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Coming Out of the Evangelical Closet

I’m sorry; I just forget.

I run in some pretty large circles with free thinkers and I forget what a lot of you are going through in your churches. But the recent, ridiculous Gungor flap has brought it all back home to me.

For those who don’t know, Dove-award winning Christian artists Michael and Lisa Gungor made the mistake of sharing their inability to take all the Bible’s stories literally—and they’re paying the price. The instant backlash has been deafening and vehement; venues and promoters have been dropping their concerts like they’ve converted to Islam.

I forgot about the high cost associated with transparency and honesty—even though I just wrote about this issue less than eight months ago in a post titled Christianity and the Spiral of Silence.

The evangelical closet is enormous, deep, and full of people struggling with biblical inerrancy and various doctrinal issues—but a lot of them are afraid to say anything. Too often there is a litmus test that isn’t about loving God or loving others, but it’s about views on creation, gay marriage, how literally you take the story of Noah’s Ark, etc. Because honesty often equals isolation, these closeted individuals are afraid to be open about their struggles.

What’s incredibly heartbreaking is that they have no idea that they’re not alone. This dark closet is packed with family and friends who feel the same way.

I just wanted to write a message to those who struggle and to the fundamentalists.

To the fundamentalist

I have no desire to argue with you about what is or is not true. I love you and spent many years, just like you, believing and encouraging others to believe that the Bible was 100% literally true. I’ve been where you are, and I get it.

So this isn’t about changing your beliefs. I don’t know any struggling with biblical inerrancy who are trying to convert others. They’re too busy sorting out what they believe.

Please make community a safe place for people to work through what they believe. And I don’t mean to just back off and give them a certain amount of time come around and tow the party line. I mean support them, even when you don’t understand them.

I talk to the people in your churches all the time, and trust me . . . you have no idea how many people are struggling. They won’t tell you because they don’t trust you.

Think about it like this: A husband may be able to intimidate his wife into agreeing with him, but he hasn’t won her heart. Unbeknownst to him, she has developed a secret internal life that he knows nothing about—and she resents him. He may win the battle by forcing her to tacitly and quietly agree, but he is losing the war, and quite possible her.

Because you draw a straight line from believing in a six-day creation to believing the Bible at all, you are forcing an all-or-nothing, zero-sum game. Do you understand what I’m saying?

It’s your rigidity that’s costing people their faith because you have created a game of biblical Jenga where the whole of a person’s faith hinges on the correct placement of every piece.

This doesn’t have to be a slippery slope argument. I understand that it may be for you, but you don’t have to project that upon others.

Please, I beg you, please lighten up. It’s pretty likely that someone can believe in, be redeemed by, and follow Jesus without believing in the Tower of Babel.

To those who struggle

I know it’s hard. I remember sharing with my wife that I just couldn’t believe certain things anymore, and it was incredibly difficult. At the time, she saw it as a betrayal of my marriage vows.

But this could be your spouse, kids, co-workers, pastor, people in your small group . . . admitting that your system of belief is evolving is hard and it can feel like you’re taking a beating every time you share your deepest feelings with others.

I have seen Christians cut off friends and family for the most benign admission of doubt.

Whatever you do, don’t go along to get along. I know it’s hard, but don’t fake it to fit. Life’s too short to walk around feeling like a phony. And I know to many people who have started down that road and walked away from the church entirely because it gets too hard to fake.

The other people in the closet need your courage. They need to see that there is transcendent life on the other side of their disbelief. Model transparency at all costs.

You’ll be surprised how many will understand where you’re coming from. And I can promise you, there is a more exciting and fulfilling experience of Christ when you entertain your doubts and give them a voice.

For the sake of those who have struggled like you do, please leave a comment and share some encouragement!

Cheers

 

21 Signs You Might Be a Terrible Christian

I had a discussion with someone today who told smugly told me how much he loved when Mormons came to his door, so he could put them in their place. I said, “Aren’t those usually young kids just trying to fulfill their required mission?”

“Yep,” he said. “And they need to learn something about messing with a true Christian.”

It was on the way home I was thinking about this list. Read more

Radically Normal: An Interview with Josh Kelley

radically normalJosh Kelley and I have a lot in common. We both live in Washington state, we both have a background in the same denomination, we’re both pastors. One area we differ is that he’s a published author with Harvest House Publishers, and I’m not.

