If evangelicalism were a person, here’s what I’d need to say:
So, Evangelicalism… it’s me.
I’m guessing this won’t come as a huge shock to you because our relationship has been strained for quite some time now, but I need to tell you:
This relationship isn’t working for me anymore.
I wish I could say that this is a “it’s not you, it’s me” type of situation, but let’s be real: this actually is about you. No, it’s not about what you believe– strangely enough, I think that you and I still probably hold 98% of our beliefs in common. The belief structure isn’t what’s not working for me– it’s your culture.
I just don’t think I feel comfortable associating with it anymore. The more time I spend with you trying to make this work, the more I find the life being drained from me. And, ironically, the harder I work to earn your approval and acceptance the further I feel from God.
It’s just not working– it hasn’t been working for a long time, and I just can’t go on like this.
I’m sure you probably saw this coming a long time ago. Yes, I remember the way you freaked out when I took that class on Emergent Christianity in seminary and worried that it would damage our relationship. I know I told you not to worry and that we’d always be together– but I was wrong on that count. I was just more comfortable with Emergent from the first time I met them and it didn’t take long for me to realize that our relationship would never be the same. To be honest, I didn’t have to try hard to be loved and accepted by Emergent, but I did and do with you. I know that I should have just ended things then, but I tried to hold on– you and I have a long history together, so I did my best to make it work.
I just don’t think this is going to. The longer I try to earn your acceptance the more I actually grow to resent you, and that isn’t a healthy situation for either of us– we should both just be free to go our own ways. I’ve tried for too long to hold onto old identities and split loyalties, and I just can’t anymore. If Emergent didn’t make me realize that, I certainly came to realize that when I met Neo-Anabaptism and Progressive Christianity. Unfortunately, the only hope you and I have at salvaging some sort of relationship with each other is to take some time apart. Maybe one day we can be friends, but right now I just need my space from you. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I really do.
When people ask if you and I are together, I’m going to have to start answering them honestly and telling them that we’re not an item anymore. For now, I need to take some space from churches that overtly claim to associate with you, because going to those churches at this time just further reminds me of our painful, sometimes abusive, relationship– and I just don’t have the emotional energy for that.
I know you think this is all about Rob Bell, but it’s not. The truth is, it was over long before I even met Rob– and I hope you can see that. Rob is a good guy, so it wouldn’t be fair to blame our break-up on him. Plus, you’re never going to learn and grow if you deal with this by blaming others– this is about you, and your need to change if you don’t want to continue to hear people tell you “it’s over”.
Now, in a strange sort of way I do still love you (but not in that way), and I really do want to see you change. In fact, if you made some serious changes I would reconsider things. But until you do, I need to respect myself and be firm in that we’re not a “thing” anymore. I realize you wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow from this experience if I didn’t tell you why this isn’t working, so here’s why the house is empty and I’ve moved my stuff into storage:
I’m tired of the way you view people as objects.
It’s been my experience that you often see people as objects to be converted instead of people to love, and I just don’t like that. It’s dehumanizing, and I can’t associate with it. In fact, Jesus doesn’t like that either– he once chided religious leaders of his time for their ability to go to great lengths to win a “convert” only to turn them into something that God never intended. First, learn to love people simply because they are PEOPLE, and then all the other stuff will work itself out.
I’m tired of the way you treat women.
Call me a heretic, but I think men and women are equal and that God gives individual gifting regardless of gender, and I know you don’t always share the same belief. I had hope you’d come around on this issue, but I’m realizing more and more that we just have irreconcilable differences when it comes to this, and that it’s a non-negotiable for me. I want to encourage women to use their skills, talents and abilities to be whoever God created them as individuals to be, and I just can’t be with someone who won’t support women embracing their full identity. Plus, every time I log onto Twitter you’re doing something to bully female bloggers, and if you treat them that way in public, what does it say about how you treat other women in private? So, until or unless you start treating women like equals at home and at church, it’s over between us.
I’m tired of the way you treat my gay friends.
I don’t care if you always believe that being gay is a sin– that’s your prerogative– but I do care how you treat my gay friends and the ways in which you express your beliefs on this issue. I think it is important for you to realize that there are in fact, Christians who are gay. They are people just like you and me who are busy trying to follow Jesus the best they can. However, the way you treat them is having the opposite effect that you claim to want– I think the way you treat them is actually driving them further from the wonderful message of Jesus instead of closer to it. As one of my readers told me yesterday, there is a large gap between Christianity and the LGBT community, and we need people to bridge that gap in loving ways– something you don’t seem interested in doing. So, until your culture is one where my LGBT friends will find a safe place to connect to God, I just can’t claim to be part of you anymore.
