legalism, etc., but she deals with them as a story-teller, not as an apologist. Again, this is her perspective. And again, she has a lot of insights, and I would guess that anyone who doesn’t just simply shut her out will find a lot to think about, whether you agree with her perspective or not.

If you can back away from the individual brush-strokes enough to see her full picture, I think many – especially those who have only known the contemporary evangelical church – will be faced with a portrait of the church they’ve not really considered prior. For the “dones” – those who have declared themselves done with the church – the book may present a way back in. Or not.  But in any event, I think Evans has painted a portrait of the church worth appreciating.

This I Know 2.0 – An Unapologetic Apologetic 

Over my nearly 60 years of life, I have had only a handful of revelations that have had a lasting impact on me. I can recall specific details about each experience and by and large they were fairly mundane, but the specific epiphanies would change how I saw things from that point on. I mention this only to provide a little background on one I had perhaps 5 years ago.

As with the others, this was not a Damascus Road experience; rather, it was more of an Emmaus Road revelation, like having a mist lifted so that you see more clearly where you are already walking. And, as much of my brilliant thoughts do, it came while I was thinking about something entirely unrelated.

My revelation was simply this: I still believed in the same God I believed in as a child.  

That’s it. 

It may seem underwhelming to you, but 5 years or so later, I am still aware of this reality. It is now foundational to who I am. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that I have simply maintained my death-grip on my childhood beliefs, because that’s not true. My theology has changed over the years – several times, in fact. I have been around the block, so to speak, more laps than most. While I, out of youth and ignorance, was impacted by various pop theologies and trends over the years, I have maintained my simple belief in God, and that Jesus loves me, this I know. I have rejected more doctrines and beliefs throughout my life than many people have ever encountered. Many were illogical in some form or other, some were stupid, and a few were just bat-shit crazy (that’s a common theological term). 

In spite of traveling in and out of various evangelical, charismatic, sometimes wacky, ancient liturgical, emergent, and often boring intellectual Christian churches and groups, in spite of moving from moderate to conservative to something else, and in spite of being led through a morass of theological trends, I believe in the same God I believed in as a child. 

I’ve had many, many people try to talk me out of it. I’ve been dispensationalized, fundamentalated, legalized, charismatized, jeopardized, and tribulated. I’ve gutted my library of trash theology more than once. And in the end, I believe in the same God I believed in as a child. 

Now, smart atheists will tell me this proves that religion is a product of our environment, that if I grew up believing in Some Other God, that’s who I’d believe in today. Granted, exposure is an obvious factor in belief. Paul says this himself in Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” However, I know many, many people who believe differently today than they did as children. Tons. So, I’d have to say that while I truly appreciate the fact that I was raised a Christian, I’d have to say that what I believe today is not because of what I believed as a child (I believed in Santa Claus then, too).  

Now, I have heard and read many testimonies of people who have rejected the beliefs they were raised with, and as a result they have concluded that they don’t believe in God. Some of them even have blogs where they love to talk about what they no longer believe. This unbelief in God is an understandable leap of logic, I guess, but generally I find that it’s lazy as well as illogical. I hear these stories and think, So what? I reject those things, too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. You don’t reject all pizza because you don’t like anchovies.  

So back to the profundity of my revelation, specifically related to current belief and unbelief trends. When people are leaving the church and faith in droves, is it perhaps because they were never taught the truth about God in the first place? When the illogic and absurdity and hype and the control-freakism of religious traditions come crashing down, is there anything left to believe in?  

For me, there was. I rejected dispensationalism and God was the same. I rejected legalism and God was the same. I rejected penal substitutionary atonement and God was the same. I rejected literalism and God was the same. I rejected wacko-ism and God was the same. And in fact, not only was God the same, but it was specifically because God was the same that I rejected these errant beliefs.   

If I had to pick a theme song, I think it would be Sting’s If I Ever Lose My Faith. My faith is not in science or progress, or in a church, or theology, or, as odd as it sounds, even in the Bible. My faith is not in a political system or the definition of marriage. I don’t care if evolution is true or if there’s life on other planets. My faith is in God and the truth of the Gospel, that Jesus loves me, this I know. The same God, and same Gospel, I was taught as a child.