Biblical scholar and theologian, Walter Brueggemann, refers to the evangelical church’s neglected use of the psalms of lament in their worship settings as “a frightened, numb denial and deception.” He claims that this avoidance does not come from faith, but from “the wishful optimism of our culture.”
Evangelicalism has become something entirely different than it was intended to be. Still, I can feel its hands inside my chest, manually pumping my heart—keeping a 21st century-styled faith alive within me.
But it is running out of steam.
I am BARELY evangelical, hanging by a thread. Yet I know that a part of me is still stuck in its claw, or held; I’m not sure which.
In the world of evangelicalism, God, the great mystery, has been solved. He listens to us, obeys us, and rewrites scriptures for us so we can sleep at night. He hasn’t held us accountable in years.
But within this cultural shift that we are ALL a part of (whether we like it or not), a younger generation is searching for something real—something more than the American Dream. And they are asking that we join them.
God is on life-support, half-alive in a hospice bed.
God is at death’s door.
God, or more specifically, our version of God, (what I like to call “Hospice-God”) is hardly God at all.
For those of us holding on for dear life to Hospice-God, I can’t help but wonder if it might be time to let him go. After all, he barely has the strength to speak to us anymore—his eyes glazed over while machines fill his lungs and beat his heart.
He just wants to go home.
The thought has occurred to me that if we really are made in his image, perhaps we’re on life-support too, in a spiritually induced coma—nearer death’s door than we know.
Here is MY truth:
I live in fear.
I have a deep desire to follow after God in a fresh, ever-changing, and fuller way. But I often find myself whispering my spiritual hopes and dreams around the corner, just outside earshot of evangelicalism.
Hidden. In private. THIS is where I talk about loving gay people, smiling at transgender folks, and burying every firearm I can find.
Evangelicalism is a part of my life, and always has been. But it isn’t God. It’s a word. (Perhaps one we can redeem.)
And in the context of that word, so tired and out of shape, God bears a striking resemblance to a good politician. And because a good politician is better than a bad one, I continue to live in the safely constructed world of the kind of religion that meets my needs and tells me I have things figured out, i.e. I know how much money it’s okay to have. I know who is acceptable to befriend. I know who to stay away from. I know I must get married, have children or adopt and move to the suburbs. I know I’m required to go to a church that is “relevant”.
As a good and sensible evangelical, I know that I’m obligated (or often shamed) to color INSIDE the lines of Christianity.
But the older I’ve gotten…
The more I’ve read…
The deeper I’ve looked at the world, pain, the suffering of others, and especially the infectivity of my own life within the framework of the kind of evangelicalism that is losing credibility, the more I can see how I am dying right along with it. We are taking our final breaths together, a cord yank away from being flat lined.
I DON’T WANT TO DIE.
I’m guessing you don’t either.
I want to live wholly. I want to breathe life, see life, LIVE life. I don’t want to simply exist or survive, because I know there is a freedom apart from the empty Christianity that currently defines evangelicalism in our culture.
Disturbingly, evangelicalism has become a “5-Steps To Marry Well, Finance Well, and Live Well” manifesto.
But didn’t it begin as a “Love God” and “Love Your Neighbor” manifesto?
Yet somewhere along the way we began qualifying what loving God and loving our neighbor really meant. And it is my belief that all of the “Love-Qualifying” is what’s responsible for evangelicalism’s waning credibility.
Translated: WE’RE responsible.
Maybe we should return evangelicalism to its original purpose—Loving God and our neighbor without the qualifying. This is how I imagine a living, breathing evangelicalism.
But how do we get there?
Love. It’s that simple.
It takes love.
It takes love to stop drinking.
It takes love to open your arms to your gay son.
It takes love to forgive your homophobic parent.
It takes love to be passionate about others rather than yourself.
It takes love to LOVE yourself enough to respect your body—no man owns it. Your capacity to be beautiful, to turn a man’s head is not what makes you worthwhile.
It takes love to stay married.
It takes love put others first.
It takes love to understand someone you just don’t understand.
It takes love to walk away.
It takes love to look inside, find that beaten down or awful part—to accept it if it cannot change—to change it if it can.
It takes love to let go.
It takes love to let go of our kids. (God, help us all).
It takes love to find the compassion within ourselves that we’ve hidden away—the kind we possessed as kids—the kind that loved and forgave others effortlessly.
It takes love to be VULNERABLE; to sit across from a friend and tell them your fears—your real fears—the ones that make you look bad.
It takes love to confess.
It takes love to CHANGE.
But my friends, it does NOT take love to stay the same. It does NOT take love to be a civil Christian who only behaves well. Certainly God has more use for our lives than that.
It is time. Beyond time.
To pull the plug on the kind of evangelicalism that offers platitudes for real-life problems. That continually polices the morals of others. That strives only for a civil, well-behaved existence with God.
It is time. BEYOND time.
To pull the plug on the kind of evangelicalism that is ineffective. To take Hospice-God off life-support.
To let him die…
…so we can live.