I’m sick of your gun obsession.
Seriously– have you tried to step back and look at your gun obsession through the eyes of an outsider? You look like a 12 year old collecting video games. I’m tired of it, and I’m quite sure that Jesus is tired of it too. You act like Jesus had a tattoo of the second amendment and sported a mullet, and quite honestly, I can’t be with someone who has that bizarre a view of Jesus. The more you continue this obsession the more you actually participate in a never ending system of violence, and I want nothing to do with that– because Jesus wanted nothing to do with that. I mean really- whenever we’re on the phone you end up talking more about guns than homelessness, which really seems backwards. So, until I see some growth in this area, it’s just not going to work.
I find your insistence that Jesus was a Republican almost unbearable.
You do know that there were no such thing as Republicans back then, right? When we first started spending time together, this issue wasn’t a big deal to me but as time goes on, I now see how silly this is. Jesus invites us to follow him, but you seem more concerned with following the platform of the Republican National Committee. I used to think there was a chance you’d grow out of this, or at least embrace that not all of us identify with conservative politics, but now I see I was wrong about that. I don’t know how to be in a relationship with someone who has meshed faith and politics together like a grilled cheese sandwich.
I’ve had it with your obsession with power and control.
I need to be completely honest: I’m starting to think you have a power addiction. The next time you hear Mr. Brownstone by Guns n’ Roses, pay attention to the line: “I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do it so a little got more and more”, because that’s the way I experience your relationship with power and control. You keep feeding the beast, but the beast keeps getting more hungry. As if the power you already have isn’t enough, now you talk about “taking the country back” which makes me think you’re more concerned with the pursuit of power and control than pursuing the Jesus guy who said “blessed are the meek”. It just feels like we have different goals for the future of this, and that’s not going to enable a healthy, life-long relationship.
I’m tired of arguing over finances.
I know that finances become an issue in a lot of relationships, and it did in ours too. I tried to look past this, but I just can’t anymore. Have you even looked at the checking account lately? We’re actually LOADED with dough, but whenever we talk about finances it feels like you’re more interested in building funds than feeding the hungry in the local community. Seriously, are you even aware of the tone you take with me when I bring up “social justice”? Whenever I say those words you get instantly nasty with me and when that happens I don’t even want to be in the same house as you. I just can’t continue sharing my finances with someone who wants to blow so much of it on building campaigns and installing life-size Noah’s Arcs in church sanctuaries. I won’t even bring up how much must have gone into that foolish Creation museum with the cave men riding dinosaurs. You’re free to spend to spend your money however you’d like, but I feel like our financial priorities are too often incompatible.
As we both know, there are a lot of other reasons why this simply isn’t going to work, but I’m not sure that it would be healthy for us to try to talk about every last issue since we both know that we can’t live like this anymore.
In the end, I was okay with the fact we didn’t agree on everything and thought we could live in peace and mutual respect– but it feels like you’re not open to being content with diversity of viewpoints in the areas where we don’t see eye to eye. It’s almost like you were more interested in changing me, than actually knowing me and loving me for who I am. What’s sad, is that embracing diversity would have made us stronger, but it often felt like I had to always see things your way in order to be included and accepted as a member of the tribe.
I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but I’m tired of feeling hurt so much of the time. I’m tired of the way you’re always trying to change me instead of just loving me for who I am. I’m tired of the way you’ve always forced me to the margins and isolated me when I didn’t meet your expectations or asked questions that made you uncomfortable. I’m tired of the way I experience your culture and your tone, especially with people you disagree with. More than anything, I’m tired of the fact that I don’t believe you even care about anything I just told you.
So, Evangelicalism, I don’t think this relationship is going to work.
You can call me an Anabaptist, an Emergent or Emerging Christian, you can call me a “Progressive Christian” or you can even call me a heretic (I get that a lot), but I just don’t think I can wear the name “evangelical” anymore.
So, it’s over.
Maybe if you turn the keys over to some fresh and reasonable evangelical voices, stop bullying women on Twitter, pawn your guns, apologize to the LGBT community and take your name off the checking account, we could meet for coffee and talk… but until then, I just don’t see how there can be a path forward for the two of us.
PS. I hope you think of me when you hear this song: