June 4, 2020

No Right Way Once and For All

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What you must realize, what you must even come to praise, is the fact that there is no right way that is going to become apparent to you once and for all. The most blinding illumination that strikes and perhaps radically changes your life will be so attenuated and obscured by doubts and dailiness that you may one day come to suspect the truth of that moment at all. The calling that seemed so clear will be lost in echoes of questionings and indecision; the church that seemed to save you will fester with egos, complacencies, banalities; the love of your life will work itself like a thorn in your heart until all you can think of is plucking it out. Courage is persisting in life in spite of it. And faith is finding yourself, in the deepest part of your soul, in the very heart of who you are, moved to praise it.

– Christian Wiman
My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

* * *

In the final scenes of the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks’ character stands at a crossroads with new possibilities for his future, and perhaps for love. An unexpected accident which left him stranded on a desert island had forced him from the life he had planned. Upon his return, he discovered that others had moved on with their own lives without him, and that it would be impossible for him to pick up where things had left off. However, when he takes care of one final detail remaining from his shipwreck — delivering a package to a home in the country — he ends up meeting a woman in a pickup truck who, it is hinted, may provide direction for his life in days to come.

And so at times, we too stand on the threshold of a new season of life. We have changed, others around us have changed, situations and circumstances have changed. We may have passed through a time of disorientation or disruption that has altered life by loss. Perhaps our prospects have moved in the other direction and life has been transformed by good fortune. It may be as simple as being at one of those points in the normal course of growing older and facing new roles and dealing with new realities.

The difference is, our lives are not a Hollywood movie. We may not receive a sign foreshadowing the way forward.

The world of evangelical spirituality from which I came, it seems to me, is not adequately suited to provide support for people facing these perplexing transitions in life. Revivalistic piety is essentially one dimensional. Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church and listen to sermons. Be active in the church. Witness to those around you. Pursue personal holiness (i.e. avoid sins and cultivate good habits). This is usually preached as though it were a one-size-fits-all garment that will stretch to fit any person, apply in any situation, and equip one to face any challenge.

On the odd chance that life’s changes are acknowledged, too often spiritual leaders give wandering believers a false notion of perceptible, measurable progress in the Christian life. They communicate the idea that there is a definable pattern of personal development.

Over the years, the spiritual life has been likened to a journey. That suggests a road with recognizable landmarks and destinations. It has also been envisioned in terms of climbing a ladder, though Protestants have usually been suspicious of this as advocating a system of meritorious works. But this is not a leftover relic from medieval theology. Mission statements of many contemporary churches are quite explicit that they expect certain measurable evidences of “growth” to become apparent in the lives of their members. However, I agree with Henry Nouwen, who said, “It is of great importance that we leave the world of measurements behind when we speak about the life of the Spirit.”

I don’t want to be hyper-critical, but I doubt that many so-called spiritual leaders today would cede control over the message and the process long enough to admit “that there is no right way that is going to become apparent to you once and for all.” 

I also wonder how many of us in churches and Christians communities have enough courage to stand up and say, “I feel like I’m out in the middle of the country at a crossroads. North, south, east, west — in every direction a long and winding road stretches out before me, extending to a vague horizon. I don’t see a single sign guiding me toward the way I should take. It’s like I’m in a wilderness, lost, alone, without a compass.”

If we did, would anyone listen?

And where might we find courage and faith to move on?

Comments

  1. My experience with evangelical spirituality is that it doesn’t prepare people for perplexing transitions in life at all; instead it offers false hope that “everything will be OK” and that nothing will change, and nothing bad should happen to you (after all, God is blessing you!). If things aren’t all right with you because of a perplexing life transition, they don’t want to deal with you because you’re harshing their spiritual mellow and reminding them that they might not be quite as immune as they think to equally unexpected and disruptive transitions. Seems like the root of this line of thought is the pervasive spiritual immaturity in American evangelicalism, sadly enough.

    After my spiritually abusive experience in a new church following a move, I did basically proclaim (in a different church, after I left the first one) my spiritual disorientation similar to what you describe, and was basically told “Get over it”. I never found meaningful direction there or in subsequent churches here — just more immaturity — so I moved on and am now the dreaded lone-ranger Christian everyone rails against. I haven’t given up on the idea, though, that when God wants me out of the wilderness, He will lead me out of it. In the meantime, love and grace must be my companions on the journey.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > instead it offers false hope that “everything will be OK”

      Yep, experienced that.

      > they don’t want to deal with you because you’re harshing their spiritual mellow

      An apt description.

      > the pervasive spiritual immaturity in American evangelicalism

      I am totally down on Evangelicalism… but I see this in Nones and the vaguely-spiritual [are those Nones?]. There is a kind of `easy spirituality`, at this point I do not know who adopted it from whom, or if it is just the 21st century kind of parochial gnosticism. “I want to be spiritual, not religious”… meaning I just kinda want to do what I wanna to do, but be deep about it. They often [to their own horror no doubt, if they could see it] sound a *lot* like the Evangelicals I’ve knows, just a few terms swapped.

      >my spiritual disorientation similar to what you describe, and was basically told “Get over it”. I
      > never found meaningful direction there or in subsequent churches here

      I mean this in an entirely constructive way – I ask because I do not know – What would “meaningful direction” for the spiritually disoriented ***look like***? It is such a personal, specific [even in its nebulosity], thing.

      I’ve been in despair, the lower-case-c church made it worse, not better. *My* answer [and I know it is a very unpopular one here] – was to stop expecting the church to help, I now do not know if they can. I found it helpful to look up and out; focus on what I could *do*, then some, not all, of the veiling clouds grew more ephemeral. Find things I loved and where interesting to me, and some direction appeared. Taking steps, almost literal steps, and I met new people, enthusiastic people, enthusiastic about things they found beautiful and important, and I saw interesting things, change happening; sometimes motion makes space for hope. And hope, even small grubby this-world hope, is a beautiful thing. That is one thing I most emphatically do *not miss* about Evangelicalism, people telling me I should not have hope in things happening or getting better, because that is love of the world. Bull. That is living life.

      > the dreaded lone-ranger Christian everyone rails against

      Don’t sweat it. Been there. I know some beautiful people who are there.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My experience with evangelical spirituality is that it doesn’t prepare people for perplexing transitions in life at all; instead it offers false hope that “everything will be OK” and that nothing will change, and nothing bad should happen to you (after all, God is blessing you!).

      Or worse, it doesn’t matter because God’s gonna beam us all up to Heaven any minute now (any minute now… any minute now…) and It’s All Gonna Burn(TM).

      (Can you tell my time in-country was during Hal Lindsay’s 15 Minutes of Fame?)

