July 3, 2017
Out of Sorts: a state of being in one’s heart or mind or body. Often used to describe one’s sense of self at a time when you feel like everything you once knew for sure has to be figured out all over again. — Sarah Bessey, in Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
“I think it’s interesting what you have decided to hold onto from Fundamentalism,” she said. I looked down at my hands, folded in my lap, and then back up again as my gaze moved from her eyes to the television and back again.
Last week, we were watching a documentary called Jesus Camp. This film explores the childhood, practices, and theology of those raised Evangelical and Fundamental Christian. Most of the families were very extreme cases: homeschooled, children being harshly called to repentance of their sins, 10-year-olds witnessing to others through tracts at a bowling alley. My experiences weren’t quite so damaging, but also not dissimilar.
Truthfully, the theology was mine: Rooted in Humanity as evil, people are born already corrupted, in desperate need of salvation through Jesus’ death on the Cross. God wants to work in and through us so we better straighten up and listen, lest we want to be sent to Hell with the blood of the world on our hands. Magic is the work of the Devil; Harry Potter, leading children away from Jesus one chapter at a time. Over and over, it was displayed on the screen for me to see: the worst of the theology I grew up believing.
And yet it’s true: I still have one hand very tightly around Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. I cannot seem to let them go.
I still sing contemporary Christian rock songs full of faulty (or at least questionable) theology when I’m alone in the car. I still set aside my “quiet time” to read the Bible and pray. I still long to go forward to the altar in the middle of church services. I still pray in tongues when I’m home alone. I still have very real conversations with God, which sometimes end in my giving the Creator an ultimatum or, at the very least, my begging Him for a sign. I still believe that God cares about my health and my finances and my writer’s block all with the same amount of love and tenderness and passion. I still believe that the God of Miracles was not lost in ancient times; that He is still redeeming souls and healing bodies even today.
I thought I would leave all of that behind when I walked out of that church, only to one day look down and realize I simply packed it all up in the suitcases I’m now toting around with me.
In one: The earth was created in a literal 24-hour, 6-day period of time and the earth is only 6,000 years old. There is a possibility that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and micro-evolution is the only form of evolution that makes any sense with the creation story outlined in Genesis. There was a real flood that covered the earth, a real giant which young David slayed, and the rest of the stories actually happened as they are recorded in the Bible.
In another: Jesus was fully human and fully Divine and, born of the Virgin Mary and having never sinned, he nonviolently absorbed all of the evil and sin of this world, which was destroyed when he died and rose again after three days of darkness. God still speaks to us today in a very real and exciting way, He pours certain spiritual gifts out upon each of us for us to discover, and He calls us to bring the Good News to every corner of the earth.
These bags are weighing me down, finally forcing me to take notice of what I have been dragging around my whole life. I’m sure I will want to keep some of it, but I’m also certain that other things can be laid down with my faith still in tact.
It is sorting time.
I am caught between what-was and what-will-be. I feel like I’m wandering into the Wilderness. I keep finding glimpses of the familiar within the unknown, but I’m feeling wildly uncertain, uncomfortable, entirely out of sorts.
All I can think about is what I’m walking away from because I have no idea where I’m even going – and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t want to start the journey because it is going to require some stretching, a little repentance, a lot of hard work. And yet, I know that I must.
Maybe this will be make me stronger, more certain, more Christian. I don’t know. Maybe one day I won’t get into a debate about how old the Earth is (because who can really trust carbon-dating?). Maybe one day I won’t cringe hearing God referred to with female pronouns and traditional liturgy won’t seem so stiff, forced, unholy. Maybe one day I will have more answers or maybe I just won’t need them anymore.
Or maybe I’ll still be here, sitting on my porch and listening to the birds chirp, still wondering why so many people don’t like atonement theology or why dinosaurs couldn’t coexist with humans.
Maybe I’ll just be asking questions my whole life.