gut punch after gut punch

downtown Laurel, MS.  Photo by David Meigs

downtown Laurel, MS.  Photo by David Meigs

Sometimes life tends to throw you gut punch after gut punch.  Those punches tend to hurt a little more when they come from an institution you have identified with for pretty much all of your life.  Especially when that institution claims to follow a man that was the model of love and respect, yet seems to practice little to none of either of those things, it tends to get complicated in your head.

If it isn’t painfully obvious by now, the institution I am speaking of is the American Christian Church.  More specifically, the Evangelical American Christian Church.  To be even more specific, the White Evangelical American Christian Church.  In the span of the last couple of weeks multiple stories and reports have come out and hit me harder than anything I can remember in quite a while.  To be completely transparent, a couple of them have made me wonder if I even believe in the same God as they do. 

At this point, you are probably trying to figure out what the heck I am talking about. One of the stories was Eugene Peterson affirming and then retracting his affirmation of the LGBT community.  If you are not familiar with Eugene Peterson, he is an author and former pastor best known for writing The Message Bible. He was asked in an interview about his views on homosexuality, in which he initially affirms the community based on his experience.  Like clockwork, the church community came out with some pretty hateful criticisms of both Mr. Peterson and the LGBT community.  After one day, Mr. Peterson retracted his affirmation and claimed he was confused by the question - causing immense harm for years to come for the LGBT community.  And that is the hardest part - the harm he did to the community by retracting his statement and saying things like “I follow the Biblical view in all things”.  There will be pastors all over the country that will use these quotes to further alienate the LGBT community and allow for churches to further push this marginalized group out of American churches.

Another story that came out featured a Southern Baptist preacher from Oklahoma by the name of Lawrence Ware. Lawrence wrote a piece in the New York Times describing why he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. I agree with the reasons he wants to leave the convention, but the hard part is this is the tradition I grew up in - a tradition that still means a lot to me. Members of my family on both sides are still Southern Baptists.  Because of this, it is very painful to read what the convention is currently doing.

So why am I writing about this?

It would be easy for me to say things like “I am experiencing spiritual trauma,” or “I cannot shake the constant gut punches that seem to be coming my way.”  The thing is, all of this seems to be pushing me to search for God more than I ever have.  Reading books like What is the Bible by Rob Bell has opened the Bible up for me again.  I cannot tell you how exciting it is to read the Bible through a different lens.  Learning the history and context around biblical stories not only opens them up but also helps me understand the ground level, 10,000 ft. and 30,000 ft view of these stories.  Human relationships with God are complex, and are something I will not even try to say I completely understand.  But the search for God and Truth is finally exciting again.

I guess that is why I am writing this. 

I am on a journey whose direction I cannot and will not try to dictate.  I’m on this journey for a reason and I would appreciate if you would allow me to write about it from time to time.  I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything, or anything for that matter.  If you are willing to take this journey with me, I will do my best to cite the books I am reading and candidly share what is on my mind.  I would love to hear from you as well if you have any books you have read that you think would be helpful on this journey.

Currently I am reading:

The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels  by Thomas Cahill  

written by Brad Stair