    • Final Anonymous says

      ” If things aren’t all right with you because of a perplexing life transition, they don’t want to deal with you because you’re harshing their spiritual mellow and reminding them that they might not be quite as immune as they think to equally unexpected and disruptive transitions.”

      Yes. Totally my experience, in a mainline that seems to want desperately to be as cool as an evangelical. Add a measure of guilt for possibly turning off newcomers by not putting on your Disney greeter face at each and every function, and I finally realized I was nothing more than a butt-in-seat, valued only for my ability to attract more butts-in-seats.

      Nobody wants anybody disturbing the smiley-happy-clappy.

    • I agree with your post.
      You said, “instead it offers false hope that “everything will be OK” and that nothing will change, and nothing bad should happen to you (after all, God is blessing you!).”

      That may be due in part to some evangelical churches, sure, but as a teen, I even got that idea from the Bible itself.

      The Old Testament in particular is really bad about portraying God and life in such a way that you think, “If I just obey God’s rules, life will go fine for me.”

      -but then life sometimes goes horribly wrong anyhow, and you wonder why God is doing bad stuff to you, when you followed all his rules.

      BTW, some Christians are more than happy to perpetuate that sort of thinking, but blaming Christians for their pain and trials in life. The Word of Faith guys are especially bad, but other kinds of Christians also dabble in this “blame the victim” theology.

      If you are having health problems, financial problems, whatever sort of problems, some Christians will tell you it is so because you must have lacked faith, didn’t pray hard enough, God is punishing you for having un-confessed sin, you are harboring unforgivness in your heart, etc.

      There’s even a smidge of that attitude implied in the New Testament, even after the death and resurrection of Christ, when folks are not under the Law.

      It seems to me that on the one hand, the NT tells you yes, you will have problems in life, but IMO, there is still an undercurrent in the NT that if you are a “good” Christian you will be blessed or protected more so from life’s tragedies. it’s very misleading because life does not work that way. You can be the most goody good two shoes Christian and things go horribly wrong in your life.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If you are having health problems, financial problems, whatever sort of problems, some Christians will tell you it is so because you must have lacked faith, didn’t pray hard enough, God is punishing you for having un-confessed sin, you are harboring unforgivness in your heart, etc.

        Just another smackdown in the game of Christian One-Upmanship.

    • Part 2. Re: Sarah Morgan’s post
      (I did not want to make one long post in my reply. I though breaking it up would make it easier to read.)

      Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio (has a daily TV show) likes to sprinkle his sermons with the phrase “GET OVER IT!!!” any time he is addressing people in his audience who may be going through a tough time.

      (While I am using Hagee as an example in this post, I have seen other Christians say similar things or behave in a similar fashion on blogs, books, pod casts, and on TV.)

      Hagee even made the phrase “Get Over It” the center piece message for how to handle all life’s problems in a sermon about a month ago.

      Hagee YELLS it, bellows it, at his audience, too. It is not gently spoken, it is SCREAMED at the audience.

      Hagee also has the tendency to chalk any and all depression up to a “pity party” / “self pity” attitude, and so he screams at depressed people to,
      “GET OVER IT, the LORD IS YOUR JOY, there is NO REASON for a Christian to have a sour puss, bull dog expression all the time.”

      I like how Hagee ignorantly thinks screaming down-home, country, folk, rustic expressions (such as “bull dog expression”) is supposed to snap depressed and suicidal Christians out of their pain. 🙄

      Hagee must have gotten heat for that attitude against depression a few years back, because back then, when he was ranting against depressed Christians in one episode I saw, he did pause to say oh- so- briefly,
      “When I rail against depression in my sermons, I don’t mean depression caused by biological problems. Some depression can be caused by chemicals in the brain.”

      I hate to break this to Hagee, but even if someone’s clinical depression is not strictly due to bio factors it still incapacitates a person. People get ‘stuck’ in depression, they don’t CHOOSE to be in it. So screaming at them to “get over it” and “the Lord is your joy” is insensitive to such people and only shames them and keeps them stuck in the depression.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Hagee also has the tendency to chalk any and all depression up to a “pity party” / “self pity” attitude, and so he screams at depressed people to,
        “GET OVER IT, the LORD IS YOUR JOY, there is NO REASON for a Christian to have a sour puss, bull dog expression all the time.”

        Telling the starving guy in the snowbank “Be warm and well filled; I’ll Pray For You(TM),” then going back into your heated house for a feast.

    • Part 3 Re: Sarah’s post, “so I moved on and am now the dreaded lone-ranger Christian everyone rails against.”

      That’s another pet peeve topic if mine. I hear it or read it quite a bit in Christian material.

      It’s pretty bad how most Christian culture and people let hurting people down, so when you understandably are gun shy about going back to a church or talking to Christians, it’s made ten times worse by these insensitive morons who shame you for it. The ones who tell you it’s a sin to forgo church, or you’re sinning / evil / negligent for not buddying up to Christians anymore.

      It feels safer to avoid churches and to be a Lone Ranger.

      As I was saying in a related topic over at Wartburg Watch blog a few days ago: Some Christians gripe and complain and plead with Christians to be “vulnerable” with each other. They pine for close,deep, real community, which one can only have if everyone is “keeping it real,” not wearing masks, etc.

      Hey, that would be pretty awesome. I agree – if it in fact worked, which it does not, more often than not.

      You know what my experience has been after my mother (who was my best friend) died? When I went to other Christians and asked for prayer, asked for help, and confided in them about being in pain or feeling lost in the grief and my mother being gone, I got judgment, cliches, platitudes, criticisms, religious cliches (e.g., “Read your Bible more!,” “Trust in the Lord, he will take care of you!,” etc), unsolicited advice (e.g., “take up a new hobby!,” “work in a soup kitchen.”)

      (Well, the “soup kitchen” one is more of a “once you see how more lousy other people have life than you, that they live in cardboard boxes, suddenly your mother being dead i a coffin won’t seem to horrible to you! Your mom being dead is pretty awesome, since you aren’t living in a box under a bridge.” – a Christian technique of comforting I find deeply insulting, not encouraging.)

      I’ve also gotten those same responses and attitudes when going to Christians for other problems in life.

      Anyway, I’ve always been an introvert, so I don’t need 24/7 Christian fellowship, so the ‘anti Lone Ranger Christian’ speeches are annoying for that reason too.

      But when I do need/ want fellowship, Christians have failed pretty miserably at it. They’re always too busy. They don’t want to meet for coffee, won’t take an hour on a Saturday to chat with you on the phone.

