when our christian faith is questioned

kathyescobar church stuff, crazy making, ex good christian women, faith shifts, fundamentalism 36 Comments

the worlds crying out for hope

many years ago i had a friend who was concerned about my salvation.  it appeared that my position that  “we were made in the image of God and there is good in us despite our sin” freaked her out in light of her position on total depravity. there’s much more to the story, but toward the end of our friendship, she asked me if she could share the gospel with me one more time just to make sure i understood how far off i was. i said “no, it’s insulting. i am a christian and i do not need to be witnessed to.”

i remember that night as clear as a bell.

i was sick and tired of defending my faith with someone who was supposed to be my sister in Christ.

needless to say, our friendship didn’t last much longer; she decided that it was “just too hard” to be friends with me with our differences and was concerned that my views would lead her astray and she couldn’t risk the temptation. all these years later, i still feel sad about it. i also have to kind of laugh a little, though, since that was over 13 years ago; imagine what she’d think of me now!

this week i have been completely buried with a crazy-hard-good refuge week (i even got to see my husband in action in the courtroom; he is an amazing advocate!) and have been mostly offline, but a friend emailed me a piece about donald miller getting ripped by christianity today. it appears that the evangelical below-the-belt hit is is being lumped with brian mclaren & rob bell.

now, i guess, he’s not a “real christian” anymore.

brian mclaren’s question & response was really great & i am glad he shared it.

the whole thing reminds me of how much time & energy & money & passion is spent on what feels like a crazy evangelical-progressive war.  goodness gracious, it’s getting a little old, and the only reason i am writing about it is that i long for less polarizing. we’ve got to find a way to engage in dignified dialogue and embrace our christian diversity as a gift.

we are brothers & sisters with different views. people decide to do something else on sunday than go to a church service. people choose to stand alongside their gay friends in solidarity and love. people hold to the possibility that Jesus’ love and plan for the redemption of the world might include more than people who prayed a certain prayer in a certain way that “counts.” people believe that the earth is worth keeping cleaner. people are advocates, passionate about breaking down systems of injustice no matter the cost (thanks, rachel held evans for this awesome post).

these should not be deal breakers on who’s a real christian and who’s not.

over the years, i have had some really hard conversations about my faith where i felt like i needed to “defend” my christianity. some of that was me & my desire to be understood, and some of it was the questions that were being asked of me. each time it tripped a wire in my soul that made me so mad & sad, that i should not have to be fighting with my brothers & sisters about my faith. it never once drew me toward holding on to christianity (in fact, it often had the opposite effect, and i would often leave certain interactions wondering why i was still in. then, God would remind me that my faith didn’t have to look like the person’s next to me).

Jesus understood what it felt like to be misunderstood.

to be up against the wall all the time in terms of questions about his faith.

to be peppered with trick questions.

to be obliterated by the religious powers-that-be.

to be considered a heretic.

when our christianity is in question, we are in good company.

for those of you who are thinking “who cares what people think?” my response is that even though you may be right, it is always easier to say that than to feel that. there’s something about feeling like our own brothers & sisters turn against us that extra-hurts. it is hard when some of that opposition comes from people close to us.  it’s hard when our jobs are at risk. it’s hard when friends & family are scared for us. it’s hard when we are wrestling with what we believe and don’t have good answers to any questions, let alone the trick ones.  it’s hard when we feel like telling our truth means the loss of our reputation in certain circles.

it’s hard when we are worn out and just want to be loved and accepted and valued and respected, no matter our differing views.

it’s so easy to forget that there are an awful lot of ways to follow Jesus, and none of us have the market cornered on what that looks like. i have fallen prey to that and can definitely sometimes sound like my way is the “real Jesus.” i am working on that.

but i have never, ever, ever, questioned someone’s christian faith or salvation or heart toward God in the process.

in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest insults.

and these days there’s a lot of insulting floating around the blogosphere & the world of christian power.

it’s ugly & unsafe & telling.  it tells a story to the world that our beliefs are more important than our practices. that we are good at name-calling & finger-pointing instead of love & justice. that we are afraid of diversity.

and that we are clueless about how to engage in healthy conflict.

i’m guessing it’s happened in a lot of your circles, too. so many of you have had your christian faith challenged because you’ve decided to leave the confines of the system and find life on the edges.  your shift from black and white to grey has resulted in all kinds of losses. you’ve lost relationships, and that really sucks. you have been asked to leave churches you gave your heart to for years.

there is a better way.

we can learn to listen better.

we can apologize for our bad behavior.

we can lay down our stones and start sitting at tables to learn from each other.

we can accept our differences and trust God is big enough to hold it all.

we can focus our energy on being salt & light instead of vinegar & darkness.

we can worry about our own log & not our brothers’ speck.

we can be kind.

we can spend time cultivating and living out our faith instead of questioning others’.