Hope on a Slippery Slope

Hope on a Slippery Slope

I was given an article from a conservative Christian magazine that spoke about a former evangelical that no longer believes in the existence of God. The author suggested that when the person rejected the inerrancy of scripture, he stepped onto the infamous “slippery slope.” The inference was that if the reader, too, steps onto the slippery slope, he or she can expect the same tragic result.

The person who sent the magazine article said he was concerned “for my mortal soul.” The truth is, I am concerned about the sender. I am afraid there is more than a little bit of projection going on. I know the young man, and he is too smart to be held captive by a tribe whose DNA is rooted in fear. I am afraid he will lose his faith.

I have found far more people who have lost their faith by staying too long within the evangelical camp, than those who lost their faith because they departed from it. My faith is the strongest it has ever been. The same is true for every progressive evangelical I know. For the first time in our lives, we are resting securely in the loving arms of Jesus. Our faith is not fear based; it is rooted in God’s unconditional love. It is truly good news, hence our reluctance to give up the term “evangelical.”

It was only over the last 500 years that Western man became fixated with rational thought and the notion of absolute truth. There was a false belief life could be logically understood and uncertainty could be made certain.

In that rational world, Christians made the Bible the capstone of absolute truth. Words on a page were to be trusted more than the messy machinations of churches of humans. It was difficult to tell whether they were worshipping Jesus or the Bible.

In a world in which propositional truth is seen as the ultimate ground of being, all it takes is a single chink in the armor to bring the entire metanarrative down. It was the reason the evangelical world insisted on the inerrancy of Scripture, a concept not birthed until the modern age. Inerrancy was the belief that the original autographs (copies) of Scripture were without error. Scripture claimed no such thing for itself. The fact that we did not have original copies of Scripture was not seen as relevant. It was the idea of inerrancy that was important.

Today we know better. We know we can get close to objective truth, but as long as humans are the ones doing the observing, we can never be truly objective. Knowing, of any kind, is a risky and non-exact business.  Therefore, those whose faith is rooted in inerrant original copies of scripture live in perilous territory.  Their faith demands a certainty that does not exist.  No wonder so many Millennials are leaving the church.

The truth is that life is a slippery slope, but it is not something to be feared. It is to be embraced. Certainty is a myth. Once we accept that all truth and knowledge is slippery, we can look for the ample handholds along the way.

Those handholds are not propositions; they are people. They are incarnate humans who love well, and pursue the ministry of reconciling the creation to the creator. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes. What they hold in common is a belief in the inherent goodness of man, and the important work of bringing about the kingdom of God here on earth. Some are even Christian.

I find great hope in these people who love well and never give up hope. They bring me through my dark days and hold space for my pain. They bring joy, often in the form of a shared tear or a reassuring hug. They love well.

This is an uncertain and capricious world, but there is hope. It is not in the idea of an inerrant book.  It is in the truth that God is busy reconciling all things to herself, and doing it through those who are created in God’s own image – fallible, flawed, marvelous and miraculous human beings.

And so it goes.

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#ChurchToo

#ChurchToo

The church has never dealt well with sexuality, and it has dealt particularly poorly with male sexuality. From Roman Catholicism to evangelicalism, we are now reaping the rewards of that failure.  #MeToo is a game changer.  Now, #ChurchToo is popping up across the Internet.

Recent events in Alabama form the awful backdrop of this narrative.  Nine women came forward to say Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore used his positional power to assault females.  Yet an article in the November 19  Washington Post noted that of the large Alabama evangelical churches it followed after the allegations against Moore, almost none of the pastors have mentioned Moore or sexual abuse in their sermons.  I am not surprised.  The evangelical church has been silent about sexual abuse for centuries.

Last year Sojourners magazine published a study entitled, “I Believe You:  Sexual Violence and the Church.”  The study found that 65 percent of pastors have spoken one or fewer times about sexual and domestic violence.  They just don’t see it as a problem worth addressing.  When was the last time you heard a sermon against sexual abuse?  Ask any therapist.  Sexual assault is rampant within the evangelical community, but churches want to keep their heads in the sand.

Dr. Benjamin Kees, with Regent University’s Center for Trauma Studies, said Christian marriages have a much greater frequency of domestic assault that what is seen in non-Christian homes.  He believes much of this is because of the traditional teaching that the man is the “head” of the household, a theological position that enables sexual abusers.

The problem of sexual abuse is not just within the church; it is also rampant in the halls of some of the most conservative Christian universities, including Bob Jones University, Patrick Henry College, Pensacola Christian College and Cedarville University.  All have been guilty of allowing sexual assault on campus.  In many cases the victim was blamed.

When I was a student, I was sexually assaulted by a Christian college professor.  It was a decade before I discovered I was not alone.  Many others had been assaulted by the same professor.  My abuser eventually lost his job.  But  because the school did not share their knowledge with others, he was able to get a teaching position at another Christian college.

Since I transitioned I have had former classmates tell me about other professors who assaulted them at the same institution.  I have no reason to question the accuracy of their stories.

That people question the credible stories of the nine women in Alabama tells you just how resistant the evangelical world is to the cancer in its midst.  These women are courageous and credible voices.  Yet for their honesty and integrity they have been mercilessly attacked by Alabama evangelicals.  Furthermore, just yesterday the Republican National Committee restored its support for Moore, and the president endorsed him.  This, from the party so warmly embraced by evangelicals.

No wonder victims are still reluctant to come forward when they live within the evangelical subculture.  They know there is a likelihood they will be blamed.  For them, the Roy Moore story remains a cautionary tale.  But the tide will turn, just as it did for the sexual abusers whose crimes have been brought to life since the Harvey Weinstein story broke.

The #MeToo phenomenon is acknowledging deep wounds in the soul of our nation.  In the same way, #ChurchToo will bring to light a dark chapter in the history of the evangelical church.  It is not coming a moment too soon.

And so it goes.