If I didn’t know how much we had in common before starting Radically NormalI would’ve figured it out pretty quick. The characters and experiences he describes gave me a profound sense of deja vu. My background is awash with hyper-spiritual, holier-than-thou types (many of which have since shipwrecked).

In Radically Normal, Kelley uses these stories as a jumping off point to remind us that many super Christians aren’t, and that the most profound thing we can do is live a radically normal life of simple obedience.

I talked to him about his book today: Read more

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath

wrathUnless you’re dead (or a big fat liar), you get angry. Don’t worry—it’s a perfectly reasonable emotion. We don’t do wrong by getting angry; it’s just that when we’re angry, we often do wrong. Paul expresses as much in his letter to the Ephesians, “In your anger, do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26)

But when we give shelter to anger, when we nurse and indulge it, when we give it a long lead, it becomes wrath.

Where envy resents when someone else does well, wrath is hellbent on ensuring that its object suffers loss. And it isn’t always through physical violence—it can be a desire to see someone lose face and suffer humiliation. Read more

Emotional Bullying: Using Guilt to Lead Kids to God

guiltI was talking to a friend who, although raised in the church, is pretty antagonistic toward Christianity. He was talking about his childhood and how Sunday school and VBS constantly beat into his head his personal responsibility for Christ’s death.

Not in the “Christ died for your sins” vein, but more like, “It was your sins that drove the spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet.” The way his parents and church hammered (no pun intended) into him his personal responsiblity, made him feel mortifying shame.

It worked, he was a devout little kid. But he wasn’t propelled out of a sense of gratitude or wonder. No—his driving motivation for being good was humiliation.

As he got older, he walked away from the whole thing. I know so many people who have had the same experience. When they get older, their guilt turns into anger and frustration. Read more

4 Stupid Substitutes for Humility

humblebragWhen Ben Franklin turned 20, he was determined to become virtuous. He put together a list of 12 virtues (frugality, sincerity, justice, etc.), and worked out a system of regularly focusing on one virtue a week while tracking his progress as he went.

He showed his finished list of values to a minister who pointed out that Franklin was missing humility—the queen of all virtues. Ben added it to the list bringing the total to 13.

After spending many months working on the virtues, Franklin’s friend asked how he was doing with humility. Franklin responded, “I can’t boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”

If you’re acting humble, you’re not

Virtues are a lot like garments; you can put them on on without owning them. It’s tricky because we don’t just fool the people around us by playing dress up—we fool ourselves.

Humility’s much easier to manufacture than it is to internalize, and as long as we’re more focused on humility’s appearance, we’ll never experience its transformation. Read more

The Cross Isn’t a Brand—It’s a Mission Statement

duckdynastyConstantine was certain that God had come to him in a dream. The first “Christian” roman empire had looked up at the sun and witnessed a cross-like apparition along with the words, “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” (In this, conquer).

Unsure of the meaning of this vision, Constantine went to sleep a couple nights later to be met by Christ who explained to him that he must use the sign of the cross against his enemies.

History tells us that Constantine marched into the Battle of the Milvian Bridge as a conqueror under the banner of the cross. Because obviously, when a warrior people hear they should use something against their enemies—it must be to vanquish them. Read more

Ask Jayson: Finding the Good in Terrible People

typekeysDear Jayson,

I need some insight and help regarding Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Can you describe the meaning of each word . . . ie . . . true, honorable, just . . . and how to daily put this verse to work.

This passage truly messes me up. What if someone has done many abusive things to you, or grossly lied about you, or hurt someone you love? It’s true they are a bad person. Its true they are toxic. Yet . . . what else. Noble? Praise worthy? Not sure how to correctly put this verse to work. Seeking because I want its promise.

Peace,
Perplexed Read more

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Pie_eating_contest_Taking gluttony seriously is more than simply wringing our hands about the Western obesity epidemic.

Although the idea of gluttony is often tied to food, it’s much, much bigger. Simply put, gluttony is the act of taking something acceptable, useful, or even necessary and indulging in it in an unhealthy manner.

With this in mind, gluttony includes, but is not limited to, things like: Read more

4 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Joke on Social Media

DislikeIf social media’s taught me anything, it’s that many well-meaning people have a sort of super power when it comes to ruining jokes.

When I’m not filling the internet with writings about spirituality and music, I’m telling jokes on Facebook and Twitter. After having thousands of great jokes destroyed within a couple comments, I’ve learned a few things I’d love to pass on to you.

Here are 4 ways to ruin someone else’s perfectly good joke on social media. Read more

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