I always have a hard time explaining to people what exactly I believe. I was raised starting out Southern Baptist. We then went to a country full gospel church. Eventually I transitioned to a more charismatic church in line with what could be seen on TBN. If you aren’t familiar with TBN, think back to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, then put that in the 90s. All of the churches were evangelical, but evangelical still covers a broad spectrum . I guess now I am post-charismatic, post-evangelical because I still carry a lot of charismatic and evangelical ideas.
So, what changed? Through the start of the 2000’s I started seeing things I had a hard time reconciling. One of the first was the absolute loyalty to the Republican Party. It seemed from a religious point of view this was based simply on the issues of homosexuality and abortion . While at this point I still held traditional evangelical views on these issues, it seemed the Bible spoke to many other issues that were squarely opposite the Republican position. And I would see Christians taking positions on issues like gun control, military spending, and tax cuts for the wealthy like it was part of their Christian duty despite seeing no Biblical backing for any such positions.
This started me down the road to asking questions. We ended up at a slightly more progressive church with a mix of conservative and progressive members. There was some freedom to ask questions, as long as you didn’t ask the wrong person.
At this point bigger questions came up. Questions like why all of Science points to a 13.7 billion year old universe and species evolution. And then getting to know gay people who were really great people who just happened to be born with an attraction to the same sex. These really shook up my view of the Bible which shook up my faith.
Eventually as I wrestled with what to do with the Bible, I prayed. I stayed to God, “I want to seek the truth. I want to seek you. Not a book, not what I’ve been taught, but you.” That changes my path. It allowed me to allow the Bible to be an inspired book written by flawed men for specific reasons in a specific time to a specific audience. Then I could see the value of the stories and the lessons and not get stuck.
Eventually as my faith continued to mature and my understanding of Christ’s nature grew, it became easier to look at situations and identity if they reflected the nature of Christ or not. I could see that the relationship between the church and the LGBTQ community did not reflect Christ. This was heart breaking as I talked to person after person who left their faith because the were told God did not accept the person they were.
So, through prayer, reflection, study, and community, I started finding peace with these issues. I found a way to approach the Bible that maintained its value while allowing freedom to understand it in context. I can accept what I see in science and not try and force it into a Biblical narrative. I can look at moral and ethical issues in light of the nature of Christ and not archaic codes that are likely irrelevant to our times and our society.
So now I can fully embrace my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I can affirm them in faith. I can stand in support of minorities who have been oppressed, willing to do whatever a privileged white man can do to help. I can stand with the immigrants and refugees, knowing without question this is where Jesus would stand. I can also stand knowing with my loving and gracious God, heaven is going to be much fuller than we may have thought. And hell, well it is in a crack house in Detroit, or with a teenage sex slave in Africa, waiting for the day of their redemption to come.
So when asked what I believe, I guess to start with I am a Christian. That hasn’t changed. Beyond that, I’m still figuring it out. I’ll stick with post-evangelical post-charismatic for now.