Life has its seasons. We change with them and by them. Often, we don’t see the change until the results have seeped in and settled in place. It is like we are passengers, sometimes passively, on a journey. The world changes us. The experiences that we face and the thoughts that sneak into our minds remake us. It is from the things that we see, the words that we read, the turmoil that our souls endure. Our personal reformation is so comprehensive, that once on the other side, we have only two choices. One is to conform to the new us. The other is to pretend, pretend we are who we use to be, as any actor taking on a role that is very different from who they really are.
The year 2016 was a watershed time for my spiritual journey. While the intellectual process had been at work for decades (see my book Butterflies in the Belfry) there was a feeling of finality that came that year. It was if I passed through a turnstile, allowing passage in one direction, without possibility of return.
While I have no longer considered myself to be an evangelical, at least for the past 15 years, the distance between me and them became amplified by several factors during 2016. Before that year, the chasm was traversable. I could flirt with the other side. I could converse with friends from my previous life and be taken as one of them, while I was not. But now the languages are no longer translatable. True empathy no longer is possible between us. I can’t pretend to think like they think as I don’t feel it. I don’t understand it. The breach has widened into two different universes.
There were several defining experiences that year. First, it was the year that I completed my fifteen years of study as I prepared my book. Secondly, it was the harsh reception of that book by the evangelicals. They wouldn’t read it because of fear of unorthodoxy (based on the title and the cover photo.
But the most profound event by far, which I have eluded to many times, was the American presidential election. I am not a Democrat. I’ve spent most of my life as a Republican. Now, I consider myself as an independent. I have never been partisan and would as likely vote for Republican as a Democrat (although that might be changing). But as I watched my evangelical friends line up, one by one, to support Donald Trump, it was as if the world no longer made any sense at all. Was I really one of them at one time. If 2016 was 1986, would I too be a big Trump supporter? Maybe, because then I too had been duped.
But it is not about this one man, it is about the total loss, by the evangelical, of objective truth. It has been coming for a long time. It started with the pseudoscience that they use to prove that the earth is only six thousand years old. This distrust of science was only one part of their social paranoia. More so, it was the thinking that they were being persecuted by the “liberal-humanistic” society. While the Church was intended to be the torchbearers of truth, the evangelical Church became the founders of fake news. This evolution has been catastrophic. The Evangelical Church, has become irrelevant to our society both from an epistemological and moral perspectives.
I am writing tonight because earlier this week I got a strange e-mail. It was from someone whom I knew, professionally, in my evangelical days. Even in those days, he was an extremely critical person. He, (taking off the mask of semantics), hated gays, Muslims, Arabs in general, people who drank alcohol and said, “cuss words.” He was a constant stickler for having correct (evangelical) theology. I honestly think he has some type of personality disorder because he was so harsh on people. He is now a pastor of an Evangelical church somewhere.
I was very surprised to be getting an e-mail from him after such a long period of time. But I opened it and immediately he started with very hateful and condemning words toward me. It was so brash, that I hit the delete and “block” buttons before I became angry. The words reeked of hate towards me, Why? Because somewhere I had written something positive about Arabs. Maybe it was in my book or some other writing. He was furious that I would give support to the “people whom God hates.” I feel that that whole evangelical movement is so far off course that they are hopeless. Seriously, unredeemable.
I do believe that God is there. It is easy to not believe that God is there, and for that reason, I respect atheists and agnostics. But my belief is not with certainty. It is not because I am weak of faith. It is because we humans have fallen minds and souls and are unable to know certainty. I am eternally curious. I do believe that God makes us curious and it takes an artificial force to make us stop asking questions and to accept the oughts.
I still believe that Christianity is true, but with the same uncertainty. That uncertainty is not a moral or spiritual problem. It reflects the honest state of our ability to know. Our perceptions and reason are good but without perfection.
But at this juncture, I am ready to leave the American Christian culture. To be part, is to conform into that which is not healthy, non-curious. Not thinking, but only accepting that what others have determined that I must believe. I cannot know God unless I am free to inquire to search, to seek, and to ask questions, all without thwart.