      The moment you let your guard down with like 95% of them, they will blame you, shame you, or give you cliches for your hurt. I’ve learned it’s safer for my heart and mental health to keep my personal business to myself (except online, where I can write under a screen name).

      I have the sneaking suspicion that if Christians were doing things right, as the Bible dictates they are to behave

      (meeting people’s actual needs, e.g., such as weeping with those who weep – i.e., don’t judge and shame those who weep),

      and as opposed to Christian marketers’ assumptions of people’s needs (eg, for cool entertainment, such as a rock band on stage in worship services with an electric guitar, or preachers in skinny jeans and goatees), church attendance would likely not be in decline as it is.

      • I can relate only too well. My best friend and hubby died last May. The friends that have been most supportive are the ones who others would call ‘unbelievers.’ The moment I’ve felt encouraged to let my guard down with a fellow Christian and begin to tell my story, they want to encourage me by telling me their story and I get to be the listener – which is what I do in my job. I’m so glad the Lord listens to all my pain, sorrow and grief – I remind myself of this often.

    • I do agree and this article put it well ! Funny thing about the Apostles and their doctrine Acts 14:22 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”1 Peter 4:12 -13 – Romans 5: 3-4 – James 1:2-4 – It’s almost been my experience in American churches entire portions of doctrine are neglected. The trial of our faith the testing of God Chastening mentioned all throughout the new testament and the six foundational doctrines listed in Hebrews untaught I actually ask Christians of decades for several years if they had received solid teaching not just a sermon or two of preaching teaching verse by verse scripture by scripture on these issues do you know I have not heard one yes in several years of asking ?

  2. I’m not confused about it in the least.

    The way is narrow…but it is there. And it id Christ Jesus…alone. In Word and sacrament, alone.

    It is laid out for us in Scripture, if we will do some theology, in light of the Cross and Jesus’ forgiveness to His enemies…people like us.

    But it’s not easy to believe. Believing the promises of God..alone…is the hardest thing to do as a Christian. We just want to add a ‘little bit’ (as Gerhard Forde used to say).

    Will God also bring in the Christ +’ers? I think He will. I pray He will. For I don’t deserve to get in there in any way, shape, or form by what I believe, or have done. We are not saved by our good theology.The preachers who preach the add-ons will be judged much more harshly than their trusting flocks.

    But we want all to experience the great, hard won freedom that Christ so dearly wants us to have, by living on His promises…alone.

    Thanks, Mike.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > But we want all to experience the great, hard won freedom that Christ so dearly wants
      > us to have, by living on His promises…alone.

      I believe I have received salvation by the merciful act of Christ’s crucifixion. I believe I do not merit this by any measure. I believe I am a fallen corrupted thing, that I fail inevitably attempts at holiness.

      But … I read “the great, hard won freedom that Christ so dearly wants us to have, by living on His promises…alone” … I have no idea what that means. I have no idea how that is supposed to guide me. I find no encouragement in it.

      • That’s not supposed to “guide” you. You are free! What do you want to do?

        That Christ has done all that is needful does not liberate you?

        Maybe you just like religion. Many do. That’s ok by me. We offer (through the pure gospel) the alternative of true freedom. Some, myself included, really love and need that.

        • I want to crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

          How can I change my “wanter”?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            > I want to crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the
            > lamentation of their women.

            Me too. At least sometimes, especially when I’m tired.

            > How can I change my “wanter”?

            It is a long road. Happily, I report notable progress. I’ve progressed from being a furious heathen thug to not quite a furious heathen thug. That progress greatly facilitated by what some would describe as “works”.

          • ” [War] is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands! But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! Knowing that we’re not going to kill – today!”

            Captain Kirk from “A Taste of Armaggedon”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > Maybe you just like religion.

          Not only do I “just like” religion; I believe it serves a very necessary role in individual and societal life. So I reject your deprecating use of the “just” qualified.

          > We offer (through the pure gospel) the alternative of true freedom

          Ah, the Pure Gospel and True Freedom. Verses the tainted gospel and the faux freedom? This kind of terminology does not sell your point effectively; and the “We offer” sounds downright cultic.

          • When I use the word “religion”, I am speaking about what we do to please God or ascend to greater nights of ‘spirituality’.

            If you like doing that, then have at it.

            Like I said, you certainly aren’t alone.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Sounds too much like the “You have (sneer) Religion: I have a RELATIONSHIP!” smackdown.

          • I see your point.

            I guess I need to find a better way to say it.

            Some way that people will want to give up the ‘religious ascendency/spirituality project. in favor of the freedom of Christ.

            “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?” ( Forde)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?” ( Forde)

            How about just Living Your Life?

  3. I’ve existed in a spiritual wilderness for as long as I can remember. Again and again I’ve started down paths I thought were clear and sure, only to find that they led back to the same kind of place from which I had started, only each time this happened I was more weary, and less hopeful of finding a way forward. At this point, I have little confidence in my own ability to make a right choice.

    Never having been a member of an evangelical church, I have little to say to the assertion in this post that evangelicalism has a strong tendency to deny the spiritual ambiguities that people often find themselves in. As a mainline (I include Roman Catholicism as mainline when talking about my experience) church dweller, my experience has not led me to believe that the mainlines do a very good job with this either. There is a tendency on the one hand to offer one-size-fits-all approaches to the issue, and on the other to leave the individual alone, and often wounded, before the spiritual dilemmas and uncertainties. Denial and stoicism are often the strategies implicitly suggested, though this is often less than conscious.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to praise this condition of uncertainty, as Wiman’s quote insists I must if I’m to have faith. I don’t have the energy or confidence in myself that it would require to do so; my experience keeps leading away from that. I just keep calling out, sometimes wordlessly, to God, in the hope that in the end he is bigger and more defining than all my uncertainty and lostness.

    Perhaps someday I’ll stop calling, and everything will rest on him.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > there is a tendency on the one hand to offer one-size-fits-all approaches to the issue,

      What else can an organization, a collective group, do? I look to the church as Infrastructure. It provides a framework, a grounding of the spiritual into this world. But fitting in, guidance, place making…. maybe that is the role of brothers, sisters, and friends. Only they can minister in that way, to me, in so specific a way [and God help them, for I am a mess :)] Perhaps the church, and our society, does not give sufficient credit or attention to the virtue of Friendship. It is notable, as I read older literature, how often Friendship is treated as a more deliberate virtue, and Friends are more explicitly recognized.

      > Denial and stoicism are often the strategies implicitly suggested, though this is often less than conscious.

      Very true; I have heard sermons that were thinly veiled recommendations of Denial.

