A while back, I wrote a post where I said that “I basically live in weekly fear that people will find out what I really believe about God.” This is the real root of what I wrote yesterday in response to Richard Cizik’s forced resignation from the National Association of Evangelicals. His resignation is exactly the scenario that I was pondering when I wrote those words about living in weekly fear.
And it’s not an idle fear. It’s a fear which is rooted in the facebook profiles of my fellow church members who link to stories condemning people who see the scriptures as I have come to. One based in conversations with members of my church who cannot fathom that anyone who was a “born again Christian” could vote as I have voted in the last election. One founded in the ways that I have heard members of my church question whether the Pope is really a follower of Christ.
Unfortunately, as God has been leading me to embrace what Brian McLaren termed a “generous orthodoxy” – in essentials (the creeds), unity, in non-essentials, liberty, I find myself stuck within a movement which is known for its imposition of extra-credal requirements: inerrancy of scripture, believers’ baptism, and at times such things as support for the legal outlaw of abortion and gay marriage and a mandate to vote Republican.
It’s quite a sad situation, actually, as there is so much about Evangelicalism that I truly admire. The commitment to scripture study, the passion of its members, the willingness to contextualize the gospel for the sake of reaching groups of people who would otherwise never hear what Jesus really said – these are all strengths of Evangelicalism as a movement.
But there are a few things that I have to say which would probably make about half the people in my own church consider me to be unsaved:
- I strongly doubt that scripture is inerrant, even in the original texts.
- I believe the cross brought forgiveness of sins for everyone, whether or not they become a follower of Christ. This means that at least I believe that anyone who finds their way into hell will do so of their own choosing, not as a punishment from God, and quite possibly that everyone will be saved in the end.
- I do not believe in pre-millenial theology. I don’t actually think we need to look around for the anti-Christ because he already came, almost two thousand years ago, in the form of the Emperor Nero. And while I do believe that Christ will come again and renew the heavens and the earth, I don’t think he will do so by destroying the current ones.
- I don’t think the scriptures make an iron-clad case that homosexuality is a sin. In fact, I believe the case is so weak as to imply that it probably isn’t. I support gay marriage and wish that my church did not keep pushing people away from Christ by opposing it.
- I believe that Catholics love Jesus as much as Protestants do and believe that I have much to learn from my Catholic brothers and sisters.
- I believe that the devout of other religions love God just as much as Christians do and that God will save many if not all of them whether or not they confess Jesus as Lord in this life.
- I don’t think outlawing abortion is the right way to stop it from happening; and that appointing right-wing justices who will allow the President to torture our enemies is definitely not the right way to stop it.
Those are just a few of the things that I wish I could say to certain members of my church without having them, at least in their minds, de-church me. But, alas, I can’t.
Which is why I still think I have to leave.