Leaving American Christianity Behind?

Rachel Held Evans leaving American Christianity behind

Rachel Held Evans shared the above words, in a post which also says “even the most painful religious experiences cannot simply be discarded. They must be confronted, molded, repurposed.  It’s a messy, sacred process” and “Yes, we are called to grow and mature, and yes, our convictions and denominational affiliations will likely change, but I’ve found I’m a better writer—and a better person—when I’m more focused on outgrowing the old me than I am on outgrowing other people in my community.” Click through to read the whole thing. It really is a very helpful piece, which does a good job of making the point that people saying “I’m done with X” doesn’t always mean that they are done with whatever “X” is. This applies in the realm of religion and ideology as much as in other areas. And it is often a big hindrance to our actual recovery and moving on, when we think that a mere decision to leave something or someone behind makes that a reality, or even possible.

That’s worth thinking about, especially if you are the sort of person who makes new year’s resolutions…

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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I liked the article, and it was chock full of good reminders for people of my current theological journey and my proclivities.

    I think where I might disagree – or maybe just add – is that while it is true that being an American and a Christian are all part of what I am and those paradigms are inescapable in some sense, “American Christianity” does seem to me to be a distinct phenomenon that you can opt out of.

    Like, if someone leaves Christianity for Hinduism, it’s probably true to say that Christianity is still a part of them and has set up patterns that may never be left behind, especially if the person was raised Christian. But at the same time, you would also acknowledge that a person has left one religion to pursue another. That’s probably a longer, more complicated process than just changing groups, but it does indicate a trajectory where you are rejecting something and embracing something else.

    I’m not sure that I’d go so far to say that American Christianity is a distinct religion of its own, but it’s very close. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I agree with what Rachel said, but I’d also want to add that just being American and Christian does not mean that everywhere you go, you pursue the tenets of (at least what I think of as) American Christianity.

  • breed7

    “Interpretations” of bronze-age mythologies are as useful as comparing the Harry Potter books to the films. It’s time we leave behind the idea that an invisible, omniscient fairy man in the sky — who is appeased by blood sacrifice — is somehow reading everyone’s thoughts and answering requests like some bipolar dictator.

  • I am generally a fan of Rachel Held Evans, but in this case, I think the article to which she is responding has far more important things to say than her fretful response:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavlovitz/my-emancipation-from-american-christianity_b_8718400.html

    I’ll repeat the comment I made on her site:

    Since when does “outgrowing” something mean “starting over from scratch”? I have outgrown preschool, but I’m sure that preschool was an important part of my development. Doesn’t the apostle Paul use the metaphor of “outgrowing” old understandings in 1 Corinthians 13:10-11?

    “Let’s be real”? That sounds like Evans is about to say something really challenging. Hardly. I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who would disagree with the vague notion that we should see our growth as “trellises” instead of “ladders”, to acknowledge blind spots and avoid judgements. John Pavlovitz (the author to whom she is responding) certainly agrees, and kindly says so in the comments below her post.

    If Evans wants to “be real”, then frankly, Pavlovitz’s article “My Emancipation from American Christianity” offers far more challenge and honesty than her response. He is clearly not addressing some sort of vague “American Christianity”, but a version of Christianity that very specifically “brokers in damnation”, engages in “vile war rhetoric”, identifies itself as “the sole property of a political party”, embraces “bigotry”, “xenophobia”, and “rabid nationalism”, and conducts “attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.”

    I am an atheist myself, and though I recognize a very specific fundamentalist brand of Christianity that Pavlovitz’s article addresses, I also recognize dangers that my own atheist community must avoid as well. For example, not all atheists see clearly the important distinction between condemning religiously-motivated violence (or even condemning religion itself) and condemning an entire religious people.

    John Pavlovitz has offered a clear and vital rebuke to a type of religiosity that fails, most basically, to offer love to the world. Evans’s “response” is a peevish semantic complaint by comparison.

  • Michael Pinecone

    Good words. Reminds me of spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.