I spent most of my life as an evangelical. We were all sinners – wretches even – saved by grace in order to bring glory to our Savior. We did that by faithfully accepting as true all we were taught, and then faithfully applying it to our lives (and the lives of others, when possible).
When I was with my Conservative Christian Community (CCC), I was home.
We assumed that our Bible teachers had a direct line to God. We fancied that they were “teaching the Bible,” not teaching an interpretation of the Bible. We were, of course, never taught how to discern for ourselves between true and false doctrine – that wasn’t our concern – we just knew whose teaching to trust.
A recovering wretch must obviously be humble, and we took great (humble) pride in our humility. It was a studied, nuanced humility: the kind that grows out of confidence in one’s righteousness and everyone else’s wickedness – but never forgets that our superiority is a gift of grace.
It was in all modesty then, that our CCC accepted the world’s ridicule as persecution – something our Lord had also experienced because he too was misunderstood (Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected”).
When we refused to engage in debates – about evolution for example – we were being Christlike (“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth”). We knew what we knew – that God created the world just as described in Genesis – and we knew worldly people wouldn’t understand (2 Cor. 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”).
When members of our leadership were caught in sin, we blamed Satan (1 Peter 5:8 “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”) and didn’t ask a lot of questions. We knew what we knew – that godly men in high positions were favorite targets of demons – and we knew worldly people had no concept of spiritual warfare.
We were sure we were in the right place theologically (“On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand”). Doubt and hesitation had no place in our midst (“I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see”). God was on our side, and God would reward us for our relentless pursuit of righteousness.
This is where I lived for decades, and I was comfortable – as long as I stayed within my evangelical enclave.
But one day, a sliver of the real world invaded my tightly controlled space and everything was up for grabs.
House on the sand
It wasn’t triggered by a major doctrinal dispute or a scandal – just a simple issue of actual justice. But my CCC came down on the absolute wrong side, and I knew it. I was not the problem, but they made me the problem.
In an instant, I recognized that for all those years, I’d been living in a house of cards. Or to employ a scriptural reference, a house on the sand.
All those small things that I’d ignored – the CCC’s hostility toward our Black then-president, their scorn for science, their deference toward male opinions, their judgmentalism and victim-blaming…I recognized it all as folly, manipulation, and false superiority.
I got out of that community immediately. I never wondered whether I was doing the right thing by leaving – I knew I was. I didn’t wonder where I would go – anywhere would be an improvement. What I wondered was what took me so long?
Why are you still there? You know the CCC is broken beyond repair. You know it’s unsustainable. You know that your president, Trump, was a train wreck with no spark of God in him, that white and non-white people are treated differently, and that all people deserve the right to seek a better life.
If you think it would be embarrassing to walk away – isn’t it embarrassing to stay, considering all the baggage that evangelicalism has accumulated?
If you think all those years in your CCC would go to waste – aren’t they going to waste now, in a crumbling institution that has lost its way?
If you think your departure would grieve Jesus – do you think he’s happy with the current condition of evangelicalism?
The evangelical church is unwilling to change, so you must abandon it – you know you want to. Where will you go? You’ll find a place, you’ll find a people group. What will you do? You’ll figure that out.
Just get away before the roof caves in completely.
(You’ll thank me later.)