When I was thirty-eight years old, I felt broken. I had a terrible past I couldn’t psychologically shake. I smoked too much weed and drank too much booze. I had no career and didn’t want one, because the only thing I’d ever cared about being was a writer. Two years before I’d had a spate of good luck in that regard, when, within a one week period, I had fourteen short stories accepted for publication in as many solid little literary magazines located all over the country. One was published by Eve Ensler, of The Vagina Monologues fame, who was then editing a magazine out of New York called Central Park. She sent me a handwritten letter saying how deeply she loved the short story of mine she then published as the lead piece in her magazine. My writing career was officially launched.
And then I promptly killed it. I choked. I suddenly found that I didn’t, after all, want so many people reading stories that came from such a deep place within me. So I took my pen and my notepad and crawled back into my little, private life.
One day I went to my flunky job sorting mail and making copies at a law office stoned. I don’t hide the fact that I’m stoned well at all—though, like every stoner, I thought I did.
The following day my boss called me into her office. She was, to say the least, displeased with the way I had behaved the day before. She let me know that I was still employed, but only just—and might not be by the end of that day.
This created for me a crisis. My brain collapsed. The difference between who I imagined I was and who I very clearly actually was made for a chasm I fell down into. It was a long, dark fall.
It was in that moment—while I was at my job, of all places—that I had my conversion experience.
One minute your life has cracked all apart; the next you’re going, “Oh, c’mon, God. You couldn’t hit me with a car? Run me over with a bus? Anything but turn me into a [bad wording-ing] Christian?”
I loathed Christianity. My suddenly becoming a Christian was like Heinrich Himmler suddenly becoming a Jew. It was that unlikely.
And yet, there I was.
My point—which is born of my post yesterday, about having no trouble at all “judging” Caitlyn Jenner—is this: Never look to me for a position in the middle ground when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, or hell, or the exclusivity of the Christian heaven, or complimentarianism, or any of that sort of stuff.I have no place in the middle ground. I don’t know the middle ground.
I’m not like Rachel Held Evans or Brian McLaren or Benjamin “Formerly Fundie” Corey, or Matthew Paul Turner, or any other progressive Christian leader I know of. Because, unlike them, I didn’t come from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I didn’t have to overcome what I used to believe to believe what I do now. My theology showed up complete and finished, live and in living color. I knew all there was to know the moment God decided I was too … stupid to grow into my knowledge, basically, is about the way I figure it.
It was too late for me to evolve. If God wanted me at the party—which, apparently, he/she did—then it meant my showing up already fully dressed and knowing how to dance. So that’s what happened.
I greatly value and sincerely appreciate what leading former fundies and erstwhile evangelicals do. What could be more valuable than helping people take their first steps into a new, more loving and open Christian theology?
But what they do, I cannot. I’m way too much of an outsider for that. Unlike them, I have never been invested in the Christian system that I’m happy to say today we’re all working together to change. I never had to sweat hurting my church-speaking gigs, or my Christian book publishing deals, or offending my wealthier conservative congregants. I never had to transition. I just … appeared on the sidelines, and started yelling from there.
All I ever was—and all I’ve really ever been since my conversion experience—is a writer. Not a pastor; not a ministry leader; not a seminary student; not a degreed theologian.
A writer. With a blog. And a bunch of things to say in the name of the God that I felt showed him/herself to me. And all of the things I had to say were, to me, moral issues that needed to be addressed and fixed now, because on account of them people were getting hurt. Lives were being destroyed. Christian beliefs were causing grief.
So those beliefs needed to change.
Anyway, just wanted to say: Don’t look to me for the middle ground. Not because I don’t appreciate the value of the middle ground. Not because I don’t know the good done by those working in the middle ground. But, rather, for the simplest of reasons: I can’t speak from a place I’ve never been.
Love to you all! Thanks for listening.