Down the Rabbit Hole and Back Again

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I was surprised to read a week ago Thursday that Progressive Christian author, blogger, and speaker Rachel Held Evans had been in a medically induced coma for the past two weeks. And then I was even more shocked last Saturday to hear about her death.

I’ve been down a rabbit hole of thought and research ever since.

Rachel’s second book, Faith Untraveled, was one of three books I read eighteen months ago when I was trying to learn from people that I disagreed with while processing my own recent church hurt. Of the three books I read during that time, Rachel’s was the hardest for me. We were so similar in many ways. There were many paragraphs that I felt like I could have written myself. We saw problems within the mainstream evangelical church through almost parallel eyes. I loved her raw honesty and wit. But just as I would start to agree, we would both take an abrupt right angle turn and end up at polar opposite conclusions.

As I’ve read reviews and excerpts of Rachel’s more recent books over the past few days, I know that there isn’t much we would have agreed on theologically. And yet we both felt the emptiness of religious Christianity, and we both grieved the pain people have caused in the name of Jesus. Rachel was passionate, fierce even, with a strength that I recognize in myself. I think that’s probably why I was so irritated with her while she was alive. Our “truths” definitely did not align. And yet I can’t help but admire the intentional way she lived.

It’s easier to ignore people and ideas that we don’t agree with than to face them. As I’ve journeyed down this rabbit hole of progressive thought the past few days, I’ve just been faced with the overwhelming amount of people who have been terribly hurt by the church, by Christians. Well-meaning or not, people who claim the name of Jesus have left a trail of wounded in their dust. That’s not okay. The rabbit hole is exhausting and I feel overwhelmed and under-qualified to address the issues and lies and pain.

The pull of Progressive Christianity with it’s focus on love and relative truth is attractive. It’s inclusive and comfortable and happy. And if the only other option was Bible Thumpers who want to quote verses and force me to behave while ignoring my questions and doubts, then I’d become a Progressive too. But, as I’ve said so many times before, there aren’t only two options. The world is not black and white.

Despite everything humans have done to prove otherwise over the years, God is Real. He is more real than the chair I’m sitting in or the iced chai latte I’m drinking. I know because I’ve met Him and He has radically changed my life. I’ve met the Living Presence that is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus who came as a human being to show us the Father and the way back home. Not just by living a life we are supposed to emulate, but by being the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We aren’t going to find Him by finding our own truth. The truth is Jesus and we will only find the truth as we discover Him – not the other way around.

In the time between when I started this blog post and today as I finish it, I stumbled across a podcast by Alisa Childers. She is a historical Christian who loves apologetics. I’ve been absolutely devouring her show. The incredibly intelligent people she interviews amaze me.

I would also identify these days as a historical Christian. All that means is that we believe in the historical view of Christianity passed down for the last 2000 years. We agree with the early creeds and views about the Bible, Jesus, salvation, and God Himself. This contrasts with the progressive view of Christianity which is more fluid and less literal.

I have no plans of becoming a apologist, and you probably won’t even notice in my blog posts or social media that I am listing to all of this intellectual stuff. But I feel like it’s a solid base for me to have as I work my way towards a podcast of my own.

I’m going to continue questioning ritual, tradition, and Christianese cliches. And I’m going to continue to point people back to the Real Jesus. People mess up the truth when they start putting in their own twists and spins on either side of the spectrum. My story is proof of that!

More than anything else, I long for you to know the Real Jesus. He exists and He wants to be found.

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Progressives, Jen Hatmaker, and Grace & Truth

The Christian internet has once again exploded. On Tuesday, in an interview with religionnews.com, popular Christian author, speaker, and HGTV star, Jen Hatmaker, voiced her belief that gay marriage can be “holy”. Kaboom!

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On blogs, Facebook threads, and articles across the internet, progressive Christians are celebrating Jen while fundamental Christians are destroying her.  Both camps are also viciously tearing into each other. Sometimes I hate social media and the internet. I hate what it does to us and what it allows us to do to others.

I totally get why “progressive” Christians react against people they see as “fundy and stuck in the past”. I am right there with them, frustrated with tradition and religion and rules. But just because some people who believe the Bible literally are ignorant, stubborn, and judgmental, it doesn’t mean that we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like and which parts we throw away. That’s also an ignorant way of dealing with things…as though we, limited creations, are somehow capable of deciding which parts of the All-powerful God’s Word are true and which are worthy of the trash can.

Both parties are guilty of sweeping black and white assumptions and judgement.

Just because I believe that homosexuality is a sin (as is gossip, lying, pride, lust, etc.) and I’m not a supporter of gay marriage, does not mean that I am not a supporter of people who are gay. I love them because, just like me, they were created in the image of God and Jesus died for them and wants them to have a relationship with Him.

Guess what? I have can opinions and beliefs but keep them to myself while loving the people around me. I do not have to vocally attack homosexuality, but neither do I have to support it to be a loving, Jesus-like Christian.

If only Christians were as passionate about their love for and relationship with Jesus as we are about stupid issues…

I chose to stand on a literal belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. But that does not mean that I am obsessed with morals and getting people to do “the right thing”. It means that I am obsessed with the amazing, mind-blowing God who created us for one purpose – to know Him.

Yup, I’m crazy enough to believe that Genesis is the literal history of a huge, amazing, loving God who personally created the first people, joined them together as a married couple, made a beautiful garden for them to enjoy, and walked in that garden with them. Before they chose to disobey, God KNEW His children in a personal, real, intimate way. I think that has always been His goal.

I believe that the rest of the Bible, when you read it in context, shows the story of God pursuing the people He created, culminating in the death of Jesus, the God-man, for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death changed everything. The veil in the temple was torn, and humanity once again had access to their Creator. Knowing God through Jesus transforms us. He changes us. It’s not about people trying to earn something from God, behaving so that we can get His blessing or favor. It’s about Jesus doing everything for us, so that we can enter His Presence, delight in a real relationship with Him, and allow Him to make us into the person He created us to be. When we actually experience Jesus, we will be changed. As Jesus makes us like Himself, our behavior will change. This is good news! Why aren’t we yelling about this?

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We have no business condemning or judging other people. But neither can we rewrite God’s Word. There must be a balance of Grace and Truth. Jesus beautifully illustrates this perfect balance. I love this story from John 8.

The prideful, religious guys catch a woman “getting it on” with a man she isn’t married to. They drag her out of the house and down to Jesus where they want Him to stone her for her sin. Jesus puts the religious guys in their place by telling them to go ahead and stone her if they are sinless themselves. They all begin to leave. Finally it’s just Jesus and the woman sitting in the dirt. He doesn’t judge her or condemn her. And being God, the only perfect one, it would absolutely be okay if He did. But He doesn’t. Jesus affirms her, tells her he doesn’t condemn her, shows her radical grace, and then speaks truth “go and leave your life of sin”.

Friends, fellow believers in Jesus, and seekers of Him, we lose our power when we stop being like Jesus. We must have grace and truth. We do not condemn, we do not reject. We love like a tidal wave, overwhelming, all-consuming Jesus’ love. But we also speak truth. We do not shy away from uncomfortable truth, despite what our culture thinks or if it is politically correct. Our God is indescribably bigger than us and we don’t have to understand Him to believe Him. We must live like Jesus in this broken world, shinning like stars, pointing others to the incredible possibility of an actual relationship with the God of the Universe.