      Although I’d lodge a +1 for Obstinacy, which can look like Denial. Sometimes doubt *is* best met with obstinate action – I will live as if X were true, despite that it seems to me now not to be so. I am not advocating that as a holistic answer to doubt, merely that it does have a place in the darkness-coping-toolbox. I know I am too American, and possibly to Nordic, to ever be able to “praise this condition of uncertainty”, not going to happen; but as a red-blooded American and a grumpy Norseman, I’ll mutter under my breath and, head down, I’ll trudge forward. That I know how to do.

      I recall that C.S. Lewis once defined Faith as `keeping to what you were once convinced was true until met with compelling evidence to the contrary`. I like that definition, there is room in there for guilt-free doubt. I can be disturbed by what I encounter, yet keep going. I can doubt in that definition with being “swept to and fro”.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        @**D@DF auto-correct

        I can doubt in that definition with*OUT* being “swept to and fro”.

      • Adam, wonderful thoughts. I loved your second to last paragraph. I think there are times when faith does indeed take the form of something like “obstinacy”, though I wish there were a better word for it.

        For me, those times are when I am faced with great doubts. I stick to the path not just through obstinacy, but also because of three things. First, I’ve been around long enough to know my doubts will come and go. Second, because I honestly don’t think any other path will be better. Lastly, because there are great and beautiful truths scattered along the pathway; “no one every one like this man”. So perhaps a “learned obstinacy”, accompanied by an increasing openness to paradox, are what keep me walking.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > when faith does indeed take the form of something like “obstinacy”,
          > though I wish there were a better word for it.

          You mean, perhaps, a term that did not make it sound as though you were just being obstinate? 🙂

          I felt that way as well. Then I decided: Hey, being obstinate against darkness and despair? Obstinately demanding that my neighbor is important. When the neighbor hugs you; ok, I do not feel bad about being obstinate anymore. More people should be. The darkness and its co-conspirators – they are obstinate.

          > Second, because I honestly don’t think any other path will be better.

          Keeping that in mind is certainly helpful. In what other direction can I go but forward? When I could see the horizon I picked this direction, now it is all grey and fog, so hold the course.

          >So perhaps a “learned obstinacy”, accompanied by an increasing openness to
          > paradox, are what keep me walking.

          Ah, “learned obstinacy”… I like it!

          • How does “obstinacy” or even “learned obstinacy” differ from “perseverance”?

          • I suppose their semantic ranges mostly overlap. But to me perseverance has a shade more of a passive overtone than obstinacy does in this context. Perseverance implies enduring something, not the defiant, “I WILL live this way” I took away from Adam’s comment.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            In no substantive way. But “perseverance” feels like I am back in Evangelical word bingo. I don’t feel like I “persevere”, as though I have put-on-the-full-armor-of-God, mastered a spiritual discipline, “head bloodied but unbowed” and all that.. I go grumbling and stumbling forward. Yes, you are right. It means the same thing, at least the way we are using it. But it feels more like “obstinacy”.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Daniel:
            > I suppose their semantic ranges mostly overlap. But to me perseverance has a shade
            > more of a passive overtone than obstinacy does in this context.

            My Evangelical years imbibed in me a triumphalist tone regarding “perseverance”. I should be able to ride through the tribulations of life with a tranquil kind of fatalism, “resting in Christ”.

            That connotation may be solely my own, and therefore not useful. I’ll confess that.

            > Perseverance implies enduring something, not the defiant, “I WILL live this way” I took
            > away from Adam’s comment.

            Yea, pretty much. I don’t find tribulations and doubts and darkness to be something to be somehow endured with a resigned and righteous sigh. It more often feels like growling and going forward into a cold wind.

      • “What else can an organization, a collective group, do?”

        Well to start, it helps to have a tradition of spiritual formation to draw on that people can explore, where they might find acknowledgements and descriptions of human struggles and where they might enter into fellowship with those in the past who have faced similar transitions in life.

        It also would be nice if ministers and teachers would recognize the pastoral nature of preaching, be more sensitive to their congregations, and not think their main job each Sunday is to “give answers,” but rather to speak compassionately about the human condition and present the good news of the One who walks with us through all of life’s changes.

        • All this and your posts/thoughts on biblicism and how we overvallue words (while undervaluing the WORD) …. you have the makings of at least one book, let me know when it hits. Then again, I’ll know from IMONK.

  4. Mike the Geologist says

    Chaplain Mike: I’ve heard this theme from you several times and it does resonate with me. At 60 years old I’ve lost a job I worked for 25 years with only a partial pension. I really don’t know who I am right now; I was Mike the Geologist for a long time. Part of the problem in Evangelical circles is that often people come into that circle after a radical life change. They were anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-church; drowning in drug or alcohol addiction. That moment of conversion when they realize they need the Savior and walk the aisle and surrender to Him is sublime and truly life changing. Of course the problem is; how do you follow that up. What is next. Why you should, “Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church and listen to sermons. Be active in the church. Witness to those around you. Pursue personal holiness (i.e. avoid sins and cultivate good habits).” What else is there to DO.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Why you should, “Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church and listen to sermons. Be
      > active in the church. Witness to those around you. Pursue personal holiness (i.e.
      > avoid sins and cultivate good habits).” What else is there to DO.

      +1,000,000,042. Dude, I am right there with you. I’ll add another +1,000. You can have all my plus points.

      After all is said an done – what do I do? If something does not help answer that question – personally, speaking for myself – whatever that thing was/is – I doubt whether it was/is worth anything at all.

      • How to respond to the “no right way” is best supported through contemplative forms of prayer of meditation. In my experience the ability to reach inward in times of trial is much more important than reaching outward. And if we have no understanding of “being still to know that He is God”, how do we cultivate ourselves as vessels for the Holy Spirit? Some RC & other mainline denoms are familiar with this type of prayer, but I haven’t found many Protestant denoms & nondenoms that are. And many find it to be very suspect, relying only on outward forms.
        Great post on this Monday morning. Really resonates. Thank you.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        > Why you should, “Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church and listen to sermons. Be
        > active in the church. Witness to those around you. Pursue personal holiness (i.e.
        > avoid sins and cultivate good habits).” What else is there to DO.

        Play Buzzword Bingo?

    • Mike — I know what you mean. I wrote about that a while ago her on iMonk. Here’s the link.

      https://internetmonk.com/archive/chapter-two-of-the-christian-life

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        That is a great post.

      • thanks for the link, Damaris; that post is a gem ; I’m a little deflated, right now, but I can still say “amen” to wanting something “hard, challenging, important, and FUN”. Wondering if this is the pull of sports and the military (OK… maybe not the fun part….)

