These past two years have been years of discovery and change, to the point where I no longer feel at home, well, anywhere within the Christian community.
I suppose, though I now cringe to admit it, I would previously have described myself as being on the very conservative side of conservative Christianity. If it was "conservative", I was there - and the more conservative, the better. And clearly anyone who disagreed with some part of conservative Christianity was just using that as an excuse to not have to be obedient in that particular area - a sentiment I still hear almost daily from the conservative side of Christianity.
Gratefully, and by the mercy of God, I no longer feel that way myself. Slowly I began to see the things that weren't quite "right" with that ultra-conservative ideology - first one thing, then another, then more and more until what I had previously felt at home with now looked so completely foreign to me that I could no longer abide with it.
Now I see it everywhere. It seems glaringly obvious to me, this ideology that appears so "biblical" on the surface and yet, digging deeper, is often nothing more than excess burdens imposed by man, a need to keep up with the Joneses, a competition, mere outward appearance.
I know I linked to this series in my previous entry, but Taunya really hit the nail on the head early on in her first installment of The Marketing of the Titus 2 Woman:
This month we must wear skirts only, the next we must purchase an 1868 dictionary, the next we must only read from the King James version of the Bible, the next month KJV is out and it must be the ESV or else we are reading heresy. By the middle of the year we must change our homeschooling curriculum because the one we are using is not Christian enough, by early summer we must all have our children stop dating and read the latest book on courtship, by mid-summer we are going to hell if our daughters even look at a college with interest. By then end of summer even our sons need to stay out of college in favor of an apprenticeship. By fall we must all put on clothes from the 1860's and admit that the South was right all along and Lincoln is the worse thing to ever befall this great nation of ours. By Thanksgiving we had all better be trying to have as many children as the Duggars (currently they have 18) or else we are not as godly as we think we are. By Christmas if we find we cannot have that many children we had better adopt that many. By New Years we need to have all of our children (dressed alike I might add) lined up according to size and ready to leave our church of 10 years to head to that Family-Integrated one down the road. What is a Family-Integrated church? Wow! if you don't know you aren't as godly as you thought you were. Finally and most importantly our husband must immediately be able to teach us and our children theology on a seminary level or else he is clearly a backslidder who does not love his family!
The hardest part in untangling it all is that it is all based - very loosely! - on biblical principles. Start with one verse or biblical principal, ignore the context, build up a whole set of rules around it, and presto! One more man-made burden to take on in the name of being "godly" - and shake your head ruefully at any who don't jump on the bandwagon right behind you.
So much of it I can no longer stomach. The patriocentric movement. The quiverful movement. The "biblical method" of parenting - I feel physically sick to read some of the descriptions. (And these are parents who truly love their children and mean well, earnestly desiring to raise godly children! If only they could see the damage they are doing - like the quivering daughters they leave behind.) The proliferation of "Titus 2" and "Biblical Womanhood" and "Biblical Femininity" writings, and the even greater abundance of women who form their ideas of biblical living based on such writings, turning their families' lives upside down every time they step away from the newest blog post or book. The "one size fits all" approach to everything. Our ("godly") way or the highway. The legalism that drenches it all.
As I said, I could never feel at home there again. Which is funny, because I do most of the things they preach - I just do them for different reasons, and I don't believe they should necessarily be universally applied to all Christians. I am a skirt-wearing, birth-control-avoiding, homeschooling, living-lightly mama with a marriage that most conservatives would approve of. And yet I firmly disagree with patriarchy, I don't believe it is a sin to take steps to conceive or to avoid conception provided the couple is following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh, I don't think it is sinful for women to wear pants, and I understand that someone can be both Christian and send their children to public schools!
But I don't fit in with the liberal end of Christianity either. I do believe there is Absolute Truth. I do believe there is one way to God, through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Saviour. I do believe the Bible is true, inerrant, and historically factual. I do believe that homosexuality is a sin - while sincerely loving the person and welcoming them into fellowship. I do believe there are fundamental differences between a man and a woman - while wholeheartedly rejecting the teachings of patriarchy.
The evangelical movement. The health and wealth gospel. The emergent movement. I can't find any footing in any of them either. There seems to be no one set "type" of Christian that I can identify with - and many days I am so disappointed by what I see in the church that I wish there was some other way altogether of identifying myself as a follower of Jesus Christ.
(And, of course, there is no one defined "conservative" or "liberal" or "evangelical" or "emergent" or "_____" Christian - there are all sorts of people within each - which only makes it harder to find solid footing or to discuss any particular ideology in any sort of fruitful manner.)
Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you'll pardon the cliché, but I have sought earnestly to be cautious that, while turning away from the extrabiblical principles of conservative Christianity, I don't leave behind the true biblical principles at the same time. So that's where I'm at right now - continually digging, searching, praying, looking for the Truth in a religion that has strayed so far from where it should be. Walking away from religous teachings and back to the Bible and the welcoming arms of the Creator Who left it for us. Giving my life to God, not to a movement or doctrine.
Relearning Grace - grace from God, grace for others, and grace for myself.
Grace, sweet grace.