Recently I posted on my Facebook that I would start a new series entitled “Stupid S&@T Christians believe.” Many Christians responded positively to this suggestion though I do not think some of them knew how far I was planning to go. Another brother called me to account for my use of a fake expletive in the title. While I am unsure of if he was sincere or not it did give me pause to think about what I really would like to accomplish with this series.
My goal with this series of posts is not to shock people with foul language or stir up controversy for the sake of controversy.
My goal is to provide a critique from within. I am a Western Christian and my goal in these posts is to challenge a variety of beliefs and assumptions present in Western Christianity. These beliefs run the gamut from simple truisms about faith and life that are not helpful to serious issues of Christian orthodoxy. Many have no biblical basis but are widely held.
With this series I am calling Christians, especially members of my home church Big Valley Grace Community Church (BVG), to examine several of these beliefs.
Why these beliefs are widely held but never questioned: Many of these beliefs continue to go unexamined simply because they are so widely held. If every Christian around you believes something, it is logical to assume that it is a Christian (biblically based) belief. However, this is really democratic authority, not biblical authority. Mob rule and the approval of some religious leaders, not revelation, is the authority behind many of these beliefs. People who speak up or question the validity of these beliefs run the risk of being ostracized, branded as “non-Christian” or otherwise marginalized by the wider Christian community. To be honest, this is the fear that has kept me quiet for as long as I have been.
Why I am speaking up now: I have been a member of BVG for just under ten years. I was nominally involved in our youth programs during high school, was baptized into the church in 2002, have served on a variety of short term missions trips (to, Mexico, Romania and San Francisco), lead small groups (for college ministries and Celebrate Recovery), volunteered many hours (working at our church or with our local reach partners), and most recently was a local missionary serving under the auspices of CMN with financial support from BVG. I am not just someone who shows up at BVG for an hour and a half on Sunday and then leaves.
During my involvement at BVG I have heard many beliefs being taught from the pulpit and affirmed from the pews that I have found no scriptural support for. I have disagreed with major decisions the Church has made because I believed they were based on these mistaken beliefs and yet as a voting member of our congregation I have kept silent. My fear of confronting these issues before has come from that fact that many of the beliefs I wish to challenge are inherent to the dominant culture at BVG: conservative, white, evangelical Protestantism. These beliefs are held by our pastors, our elder board, and the majority of our members; the people in power and the people who put people in power are on-board with many of these beliefs. As such, I am, and have been, an outsider in my home church and to confront these issues publicly I would rather quickly be deserted and left to fend for myself.
Despite this fact I have continued to attend BVG out of my commitment to the local church and love for its members. I realize no church is perfect, no pastor is perfect, no member is perfect, least of me all me, and to leave for “greener pastures” elsewhere would just start a never ending quest for the mythical “Perfect Church”. You know, the church where the theology and practice are exactly in line with my current beliefs? Searching for the “perfect church” is as futile as hunting for unicorns; a quest destined for failure because we are talking about the local church. The local church is filled with a bunch of broken and messy people in need of a savior (whether we admit it or not) and we all imperfectly live this Faith as best we can.
I have come to believe it is far better to continue to invest in a local church than to leave for a better church. In part, this means that if we do not believe something in our local congregation church is right, we should bring it up for discussion. If we are wrong we can be shown the error of our ways and if we are right we can force an issue that needs to be dealt with. In this situation I think the best way to love and serve my home Church from afar is by speaking out on these issues. Is it more for me to not rock the boat, avoid hurting anyone’s feelings hurt (and avoid getting ostracized) or push people to reconsider (or possibly think about for the first time) certain beliefs which may or may not be helpful and may or may not be biblical? It is incredibly selfish and cowardly to continue to remain quiet and it is loving to confront problems that I see, even if it means stepping on some toes.
I approach this project with the humility that I once deeply held many of these beliefs to be true, am fallible and might be wrong, might argue for my points ineffectively (though they might be true), and am doing this over the internet from several hundred miles away.
I ask for three things from my readers and those that would respond:
1. Please do not attack me to dodge the issues I bring up. Very specifically I am concerned with how tempting it might be to dismiss me as yet another seminarian who has “lost his faith,” or someone who was filled with strange thoughts in the course of his theological education. But these are not true. First, I have struggled with faith since I was eight; it might be new news to some because I have only recently begun talking about it. Second, I have questioned many of these beliefs since I began studying the Bible in working towards my B.A. in Biblical Studies and in the natural course of experiencing more of life; again it might be new news to some because I have only recently begun voicing my concerns. Focus on the issue and revelation, not me.
2. Consider what I have to say. I do not presume to think that one of my blogs will change the faith of one of my readers forever. I only ask that you truly consider what I have to say and if you cannot come up with a biblical defense of the beliefs you hold, do not stop searching the Bible for what God has to say on the issue. If anything, I hope I encourage others to search for God’s opinion on something as it has been revealed in the Bible, not just stopping at what general Christian consensus around them is on what God’s opinion is on the subject.
3. I will not tolerate parting shots or negative comments that do not contain any discernable argument, nor longer posts on my Facebook page. I am taking time to write these out and I expect the same from those who would respond. If you think I am wrong, explain why. Do not just drop off a negative comment and leave the discussion feeling morally righteous. Also, I would ask that if you have an serious comment you leave it here on my WordPress page, not my Facebook status update. Status update rants are not true conversation on any issue, least of all these. I normally never delete a comment but I will delete (or publicly ridicule) comments that do not abide by these rules.
And my fist post will be…
Why do we believe…that the USA has a special relationship with Jesus and/or is a “Christian nation?”
P.S. Feel free to email me submissions for topics you would like me to address or have questions about.