    • People should follow up and realzie that there are going to be highs and lows. There are going to be mountains, plateus and valleys. You will get a job and you will lose a job. Evangelicalsim should not be always about a high. This issue I would suggest gets to the core problem evangelicals have with grace.

      Sometimes you have to hit bottom in life, and hitting bottom can be good. But to those committed to sin management and the James Dobson view on family they are denying people their opportuniy to grow and spiritually mature.

      Lastly people should relazie that life is both long and short. Long in the sense that you’ll have several decades ahead of you. Short in the sense that it can change on a dime. The happy clappy feel good crap needs to die. In my chruch I’ve been pushing Philip Yancey hard and have been amazed by the stories I have heard. Just last week someone in my small group talked about how her nephew is struggling to step into a chruch again after 2 decades becuase his mother divorced his father and ran off with and married the pastor. The judgement and shame overwhlmed him and we talked abotu the problems in evangelcial theology. Not becuase I enjoy tearing down…but to avoid the pitfalls that exist.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Evangelicalsim should not be always about a high.

        If it’s always about a high, what’s the diff from Crystal Meth or a wire in the pleasure center?

        • Exactly…if its always a high evangelicalism is nothing but a drug.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And if you’re always high with no contrasting lows, how do you even know you’re high? High becomes dull and normal, and you try for even more of a high.

    • Re: Mike the G. said,

      “…often people come into that circle after a radical life change. They were anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-church; drowning in drug or alcohol addiction. That moment of conversion when they realize they need the Savior and walk the aisle and surrender to Him is sublime and truly life changing…Why you should, “Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church and listen to sermons. Be active in the church. Witness to those around you. Pursue personal holiness (i.e. avoid sins and cultivate good habits).””

      What’s really odd for me is I’m having the opposite experience.

      I accepted Christ as Savior under the age of ten and spent the rest of my life being a Bible- reading, goody-good. These days, I’m barely hanging on to the Christian faith anymore.

      I’m finding that belief in Jesus / Bible reading (or serving others, attending church, etc) is not the end-all, be-all answer to everything I’m facing in my life, and none of that stuff served me too well prior to my slight shift to agnosticism, either.

      I find it strange now to watch testimonies on Christian TV, or see them on blogs, where someone who lived a life of, (typically it’s), crime and drugs, accepted Christ at age 25 (or 30/ 40 / 50), and they say their life is now all magical-great and has purpose now, Jesus delivered them. They say they have inner peace.

      Some of these types of people even claim they SAW Jesus appear to them visibly, or strongly felt Jesus’ presence at time of conversion.

      I never had inner peace, even during all my Christian years. From childhood to my late 30s, I had clinical depression and anxiety. The depression is mostly gone. (I still have low to moderate anxiety now.)

      Jesus never appeared to me visibly. Even during times I was so deeply depressed, was in a river of tears and crying out to God, all I got was silence. No presence of God or anything. Not even after my mother died and I was beside myself. I did not hear from God or see him.

      Knowing Jesus my whole life did not erase the anxiety, give me inner peace, etc,

      I also remain mystified by Bible verses that never did come to pass for me, like the ones about casting your cares on Jesus, Jesus will give you peace not as the world does, whatever you ask in my name I will grant you, you will have an abundant life, etc. etc.

      That stuff did not come true for me. I don’t know why the Bible contains all these nice sounding promises if 97% of them don’t apparently work 99% of the time, or do not work evenly for all people.

      If those people are not lying or aren’t wacko when they say Christ appeared to them (or the felt his presence), why would Christ choose to appear only to some but not all? That doesn’t seem fair to me.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        I admire your generosity, because I know the feeling of –

        > I find it strange now to watch testimonies on Christian TV, or see them on blogs,
        > where someone who lived a life of, (typically it’s), crime and drugs, accepted Christ
        > at age 25 (or 30/ 40 / 50), and they say their life is now all magical-great and has
        > purpose now, Jesus delivered them. They say they have inner peace.

        – and my response is Bull Crap. I don’t buy it. Not that I don’t buy the life-changing thing, they lost me before that, you’d have a hard time convincing me the entire pile is not a complete fabrication. And where is the humility and repentance? All those people you injured in your wild years [and they exist, no doubt about it] – where is the grief for their pain? The seeking of forgiveness? It is all bull. Either the pastor is a sucker, or he is in on the game [sadly, my money is on the former, how dreary is that].

        I will give credit to one of the Evangelical pastors I had experience with – anytime the dramatic-salvation-story wheel started to spin he shut it down proper. Not all of them did that, but at least one did – he’d have no part in glamorizing it. For those of us who grew up on the `wrong end` of the thug’s stick that meant a lot. Kudos to Pastor Smith, wherever you are.

        > If those people are not lying or aren’t wacko

        They are, or they are both; high functioning sociopaths with a good racket running. Utterly despicable.

        > why would Christ choose to appear only to some but not all? That doesn’t seem fair to me.

        No, it does not.

        • @ Adam Tauno Williams

          Another good thing about that pastor shutting down the dramatic conversion stories is that it made some of us feel like ours weren’t valid.

          I hear them a lot on various Christian TV shows.

          I accepted Jesus as savior before the age of ten, I was a good kid. I did not skip school or do drugs or anything like that. I was very obedient to authority figures.

          I was never a prostitute, I never mugged people, or robbed banks.

          So anytime I hear these more “glam” or dramatic testimonies (by someone who was a crack addict and prostitute for fifteen years), I felt like there was something wrong with me. I wondered if my ‘boring’ life and ‘boring’ acceptance of Jesus was not good enough.

          On a similar vein, there’s been a push the last few years by mega church preachers and other preachers to shame and guilt Christians for not being “radical” or “daring” or “audacious” enough.

          Most of them are simply writing books or making TV shows telling Christians that are living an ‘average Joe’ or ‘average Jane’ life in the ‘burbs with a 9 to 5 job, that that is not “Christian” enough.

          They think you should sell your home and live in a third world nation and hand out Gospel tracts to the natives, that anything less than that is selfish, or not proof enough that you love Jesus, etc.

          Some of the guys saying that still live in their $100,000 homes in the United States, too. Most of them preach this stuff but don’t live it. One guy DID sell his home in the ‘burbs and move to the inner city, but the rest I’ve read about still live in their comfy middle class homes telling the rest of us to go live in huts in Africa to prove we are serious followers of Jesus and not mere fans.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            So anytime I hear these more “glam” or dramatic testimonies (by someone who was a crack addict and prostitute for fifteen years), I felt like there was something wrong with me. I wondered if my ‘boring’ life and ‘boring’ acceptance of Jesus was not good enough.

            Anytime I hear them, I think “Can You Top This?”

