I'm an ex-vanglical but not an ex-christian

There is a lovely chap on Twitter, Blake Chastain, who I first heard use the appellation "exvangelical." He even has a podcast about it. I find it a helpful term and want to explore it in my own experience. This has been a long evolution and I will use my blog to look back on my spiritual journey out of white american evangelicalism.

I have written 359 book reports. I have read more books than I have written about, but I read a great deal on genocide, inspired by the atrocities recorded in the bibilical story of Joshua, conqueror of Canaan. In his story, his god tells him to have no mercy and kill men, women and children. This was explained to me by my evangelical leaders that it was more merciful to kill the kids then raise them as their own.

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Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.To be widely read is dangerous in a small minded theological construct. Studying genocide makes such absurd explanations even harder to swallow. Even then I found the disconnect between Jesus and Joshua's god disturbing, but I was not willing to embrace Marcionism.

I wrote 160 essays about LGBTQ issues. Until 2012 they were all against homosexual practice among christians. Then on August 2012 I wrote an essay, church: where gluttons point fingers at gays.
 
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I noticed the hypocrisy of my church's tolerance for one of the 7 deadly sins, but not another. This extended to it's tolerance of divorce and remarriage despite Jesus' strong words about the subject. The claim to be biblical was undermined with compassion when people they knew were affected. Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.

In September 2012 I wrote about Brian McLaren's officiating at his son's gay marriage, and I asked "what's a loving dad supposed to do?" Although I had much criticism about McLaren, I fully supported his Christ-like response to his son and son-in-law. He loved them. But the church he came from did not love him or them. Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.

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In December 2012, the teachers and children in Sandy Hook were massacred. I was sent "false flag" conspiracy videos by my pastor, as part of some evil Obama plan! Despite the conspiracy mindset, the church still rallied to provide aid and comfort to the families in Sandy Hook, about 90 minutes from here. Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.


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Over Christmas break 2012 I finally read my first Rachel Held Evan's book, The year of biblical womanhood. Her point is, as a kid raised in evangelicalism, there were plenty exceptions to being biblical in the evangelical church.Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.

During Lent of 2013, I read and blogged through the Bible. But it left me hung up on that angry bloody god in the OT. He seemed to be mad or approve of the same things depending on the situation. Kill your brother bad...drown the earth good. Kill all the firstborn sons of his enemies...good.


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I discovered Morgan Guyton at this time on Patheos. He is totally my kind of blogger. But I did not have a way out of the cognitive dissonance, even with the grace I allowed myself. In the same season I read God's Gay Agenda and had my mind blown. Here was a Pentecostal, tongue-speaking, YWAM missioner, who was leading a church into the love of God and was married to a woman. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Jewish believers were not convinced non-Jews could really be Christ followers until they witnessed them all speaking in tongues. Glossalia was the way they knew the Spirit of Christ had definitely included them. But my religious tribe could not do likewise because of a few poorly interpreted verses in the Bible about homosexuality.Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.

In November 2013 I wrote a post about being open handed personally, politically, and theologically. This post liberated myself from believing I could know things with absolute certainty. There is just too much I do not know, so why not treat everyone with grace.


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In 2014, I started writing more about the cognitive dissonance. American evangelical chaff. Officially losing a belief in biblical inerrancy and the cognitive dissonance it brings in the essay Jesus changes everything in the Bible. My break with the fear mongering of the right wing machine. My letter to a new young pastor wishing he could see the dead end of biblicism it's taken me decades to see. I started seeing the social gospel to care for the poor as the priority of Jesus, not peddling tickets to heaven. I wrote about loving our enemies and not dehumanizing them. Then the lynching of Michael Brown happened in Ferguson, Mo. This really precipitated a faith crisis for me.

While non-white Americans were begging us to acknowledge that black lives matter or that tribal land rights matter, evangelical christians were responding with blue lives matter and all lives matter or oil pipelines matter more than clean water. They were refusing to join the oppressed African American or Native American communities and usually blamed them. Yes, Christian charities did show up to provide food and water for those affected by riots, but did not, at the same time call out the oppressors.Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.

Then I started my re-imagining a path out of contradictory views of God in the Bible and Marcionism with the series, Not everything Biblical is Christian, using Jesus as the glasses to look backward and forward through the Bible. This helped me so much. I read some great books too. Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood and The Bible Tells me so by Pete Enns. I changed my view on hell.

In 2016 I learned the founder of Calvary Chapel, the evangelical stream I swam in, had an affair in the 70's and it was hushed up. It explained his bizarre behavior of continually letting pastors who broke sexual boundaries back into ministry. This rarely worked out well. One CC pastor, Bob Coy, with one of the largest churches in the US, in Florida was found out to have had multiple affairs while ministering over the years and resigned in 2014. Worse allegations have come out since. And parishioners still want him to come back.Lesson learned, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real.


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Then the 2016 election cycle started. I wrote an essay titled "I Love Donald Trump." Unsurprisingly, in hindsight, any DT essays on my blog drove traffic from Russia. After the election I realized I had not learned the lesson, evangelical cognitive dissonance is real. 

My fellow evangelicals, the ones who took me on missions trips to the black side of the railroad tracks in Mississippi, who sent me to Haiti to work alongside my brown brothers and sisters and sponsor children in need, who sent missionaries to Israel and Spain, apparently love non-white and non-English speaking people a lot more when they do not come to our country. They believe the fake caricatures of the African American, the muslim, the illegal Spanish speaker like they did of the gay agenda warrior. They say they love babies but won't support them post-birth. They say they love their neighbor but won't support with their taxes health care for them. They won't acknowledge that the pro-choice president Barack Obama, by funding contraception, reduced the abortion rate to the lowest it's been since Nixon. All they cared for was another supreme court justice, not caring that the technique to hold up a nomination by the Senate can easily be turned against them. Delirious in malicious politics, the power of empire; compelling their neighbors instead of persuading them with love. Lording over neighbors instead of serving them. Ignoring the testimonies of their non-white brothers and sisters. My evangelical people lost their way. They left me, not me them.

In my crisis of faith, I almost lost Jesus. But I had fused Jesus with white, american, evangelicalism. I wrote in Descent from the Cross, "I mourned for the church. I mourned the ugly parts of the church prevent me from seeing the good parts, from seeing the body of love, from seeing Christ." I asked myself, am I still a christian? The thing is I was no longer an american, evangelical in Calvary Chapel. I found a refuge in the local Episcopal church. It's open and affirming to the LGBTQ community. It's bishop is African-American (see his royal wedding sermon below. It's focus on the love of God is music to my ears). It strongly supports a social gospel. It prays for our political leaders every week. It reads more Bible every service than any Bible based church I was part of. It's songs are ancient and also from the margins. We'll sing something from St. Francis and something from the cotton fields of the antebellum american south. It preaches the love of Jesus and practices his grace to all comers. It helps me pray when I've run out of prayers. It's not threatened with my questions or the books on my kindle. It doesn't care if I practice yoga or pilates. It practices care for the only planet we've got. We recite the creed every week, sometimes believing it for ourselves as well as others, sometimes letting others believe it for me when I'm doubting. I know it's not perfect. But ti doesn't claim to be the best. It claims to simply be another part of the Jesus movement. A lot of humility should come with a few centuries of history.

I still believe in good news. I believe in the good news of the way of love and not fear. The good news of afterlife insurance in american evangelicalism is so small in comparison in my view. Call me exvangelical, post-vangelical, or heretic. I call myself a compassionate Christian, and I worship with the Episcopalians in New London.
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