Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I’m having some kind of weird…I don’t know what to call it. Maybe a crisis of faith? More like a crisis of path. I’m not sure anymore about my sweet little Evangelical institution.

For one thing, they’ve got me reading this stuff…it’s putting ideas in my head. Like Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil, and I’m reading about the difference between confessional statements and absolute truth, you know – my daddy’s better than your daddy – or in a nutshell, what’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you because I’m stating my truth out of love, not objectivity…and I tell you, it’s making some sense to me. It’s really hard to stay fundamentalist when you’re talking to people of other faiths all the time and you can really see their point. What they believe makes sense. And how can I or my church or my faith completely have all the truth about God? We can’t.

So is Jesus the best way to know God but not the only way? Will others come to know Jesus eventually, or is just living like him close enough (e.g. Ghandi), or does it even matter?

When you learn about Sikh baptism or the Hindu Trinity or ponder nirvana vs. the beatific vision, well, you start to find an awful lot of the same in everything. Makes me think they might all be sourced from the same place. Makes me feel small, too. Small but also really happy for my friends, because I think I’m starting to believe they know the same God as me.

I went to chapel, and if you read this blog regularly you know that’s always a bad thing for me to do, and of course it was. God, I hate Evangelical worship! There, I said it. I can no longer pull anything from it whatsoever. I hate the way they sing and the stupid, stupid lyrics and the lack of deep connection to anything real. I mean, come on, “Be the wind in these sails”??? Can we get any more idiotic? I swear we were going to break into Wind Beneath My Wings (if Bette Midler’s daughter reads this, I apologize in advance). It’s all me me me and MY relationship to Jesus and Jesus died for ME and isn’t the name JESUS so great and what the hell is that supposed to mean anyway??

And I hated the way the scripture was read and I hated the lack of liturgy and I hated the speaker. [I should say quickly to anyone reading this who participated that this doesn’t really have anything to do with you – it’s my problem – I never equate any person with their worship style and I hope you’ll forgive me my hyperbole] I don’t think I was just being sour. It is just absolutely 100 percent not the way I am able to worship. Which is probably a huge failing on my part. If I were a better Christian I could reach across these boundaries, right? I could see the beauty in all kinds of worship! That’s how it will be in heaven, won’t it? All of us somehow blending together?

Or will it be 7 a.m. Rite I/Pre-Vatican II Mass with the Father in the Chapel, followed by 10 a.m. Party with the Holy Ghost in the theater, with a wrap up of praise band/emergentechno with Jesus in the basement at 6:00? Will we have to listen to Maranatha music for all eternity? Will there be a choice? Can I take a survey? Will I grow into a person who loves Rob Redman?

The speaker was talking all about finding your personal identity and knowing who you are in Jesus, and all I could think was, “I must decrease, he must increase.” I’m not sure that holy self-help is the order of the day. I think the ultimate identity might be assimilation into the body of believers or into Jesus himself. Doesn’t it make more sense to disappear into the Church than to seek after just another way to feel good about myself? Shouldn’t my life be geared towards growing the kingdom, not growing my own self-worth? Mustn’t I look towards losing myself entirely so that God can be seen?

God’s not hanging out in me so I can feel great about being so loved. I mean, I’m not even sure how much it matters that me personally am so loved – or am I at all – or am I loved because I am part of the body and thus the Bride?

My thing this year so far is the whole Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ. I gotta tell you, folks, it ain’t jiving for me any more. I don’t think I get it. I don’t think it’s important. I’m getting less and less convinced that God cares what I do with my life and I sure don’t believe he has a “wonderful plan” for it. Nope, I think God is working on a much grander scale, on a much bigger picture, and if I want to join in the work, then that’s dandy, and if I don’t, God isn’t going to force me. But all that about knowing Jesus in my life personally – apart from how I can know Jesus through the liturgical ceremonies at church – namely, by ingesting him week after week – but knowing him personally…I don’t think that’s the point. I’m not sure I matter that much. And I am not saying that in a pitiful way. I’m saying that as a person who wants to decrease.

Which brings me back to why I think my Hindu and Buddhist and Jewish and LDS and especially Muslim friends are probably in God’s good graces. They sure love God a lot (well not the Buddhists but they have parallels too). They sure try to work towards a better world, towards purifying themselves and living morally and following what we’d call the teachings of Jesus.

I guess I have to get myself into some systematic theology. I’m getting all messed up taking only ethics and worship classes. You know what’s happening? I’m becoming a liberal mainline protestant. Through and through.

And that’s why I’m having a crisis of path. I think I might be so much happier at a more liberal school, at a more mainline school. I think I might need to go to Claremont or GTU or Union. I want to go somewhere where I’m not the elephant in every room. Where people can at least hear my ideas and show me where I’m wrong, instead of spitting proof-texts at me or just gaping at me in disbelief. I want to go somewhere where other people think these things. Because I learned at Wheaton that you learn more when you’re about in the middle, not when you’re on the fringes.

It’s something to think about. I can tell you one thing: Seminary has definitely knocked the Evangelical out of me. Period.


Paul Wilczynski said...

You're starting to sound a litle like a Unitarian Universalist ... or at least a Christian Unitarian Universalist.

And that's a compliment :)

Except you probably wouldn't much care for our hymns.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Everyone needs more systematic theology! Yay!

Anonymous said...

I'm a non-declared Baha'i, though I was Christian for a while. Even when I was Christian, I couldn't accept that Jesus was the only way to God. If God loves us so much, why would He make everyone go through Jesus instead of directly approaching Him?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, I'm a random person who doesn't know you, but I hope you don't mind if I spout a little. My perspective is one of a progressive Catholic who has somehow found myself in liberal-to-moderate Evangelical circles. How's that for cognitive dissonance.

1. You seem to be learning a lot about finding glimmers of the same God in a variety of religious traditions. But isn't there truth and value to be found in the Evangelical tradition as well? Or is there truth to be found everywhere EXCEPT Fuller?

2. Don't minimize the amount of good you're doing at Fuller just by being you. I'll bet a cookie that for a lot of your fellow classmates you're one of the first liberal Christians they've met who's also a "true believer." I know that among my Evangelical friends there are at least a handful who never met a Catholic whom they considered a strong Christian until they met me. I wasn't going in there with an agenda, but that is what happened. And I think that's a wonderful thing.

3. Yes, God's purposes are a lot grander than me ... but that doesn't mean I get lost in the shuffle. The God as revealed in the Bible works on a grand epic scope ... but also knit me together in my mother's womb and knows how many hairs I have on my head. Much of the Evangelical church veers too far in the personal direction ... but be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. God does know and love you personally, at the same time God is concerned with the grand scope of all history. She's nifty that way. :)

Hang in there! I admire your struggles. You probably would have an easier path at a more liberal school, and maybe that is where you belong. But just maybe you're supposed to be at Fuller precisely because of the difficulties.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if seminary is meant to strengthen your faith or to utterly crush it to be reconstructed again.

I was you're at right now. It almost destroyed my faith and it's taken almost 3 years to recover. I've appreciated your honesty along this *particular* path. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.