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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It was easier then, but it's better now.

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Whispering Spring Ln,Georgetown,United States


  1. Excellent post, brother. I really enjoy reading your blog. I too, followed a similar path--even though I was raised in a more "liberal" household, I was also raised in a more traditional, literal-reading, "love the sinner, hate the sin," "turn or burn" church.

    Ironically, the book that inspired me to look deeper into the Truth was a fictional book: The Da Vinci Code. From there, I looked into biblical scholarship, and my life was--as you put it--forever changed. I posted a blog about my own experience not too long ago. I checked out a book called "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code," by Bart Ehrmann, a professor in South Carolina, and I was hooked. My second-biggest life and faith altering came with the reading of "Jesus for President," by Shane Claiborne and Chris Hawe.

    Keep writing. In a time of moral polarity, black and white, "absolute truth," and the "I'm right, you're wrong" mentality, reasonable, moderate followers of Jesus are few and far between. Peace be with you in your journey for Jesus's truth.

  2. I think I forgot to post the URL to my blog that I wrote. Here it is.

  3. Thank you for your comments and encouragement Joshua. I enjoy your Twitter posts and your blog. You always make me think.



  4. Interesting story.

    For me it was just before I moved house. I had an encounter at a church where the reading was from Zechariah but the sermon swerved off to berate Jeffrey John (then in the running for Bishop of Reading) for being gay. And I clearly thought, at one point "he's crossed the line into judging his brother in Christ". After driving to meet friends to get head in gear, I spent a week getting more depressed about the intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy until I eventually emailed in a complaint.

    When I moved up north (Scotland), I started reading `Learning to Dance' by Michael Maybe, which sowed the seeds of semi-mystic tolerance. My choice of church (Episcopalian) didn't involve educating its congregation but they welcomed me with open arms and soon I was well involved in the organisational structures of church, diocese and province. I also started reading Spong and Borg, and vividly recall the transformation through what Borg refers to as "pre-critical naivete" to "critical thinking" to "post-critical naivete". To this day I now analyse the texts of what I read in church and think "who wrote this? Evidence of multiple authors? What agendas?" etc.

    It was a complete inversion, a turning outside-in, when I realised the bible is just a book, the product of human authors with all their cultural baggage and foibles, and we don't have the "original" manuscripts or texts for any of it, or even much understanding of Mediterranean culture at the times involved. Anything else now speaks of unrealism to me - head in the clouds in some fantasy world, by comparison.

    I held the liberal aspects of critical thinking dear - possibly too close. When I moved West a bit, I hardly dare speak the name Progressive, but it was becoming more appealing an idea - I was thinking to myself if I had to choose a church then the one that called itself that would be it. And behold, the church that I wound up attending - and still do - has a progressive minister and we're running _Living the Questions_ courses. It's crept up on me unawares but now I know and am known for some slightly wacky views, I can be content :)

  5. Good post. I enjoy your writing.

    I had a similar experience. Raised in one of the "reddest" parts of the south, it did all fit neatly into a box and I didn't have to think about any of it.

    After college, I went to a fairly "progressive" seminary in Atlanta because my wife (then, my fiance) had a job here. I didn't agree with a lot of what my professors taught, but they were ok with that as long as I could explain sufficiently why I believe what I do. It made me better, much like it did for you.

    Since then, I find myself caught somewhere in the middle - and I almost feel sorry for those at the extremes.

    Good for you and thanks for your honesty.

  6. I just posted this to my Facebook page. It just hit home and I had to share.