            On a similar vein, there’s been a push the last few years by mega church preachers and other preachers to shame and guilt Christians for not being “radical” or “daring” or “audacious” enough.

            Again, “CAN YOU TOP THIS?”

            And look at the names of some of the orgs and movements preaching this:
            “ACQUIRE THE FIRE!”
            “TEEN MANIA!”
            What about the 99% of us who just live our lives?

            One guy DID sell his home in the ‘burbs and move to the inner city, but the rest I’ve read about still live in their comfy middle class homes telling the rest of us to go live in huts in Africa to prove we are serious followers of Jesus and not mere fans.

            For some reason, “Missionary to Darkest Africa(TM)” has been THE prestige posting for a LONG time. Maybe it started with Dr Livingston fanboys or something, and then it turned into a game of Can You Top This?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I will give credit to one of the Evangelical pastors I had experience with – anytime the dramatic-salvation-story wheel started to spin he shut it down proper. Not all of them did that, but at least one did – he’d have no part in glamorizing it. For those of us who grew up on the `wrong end` of the thug’s stick that meant a lot.

          I remember an anecdote in the intro to the book Seven Deadly Virtues that described a Spectacular Salvation Testimony from a traveling evangelist. Author described it as making it sound like Jesus interrupted the excitement and nothing interesting happened ever since — “I was involved in an exciting world of Booze! And Dope! And Sex! And boy Was It Fun! But I tell you this only so you can avoid the same Fun-Filled Mistakes.”

          And I wonder how much of it is “tickling the ears” of the audience, intentional or not — how else can the Respectable Church Lady types get their vicarious sin fix? Enjoy all the Forbidden Fruit that’s denied them in the dull, grey, drab path of Salvation.

  5. For me, here is the way it works.

    The Kingdom is real. It is here and it is now.

    The way into the Kingdom is narrow. But once I stepped through that narrowness, I entered a realm that is very, very big. Lots of stuff going on. Some of it very strange (although I am learning that what appears at first to be strange is often times not really that strange at all). Some of it confusing. Lots and lots of choices, coupled with complete freedom to make bad ones. Truly a land where the unknown is usual, and complete understanding is very elusive.

    But for some reason life in this Kingdom is the most amazing and exciting thing I have ever experienced. It is as if this place, and the life I live in it, were specifically designed to tap into my desire to be constantly in awe of something. For every revelation I encounter, there is a new question, or many of them. For every discovery, there is a whole new set of mysteries. For every truth, there is a new path I get to explore.

    Is it tiring? Sometimes. Is it frustrating? Can be. Do I experience certainty? Sort of, but it does not last long. Am I uncomfortable? That happens, yes, but it is more anticipatory that angst. Is there suffering? Sometimes, but even in that stuff there is a weird sort of peace?

    Bottom line. It is exactly the kind of life I was designed to live. I would never have known this if I had not wandered around in the Kingdom for a while. I found that the rewards for living in this huge arena of questions and uncertainty and constantly expanding perception of life in and with Jesus far outweighed the discomforts.

    I think that, for me, a crossroads is a great place to experience this new life. I get to choose, Jesus promises to go with me, and there is an adventure in any direction. How could life here be any better than that? Guess He meant what He said. “Life, and life abundant”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      One thing that strikes me about Judaism is its emphasis on just Living Your Life.

  6. Something I’ve learned from Merton; Contemplation is a discipline which will purify our actions. In the end, we cannot rely on a church institution to do that for us.

  7. Chesterton in “Orthodoxy” ended his second chapter, whose theme was a rough review of modern thought, with two moderns standing at the crossroads. One , the worshipper of wild and lawless, the other the materialist worshipper of law. The Tolstoyan’s will is frozen by an instinct that all special actions are to be looked at askew. The Nietzscheite’s will is frozen by the view that all special actions are a good thing. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates the thought of the choice of all the roads, and the other likes all the roads. The result is- Chesterton says some things are not hard to figure out- they stand at the crossroads.
    A person who immediately comes to his mind is Joan of Arc. She chose a path and went down it like a thunderbolt. Tolstoy had the pleasure in plain things, the actualities of the earth, the reverence of the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan had all that and something more, she lived all that, as well as admiring it. Nietzsche was in mutiny against timidity and the emptiness of his time, a pressing toward ecstatic equilibrium of danger. Well Joan has that with this difference, she did not praise fighting, but fought.
    Chesterton says it was impossible for the thought to not cross his mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity AND utility, held simultaneously, that has been lost in these modern thought worlds. Chesterton has been called the “prince of paradox”. His chapter in “Orthodoxy” on paradox is unbelievably clear in it being a higher order of Christian thought. I think people like the Methodist, Fowler, who have been proponents of spiritual formation, have shown that it is in a stage of conjunctive faith that this ability to hold parallel passions simultaneously acknowledges this type of transcendence. It is a wilderness or crisis stage in faith.

    • T.S.Gay, that is a very interesting comment. It caused me to remember Fowler’s stages of faith development. I think many of us are here imonk are wrestling with transitions between the stages, or at least with some of the issues related to transitions. It gives me a lot to think about today. Thanks.

    • Tolstoy was a wealthy man, and had hordes of disciples converging on his estate after the publication of some of his nonfiction. I think there was a lot of affectation in some of his actions, like wearing “peasant” clothing in later life. And the adulation… I think he liked it and hated it at the same time. He was a complex man, and in some ways quite cruel in his personal life.

    • Self-preserving organizations–Church and State–cannot deal with truly free people such as was Joan of Arc. Free people have said “No” to everything the world is saying “Yes” to. At issue is not so much personal transformation as what it is the transcendence of the Self.

  8. Final Anonymous says

    I did, to my pastor. I actually used the words “spiritual wilderness.”

    I’ve heard nothing more from her, or the church, to this day.

  9. This issue can be hard for the doubter. I leanred this about 6 years ago. Yes I was baptized and am more involved in an evangelical church but this issue haunts me in any ways. There is a one size fits all mentality. But I’ve been looking for ways to work around it.

    In some cases you have to live by luck and hope you don’t hit certain people. I have lowered the expectations for evangelicalsim considerbly and have fortunately found a place where I can interact and ask questions. But its hard…..

    One size does not fit all…and the sooner evangelicals learn how rich diversity can be and how people grow in their own time and own way, the healthy it can be.

    • Yes. We humans SOOO want to put God in a box. There is only one “right way,” and we (name your denomination) know what that is. That can be sooo comforting, because when things pop up that scare us, we just see if it fits our idea of who God is.

