Today’s guest post is a foray into spiritual wandering from Lisa DeLay.
Days ago, a friend from middle school chatted with me on Facebook about how we ended up with an expression of the Christian faith so similar and yet so seemingly distant from the one we were raised with. What I used to think was watered down I now realize as wisdom–and I have such a long way to go. But, I’m not alone.
USA Today dubbed Rolf Potts the “Jack Kerouac for the Internet Age”. Now an acclaimed travel writer, Rolf cut his teeth in published writing by getting an print article published in The Wittenburg Door.
In an interview 15 years later, interviewer Kristin Van Tassel asked Rolf of he stills considers himself a Christian Evangelical he said something that stuck with me,
“For me, evangelical Christianity is like an ex-girlfriend who you once loved very much—but now when you’re around her, every little tic, cliché and hollow pleasantry drives you nuts.”
Like Rolf, I now feel I am post-20th Century Evangelical and certainly I identify as post-conservative. But, more interestingly, I passed on the Solo™ cup of Kool-Aid circling around the Progressive, liberal leaning table too. This almost new wave of American Christianity had a breech birth somewhere around 2002 (and got label and marketed in the Christian business machine as “Emergent”). But, as a post-conservative, I also refrain from sipping from the strain of American Christianity that’s quite at home watching Kirk Cameron fight against satanic forces. In some ways, I’m getting used to wandering, but maybe that’s the point.
A variety of Christian faith tradition and experience is mine and so is a formal theological graduate level education, yet a persistent thirst for something that still stays uncertain and out of reach remains. It’s something that can be had by just the mustard seed of faith. And, finally, the most formative influence: I have learned much through the study of and practical personal hardships regarding a Theology of Disability. The lesson revealed is that certainty flies in the face of the life of faith. A blog visitor who felt he knew better recently maligned this. So, maybe more than anything, my perspective puts me at odds with quite a few incarnations of American Christian expressions–both on the left and right.
This said, my “Fundie” pedigree might surprise you. My parents met at a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist College: my father training to be a minister and my mother hoping to be a pastor’s wife. They both chose poorly. I was homeschooled until 7th grade, and then I attended a small, conservative, Full-Gospel (a Pentecostal off-shoot) Christian school before attending a public high school and university. I went to a church camp for over a decade that had routine alter calls for public conversion and declarations of faith, and I met my husband at an InterVarsity group in college.
Like many from Fundamentalist backgrounds, my childhood church was separatist, Pre-Millennial, and strict. We memorized a lot of verses and functioned independently of any hierarchical oversight. When I tell some of the strange tales, some people ask why I’m not angry or bitter.
In truth, I was for some things, but I forgave. I hope I can be forgiven of my foibles as well. Forgiving gives you your dignity and humanity back. Better yet (and I didn’t realize this was vitally important) it gives the dignity and humanity back to your offender. And, that’s how we heal. And, that’s Justice, because we are all in this together. It’s then that you can start to glean the good–and that is Redemption. If we don’t have that, there’s not much to live for, in general.
My friends who’ve stayed Fundamentalist have an earnestness that I admire. They have conviction, and if it’s misguided, it doesn’t take away from their pure desire to please and love God in the way they feel is best. Their desire to know and love God is their legacy instilled in me.
Some of the kindest people I know feel their way of life and Christianity itself is threatened and under constant assault and my heart feels compassion for them. While I think the theology was inconsistent and the image of God distorted at times, these folks were second mothers, big sisters, spiritual uncles, and friends to me. They helped me understand that existence didn’t begin and end with me–and knowing that is a gift and it makes you a gift to others. They told me God loved me enough to die for me. Plenty still are my dear friends. And this is how the body of Christ works. The tabernacle was a tent after all, and perhaps we don’t realize how big the tent is as God works everything out in the full scope of human history.
Rolf closed his interview speaking to the idea of the spiritual body that makes sense to include here too,
“People tend to think [the spiritual body] is an expression of hegemony, a sum of evangelical components: you know, an alliance of evangelical schoolteachers, accountants with fish symbols on their BMWs, born-again organizers of ping-pong tournaments, and so on. But I’d reckon American evangelicals are themselves just parts of a larger body that includes Egyptian Copts, Peruvian Catholics, and syncretistic Nigerian Mennonites. Not to mention the quiet postmodern types who feel a part of the greater Christian tradition, yet don’t identify with a specific orthodoxy.” (Read the whole interview here.)
Strangely, perhaps, at this point I find myself drawn to the rich contemplative stream of Christian faith that would smell Buddhist to some of my old friends from camp, but is really in-tune with the spirituality of Moses, John the Baptist, and all the prophets. We have a wide breath of history and tradition to draw from in Christianity that I was unaware of before. I’m glad I can learn from a lovely variety like Thomas Merton, A.W. Tozer, John Wesley, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, and Pope Francis. I am richer for the accumulation of my experiences and have somehow grown wiser as I make my way from trying to save souls to trying to love them.
To learn more about Lisa visit her website.