Not so long ago, my views on almost everything were far more simplistic and conservative. I could pull some Bible versus out of their historical, political, economic, spiritual, and religious context and knit them back together to justify almost anything:
- Economics? Reaganomics, trickle-down.
- Politics? All government was evil. Republicans good, Democrats bad.
- Social justice? I accomplished some things all by myself and I'm nothing special. If I can get an education and feed / care for myself, anyone can. You make your own bed, so sleep in it.
- Religion? It's all in the Bible. Look elsewhere and let the evil one in. OK, there was some poetry and other stuff that had to be viewed "less than literally", but it was authoritative and, if read right, The Word of God. Don't fall back into that whole "tree of knowledge trap", stay child-like.
It was all so simple. I didn't have to think; it was all packed neatly into this four-sided box.
Enter trouble. Most people start to really discover new ways of thinking in college. I'm a late bloomer I suppose. Having done both my BS and MBA at night while working full-time, I was more consumed with putting food on the table than "finding truth and discovering myself". Years later I started running into some very smart people who had views different than mine. My conservative upbringing had convinced me that I had been placed in their path to change their lives. In fact, the opposite would become true. Two situations would begin a radical overhaul.
First was a series of encounters with a former boss that really started to change things. He had been run-off from Christianity by conservative evangelical family members who, as he put it, were convinced he'd "spend eternity in the smoking section". I hoped to show him a more enlightened version of Christianity. He had earned a philosophy degree before earning an MBA and was far better-read in liberal arts, philosophy, and other world religions than I. Our late night discussions after client meetings on the road were always respectful and enlightening, at least for me.
After a trip to Seattle, I began to wonder aloud "Why do I believe what I believe?" I had never challenged my beliefs in any serious way. That led to a serious apologetics study which helped me with some of the philosophical, cosmological, astronomical, mathematic, and other scientific arguments for the existence of God, "The Original Uncaused Cause", etc. But what about scripture, religious pluralism, Jesus, salvation, etc., etc.?
The second major influence came as a result of a church squabble between conservatives and progressives (theologically). Generally speaking, let's label the conservatives those who see the Bible largely as literally true while the progressives tend to find truth in the metaphors the stories represent and are not bound to believing the historical accuracy of the "actual events" (I know...this is a gross over-simplification, but this is a blog, not a dissertation).
In an effort to better understand the progressive view, I asked for a book recommendation from a staff member at church and read The Heart of Christianity, by Marcus Borg. That book led to many more and my life has been forever changed.
It has been both a fantastically blessed journey of learning and discovery and a difficult one of uncovering and letting go of deeply engrained dogma. Learning more about the historical facts and anthropology has given context to the myths that I once took for actual events and allowed me to consider the deeper truths therein.
Unfortunately this path I'm on has proved threatening to others. That's unfortunate. Anyone who can read should do so and look into the things they hold dear. The information is there to be considered, not blindly accepted. My personal life experience doesn't match that of the authors I read, so I don't necessarily agree with all of their assertions. But I can still learn from them and try to appreciate their perspective. The same is certainly true when I read scripture.
So, thank you Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, E.P. Sanders, Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, and the many others I've read and will be reading soon. You've made my journey a little tougher, but much richer, more inclusive, hopeful, and insightful. Most importantly I no longer feel compelled to knit together circular reasoning to defend what was never a history book. The truth really can set you free.
Blessings my friends.
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