      I love the illustration of Tom Hanks’ character at the crossroad. It seems to me that every now and then we’re faced with accepting an idea of God that’s out of the box we’ve built for Him. The crossroad becomes the mystery of who He is. Some can’t wrap their heads around that mystery, either because of fear or dogma. Just yesterday I was talking with some folks about our old covenant view of God and our new covenant view of God. There’s a tension there. The God of the old covenant is the same God as the new covenant, but what do we make of the ideas BEHIND the two covenants, one focused on the Law and sacrifices, the other focused on grace, mercy and forgiveness?

      I’m rambling and have to run. I love this post and the comments I’ve read so far. I’ll try to return to form a more coherent statement later.

  10. I wonder if it is possible that our evangelical past has been centred on looking at the outside of the cup rather than looking inside? The outside is easy and measurable, once we get inside it becomes more murky.

    If we think that we have already arrived at the destination how do we cope with an ongoing journey?

    Imagine a marriage where all you have is memories of the wedding day – 10, 15, 20 years on life could get pretty thin. Evangelicals do well at getting people into Christianity, they just don’t know what to do afterwards.

    • Ken said,

      Evangelicals do well at getting people into Christianity, they just don’t know what to do afterwards.

      Not only do some of them not know, but they do know but are too lazy or selfish to care to do what they know is right, please scroll up this page to see my posts about how self professing Christians treated me when I went to them for help.

      I practice what I preach, btw. I don’t have much money, so I am limited in how I can help hurting friends of mine, but if or when they are undergoing trials, I phone them and e mail and let them talk for however long they want to or need to, and I don’t judge them or give them advice. I mail them cards via snail mail to let them know I am thinking of them.

      • I don’t know Daisy.
        I was a real mess and there are a number of people who poured into my life and helped me a lot.

        In my experience the people were not selfish or lazy, people spent time with me and encouraged me when it was an effort for them as well.

    • Final Anonymous says

      “Evangelicals do well at getting people into Christianity, they just don’t know what to do afterwards.”

      Ken, at my former mainline-but-evangelical-wannabe church, they (pastors, leadership, and all who bought in) all but said they didn’t *care what happened afterwards. The whole focus was on evangelism, which came to solely mean bringing new people to church. We in the congregation were told “It’s not about you. It’s about bringing others in.” All ministries, events, groups, were evaluated through the evangelism lens, and those that were thought to focus too much on the present congregation (like SUNDAY SCHOOL, no joke) were disbanded and discarded.

      I still have a soft spot in my heart for this congregation, so many good people with good hearts, even the pastors and leaders, and I understand what they thought they were trying to do… but, holy crap. What a quick decline into happy, clappy, budgets, buildings, butts-in-seats. No room at all for pain, trial, tragedy, real life.

      • I think where this comes from is the lack of a philosophy (or theology) of what it means to walk the Christian life.

        New birth is only the beginning. Once you are baptised then you have to walk that out for the rest of your life.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Imagine a marriage where all you have is memories of the wedding day – 10, 15, 20 years on life could get pretty thin.

      The flip side of Bridezilla Syndrome, where all the time and energy is spent on the Wedding and nothing’s left for the Marriage afterwards.

      But a logical end state of the Evangelical over-emphasis on Decision for Christ and the Moment of Salvation.

  11. (off topic but likely of interest to I-Monk readers)

    I am right wing and a social conservative, but I sometimes am baffled, embarrassed, or horrified at how other right wingers or social conservatives handle things.

    This is one of those times:

    Pastor [Robert Jeffress]: Obama opening door to Antichrist

    [Southern Baptist preacher Jeffress] …claims in a new book coming out this month that President Obama’s re-election is paving the way for the Antichrist foretold in Scripture.

    • Don’t worry, Daisy, just about EVERYTHING in our world today is paving the way for the Antichrist foretold in Scripture.

      And don’t forget the fourth chapter of First John, which says “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” [emphasis mine]

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Don’t worry, Daisy, just about EVERYTHING in our world today is paving the way for the Antichrist foretold in Scripture.

        You can tell what era I came from when the first thing I associate with “The Antichrist Foretold In Scripture” is “Henry Kissinger? the King of Spain?”

        • “Henry Kissinger” or the king of Spain” as the antichrist? I can beat that!

          One “theory” floating around in the late seventies/early eighties was that Ronald Wilson Reagan was the antichrist (not sure who started it but I would think it was a Democrat). The rationale for this is straightforward enough. You will note that each of his three names consists of exactly six letters, making his name the equivalent of “666”! If that’s not definite proof that Reagan was the antichrist, what is? Honestly, can anyone top that?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’ll tell you how that got started with Reagan. Reagan had a LOT of support (and voter turnout) from the Christianese wing of the GOP, and that’s credited with putting him over the top and into the White House. Well, between Reagan’s election and inauguration, there was a lot of expectations (and fears from the other side) that the new President would rule as a Christianese theocrat. (Remember, this was the period of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority Taking Back America and “NOW is the time to strike!”)

            Well, at his inauguration Reagan said that he was President of the entire country, “not of any single faction within that country”. It was less than a week later that “RONALD WILSON REAGAN = 666!!!” posters started showing up.

          • Well, at his inauguration Reagan said that he was President of the entire country, “not of any single faction within that country”. It was less than a week later that “RONALD WILSON REAGAN = 666!!!” posters started showing up.

            There may be a sequel to that. AIDS was identified during the Reagan years, mostly infecting gay males and IV drug users, but also some Haitians although it hadn’t spread to the general population yet.

            Reagan’s surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, was confronted for his reaching out to help those infected—also to prevent an epidemic. The argument was that “these people deserve the punishment for their sins” (not sure how they handled the Haitian question).

            Dr. Koop’s reply was that he was surgeon general of all Americans—the gay, the straight, the black, the white, the male and the female. This seems to me in the WWJD category, and I’m sure that Koop shut a few people up as well as angered others, something like what Jesus would have done.

            Not sayin’ that Koop was Jesus. And for sure Reagan weren’t; but he weren’t 666 neither.

    • I am a conservative as well, but a thoughtful (and hopefully intelligent) one at that – that kind of stuff makes me whacky too… and I am sure the intelligent liberals I know cringe at the whacko’s on their fringes..

  12. Evangelicals are indeed very good about bringing people into the kingdom. And the reason for this is that we Evangelicals are supple enough to approach people in myriads of ways that are bound to get fish into the net. It certainly worked for me 39 years ago.

