[This post is personal, and reflects only my own personal views and opinions. Traditionally politics is something that is kept out of churches and for good reason. But in the last year this has become nearly impossible, with elected officials crossing moral and ethical lines that are endangering people in a big way. And at the end of the day, Jesus’ love for people is what matters most.]
I’m not perfect, and neither is the church. In the past I have not been vocal about my faith. Mostly because I feel like such a doubting Thomas on a good day, and like a fraud the rest.
I have wrestled my faith to the ground for the majority of my adult life. I used to not understand why, and instead of trying to understand I just continually felt guilty about it. But now I know it’s because I longed to think for myself. I also hung onto strong emotional memories from my childhood, things I was taught or were engrained into me; that I do not necessarily agree with as an adult. (Nor do I believe that all of these things were theologically sound)
We were raised to go to church on Sundays. I went to Sunday school and youth group and sang in the choir. And I prayed. I studied the Word of God. I read books on faith and love and hope. I did all the things everyone else in my church community did because that’s all I knew. And when I got into my twenty’s I decided I needed to think for myself. Instead of believing what I had been told to believe my whole life, I had to figure it all out on my own. My situation was not unique, plenty of kids who grew up in church have experienced this shift in their life (you can read more of my thoughts on that topic specifically here).
Personal faith vs church affiliation
And so for years of my adult life I have ran as fast as I could away from churches. There’ve been stretches where I stayed long enough to make a few connections, but as soon as life’s circumstances took me elsewhere I was GONE. But as the years have crept on, the thing that became more and more clear is that I wasn’t running from relationships. No I desperately, deep down wanted those still, but it was fear that kept me running. Fear that if I wasn’t living up to some imaginary standard set by the churches of my past, my faith was null and void.
But what I have to ask myself at the end of every internal argument is this: Do I still believe God is real? Yes. Do I still believe that Christ died for me and loves me more than I’ll ever understand? Yes. Do I still believe these things, even if people and churches I’ve loved have let me down over the years? Yes. Because of that, I have no choice but to try. Try to accept the grace that’s been so freely given. Because when all is said and done, I still believe. Our minds are a gift but our emotions are fickle, and dangerous indeed.
The harm caused by the evangelical mainstream
Most of the churches I grew up in, regardless of there denomination affiliation, would identify as evangelical. That word has become synonymous with some pretty ugly political battles in recent years: 2nd amendment rights, abortion, racism, LGBT rights, immigration and list goes on and on. (see also an earlier post here)
Even though this country was meant to be run with the clear separation of church and state, the political climate in this country has caused those lines to blur. What were once political issues, have now become moral issues- in which the church, if it were truly representing Christ and his teachings, would stand up for & be on the morally right side of history for a change. Unfortunately some of today’s most influential mainstream evangelical church leaders have aligned themselves with the political right, regardless of the moral or ethical contradictions of their very own faith.
It’s this alignment, combined with the emotional manipulation & psychological abuses of church goers for decades, that I have come to strongly identify as Ex-Evangelical. Evangelical voters have single-handedly kept corrupt and unethical lawmakers in office, with a false promise that they’ll somehow win their pro-life battle (as they see it), send hardworking illegal immigrants back to their home country, or keep their gun rights in tact, at the expense of millions of kids in this country living in fear of yet another school shooting every single day.
This alignment the mainstream evangelical churches have made with the right is disgusting, harmful, and an embarrassment to Christ followers the world over. Christians are risking their lives in war torn countries to defend their faith at any cost, and yet the rest of the world looks on and laughs at the joke that Christianity in America has become. Because all they see are a bunch of bible toting, gun loving nut jobs willing to sell their soul to make sure their “rights” are kept in tact in Washington.
What can we do?
Stop supporting church leaders who refuse stand up for the oppressed, the broken and the disadvantaged. Show your support at the polls for local law makers & candidates who refuse to take campaign donations from the likes of the NRA and other Washington lobbyists who prevent life-saving legislation from being passed. God created us in His image for one purpose, to usher in His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Would Jesus turn away an immigrant trying to escape tyranny and oppression in his own country? Doubt it. Would He tell those living in poverty that its their own fault and to get over it? Don’t think so. Does He care about how many and what kinds of guns you have the “right” to own? Probably not. Correction; absolutely not.
Does He care about how you love your neighbor, no matter who that person is? You bet He does.
People are flawed, God is not.
Probably the number one reason I can easily discount the church for their missteps and not blame the God we serve is this: Churches are run by people. People are flawed, God is not. This doesn’t mean I pretend to understand why everything happens in the world or even in my own life. If God were easy to comprehend, He wouldn’t be God. Let me take it a step further and say that just because we serve a loving God, doesn’t mean its our job to have an explanation for every bad thing that happens on this earth. But Jesus’s teachings are pretty clear. Love your neighbor. Take care of the widowed and orphaned. Fight for justice of the oppressed and the “other.”
Don’t think that because your voice differs from that of your church-going counterparts, that it doesn’t matter. It does. Choosing love and acceptance over judgment is not always the popular choice. Which is ironic. Because it’s love that set the captives free. It’s love that sent Jesus to this earth as a tiny babe, to grow up and preach and teach love. It’s His love for us and for the Father that He died on that cross. Don’t ever give up on His love, because it will never give up on you.
“The love of God is greater far than pen or word can ever tell…”