    But this approach is also a liability. Philip Yancy addressed this issue for Christianity today back in 2009,

    “Evangelicalism has become a global phenomenon. … While staid churches change slowly, evangelicals tend to be light on their feet, adapting quickly to cultural trends. The Jesus movement, the house-church movement, seeker-friendly churches, emergent churches—evangelicals have spawned all of these. In their wake, worship bands have replaced organs and choirs, PowerPoint slides and movie clips now enliven sermons, and espresso bars keep congregants awake. If a technique doesn’t work, find one that does.”

    He continues,

    “As I survey evangelicalism I see much good, but also much room for improvement. Our history includes disunity—how many different denominations do this magazine’s readers represent?—and a past that includes lapses in ethics and judgment. We have brought energy to faith, but also division. We celebrate the transformation of individuals, but often fall short in our larger goal of transforming society.”

    He adds that there is hope for this tradition,

    “In one encouraging trend, the fundamentalist-social gospel divide that marked the church a century ago has long since disappeared. Now evangelical organizations lead the way in such efforts as relief and development, microcredit, HIV/AIDS ministries, and outreach to sex workers. I have visited thriving ministries among the garbage dump communities outside Manila, Cairo, and Guatemala City. Evangelicals have taken seriously Jesus’ call to care for ‘the least of these.'”

    So, while we hear of many (most?) Evangelical churches not discipling believers well (for all the many reasons which have been posted and commented on this–and many other–site over the years), Evangelicalism resides in the kingdom. Those of us who see a need for Evangelicals to, in Yancey’s own words, “live up to the meaning of our name” need to remain in the Evangelical world and labor diligently to bring about the needed changes.

    And part of this strategy, something else Yancey affirmed in his article, is to stop adopting the ways of the culture in hopes of conforming it to Christ and begin adopting our own alternatives. And along that line of reasoning one thing we Evangelicals must do is to learn from other traditions and bring to best of it to our own congregations. It’s not easy, it will be met with some resistance, but if it is of God then it will prevail.

    He concludes with these encouraging words,

    “Some of my friends believe we should abandon the word evangelical. I do not. I simply yearn for us to live up to the meaning of our name.”

    Amen to that!

    You can read the entire article @ http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/november/28.65.html?start=1.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Evangelicals are indeed very good about bringing people into the kingdom.

    “Bringing people into the kingdom” or “selling fire insurance”?

    And part of this strategy, something else Yancey affirmed in his article, is to stop adopting the ways of the culture in hopes of conforming it to Christ and begin adopting our own alternatives.

    That has its own problems.
    Ever heard of the Christianese Bubble?
    “Just like Fill-in-the-Blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?
    “Of the world but NOT in it”?

    • Evangelicals are not a monolith; not all of us sell “fire insurance.” In fact, I use those same words in my sermons precisely to teach my congregation that there’s more to being in the kingdom than having a fire insurance policy.

      To address your other point about adopting our own alternatives instead of simply adopting to ways of the culture, anything and everything we do comes with its own set of problems, and the history of the Church is replete with Christians doing things which either delighted people or p****d them off or both. Regardless, gathering into a “holy huddle” and not engaging the world is simply not acceptable.

      I admit that American Evangelicals have done numerous stupid and tasteless things in attempts at being creative in bringing people into the kingdom. But hey, let’s be charitable and at least give them a “C” for effort, if nothing else.

      And let us not give up on Evangelicals or any other Christian tradition but rather learn from each other and, as far as possible, work together to spread the gospel of the kingdom.

  14. Randy Thompson says

    The spiritual life is a journey, and the final destination is Christ.

    Other than that destination, we don’t have a lot to go on, and we have no clue what’s coming next. The spiritual life is like driving in a thick fog where you can only see a couple hundred feet in front of you, and sometimes even that you don’t see clearly. Sometimes the visibility is even less. However, if you keep chugging along and keep moving forward as best you can, what you can’t see beyond your 200 feet of visibility you do see once you’ve progressed that 200 feet Of course, then you have to deal with the next 200 feet of visibility in the fog. But, that’s a new 200 feet, with its own problems and confusion. T.S. Eliot was right: “All things proceed to joyful consummation,” and I would add that “all things” includes pain, confusion, disappointment and the whole lot of rotten things life hurls at us.

    We have God, we can see 200 feet, and we know where we’re ultimately headed, and I’m OK with that. The hope is, the end of the journey, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, makes the struggle worthwhile.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The spiritual life is like driving in a thick fog where you can only see a couple hundred feet in front of you, and sometimes even that you don’t see clearly. Sometimes the visibility is even less.

      You haven’t seen “thick fog” until you’ve hit a patch of “Tule Fog” in Calfornia’s Central Valley. Also called “Ghost Fog” because it damps out any sounds around you so you don’t have any sound cues, only this eerie silence. You can be barreling along at eighty up I-5 in winter, then you run into a fogbank and instantly silent whiteout conditions, with visibility only to the end of your car hood. About all you can do is limp to the nearest offramp, get off the freeway before you ram somebody or get rammed, and wait for the fog to lift enough to where you CAN see 200 feet ahead.

  15. Thank you- I love this post. I wish I had some profound follow up comment but I don’t. These are the type of IM posts that have helped me so much in my own personal journey. I don’t feel quite as crazy- I feel like someone is giving voice to my experience. It’s allowed me to see that I can have a place at the table in spite of my doubts and fears.

  16. I came to this country under false pretenses. My mother told me that I was coming to visit some relatives. Instead, she was shipping me out of Cuba with the hope that I would be protected from what was coming. She escaped by boat a few months later and was given political refugee status in the USA.

    From being the first-born son of a rich family, whose father had died young, I ended up in an orphanage and later in a foster home. While my mother was able to take my sister and I back, once she had established herself in the USA, it should be no surprise that I blew up, began to abuse drugs, and had other problems.

    But, I had been baptized in faith. And, eventually, God caught up with me. I do not regret my Evangelical conversion, though I am now a priest. I needed that clear and unequivocal anchor that said that I had changed. No, the change was not as immediate as some theologies would suggest. In fact, I am still working on the change. But, this is true, once I was blind and now I can see!

    The road has never been easy since then. My wife received a prophecy (when we were still in charismatic circles) that is the only prophecy that has proven itself over and over again. That prophecy was that her road (and mine) would be a road with many curves, a road that we could only discern for a bit before a curve took it out of sight. That has turned out to be true. Some of the curves seem to have left skid marks on us. Some of the curves have quite blessed us. All of the curves have been under God’s oversight.

    Crossroads come and go. There are right choices, and there are most definitely wrong directional choices. But, God is faithful, and the right road is never far away. I would disagree with the quote that began this article. There is a right way. The problem is that we are half-blind and very stubborn. There is a right way. But, we may be unable to see it clearly because we are fallen and damaged human beings. There is a right way. And, we are called to walk in it.